Leadership in Public Arenas

Glebo political organization is a classic example of the "dual-sex" system described by Okonjo (1976) for

West Africa in general. Each town or cluster of related towns has a male official, the wodo baa or "town's namesake" whose lineage is understood to have been among the founders of the community. Under the system of local administration imposed by the Liberian state, this office became the "town chief," with the power to collect taxes, hear civil court cases, and impose fines. The corresponding woman's position, the blo nyene, has no such official recognition. Neither the wodo baa nor the blo nyene hold executive power over decisions affecting the entire town; they depend on the gbudubo, or council of elders (both male and female, discussed above), for advice and attempt to reach consensus on anything of consequence. The blo nyene has veto power over any decision made by the men; in former times this was an important way in which women exercised control over men's ability to declare war on neighboring communities. Since a large proportion of the adult women in any town had married in from elsewhere, their support was crucial to any military campaign that might pit their husbands and sons against their fathers and brothers. Women are also known to use mass boycotts and labor strikes (leaving town en masse or refusing to cook or sleep with their husbands) to impose their will on male authorities (Moran, 1989). Other leadership roles include the officers of the sidibo age grade for men and of dancing and performance societies for women. Among "civilized" Glebo, leadership roles exist for men and women in numerous church-based and voluntary organizations. Leadership roles in the indigenous religious system are discussed below.

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