Emmanuel George is a motorcycle taxi driver – also known as a “pen-pen driver” – in Monrovia, Liberia. As a member of the Liberia Motorcycle Transport Union (LMTU), Emmanuel has been working on a local peace committee which the Purdue Peace Project and WOMSUD-Liberia helped bring into being. The local peace committee, which named itself the Pen-Pen Peace Network (PPPN), has achieved violence prevention and peacebuilding in Monrovia since its inception in July 2013. Working together with other pen-pen drivers from motorcycle transport unions as well as members from Liberia National Police, Ministry of Transport, and the communities, Emmanuel has been actively involved in designing two important campaign initiatives in Monrovia – the Pen-Pen Peace Campaign and the Ebola Prevention Campaign. The Pen-Pen Peace Campaign, which was launched in February 2014, helps reduce the likelihood of violence by encouraging respectful and non-violent behaviors in Monrovia and by changing attitudes and behaviors of, and toward, pen-pen drivers. The Ebola Prevention Campaign, launched in August 2014 in response to the Ebola outbreak, has raised awareness about the Ebola virus and motivated preventive behaviors among Liberian citizens.
In talking about his experience working on the Pen-Pen Peace Network and their locally-led, community-based initiatives, Emmanuel said, “We go on the field to talk with people about preventative measures. If they (the community members) do not want to listen to us, we make the effort to make sure that we go back and talk to them. We want the message to go across. We want you (the community members) to be able to talk to your children, your family about the prevention message. So we try all means to convince you. And the next time, you go to them, and they listen to you. At the end of the day, they will say, ‘wow, it was good that you were very, very patient in coming and talking to me about it, so I really appreciate it.’ At the end of the day, they feel good about it, and myself, I also feel good, too, because my aim is accomplished.”
In the process of working on the campaigns, Emmanuel has also realized how meaningful their work is. He states: “When I go to the field, I say, it’s true that Ebola came into the country, but I was part of the fight. If someone asks me, how were you a part of the fight, I say, I myself and other colleagues, we work in the field to talk to people about preventative measures, to talk to people so that they stop doubting that this virus is not here. Now that everybody knows the virus is here… I come back to be a fighter of this, I’m happy about that.” “What we did,” Emmanuel says, “the awareness messages that we sent out, played a major role in fighting against Ebola in this country.”