“ …a girl needs to have sex with seven men to earn a single U.S. dollar. “ Leymah Gbowee, Liberia’s 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Winner (Ferguson, 2012)
As I indicated in my April 15 blog, I wanted to share with you about the fashion show, Fashions for Freedom. Two churches, Cornerstone EPC and New Life, came together to host the fashion event to raise funds for support and scholarships for Amani Liberia.
Through fashion, narrative, music, and dance the fashion show told the story of women’s bondage, transformation, and celebration. Korto Momolu, a native Liberian, Bravo TV’s Project Runway first runner-up, and now a top NYC designer, created the designs for Amani Liberia. (Through out this blog I have posted pictures from the fashion show.)
The Amani Vision
In my December 15 blog I told the story of Becky Chinchen who started a non-profit organization after her family fled for their lives during Liberia’s civil war. During this period Becky lost a dear friend who died during childbirth in a refugee camp. Becky said after losing all of her possessions this was the ultimate loss and she had to do something to help women with little or no means. So through God’s leading, she started Amani ya Juu (higher peace), a sewing and reconciliation project for marginalized women. It is an organization where women can come and learn a skill and get paid at the same time. As women begin to learn skills and earn money to help support their family, their confidence increase, they become empowered, and are no longer willing to view themselves as second class citizens.
Amani is built upon a Christian foundation. Becky and her staff believe that true peace for women living in this fallen world can only come through Jesus Christ and that it is every Christian’s responsibility to reach out and help and serve others. Amani started in Kenya and has expanded to four other African countries. Amani Liberia officially started last spring.
The Plight of Women in Liberia
At the fashion show, I was privileged to share with the audience about what is happening in Liberia. Below I have listed some startling statistics. Let me caution you that these statistics may make you have very negative feelings about Liberians. This is not my intent, because they are warm and loving people and I consider Liberia my second home. What I do hope that you will understand is that what has and is happening in Liberia is a reality for women in many areas of the world.
- When young girls begin to develop breasts between 10-15 years-old, many are forced to start using their bodies as a means to gain economic resources, such as money or food (Save the Children UK, 2006).
- Of Liberian women ages 15-19 years-old, 73% are sexually active (Hersh, 1998).
- What makes this scenario even worse is that biologically, young females are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted disease but in this case have little or no means to receive adequate health care (Hersh, 1998). Young women “have fewer protective antibodies and the immaturity of their cervix facilitates the transmission of an infection” (Laundry, 1997).
- According to John Kollie, Adolescent Coordinator at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, “Before the children reach the age of nine, they are already exposed to having sex, and before many get to the age of fifteen, they have already had their first child” (Azango, 2012).
- Liberia has the second highest rate in the world of teen age pregnancy between 15-19 years old (Harmful Practices…, 2011).
- A high percent of these girls will end up living in squalid conditions with no financial support from the baby’s father and no help from their parents. They may end up having multiple children from different fathers in the hopes that they will find a man who will take care of them (Azango, 2012).
What men would be heartless enough to take advantage of these young girls (Save the Children UK, 2006)? An easy answer, all categories:
- Businessmen from Liberia and other countries,
- Peacekeeping soldiers,
- Government workers/officials,
- Humanitarian workers – NGO workers,
- Police officers,
- Pastors, and
- The list goes on.
The younger the girl the easier it is to entice her into “making love” for money, school grades, cell phones, baubles, to get her hair styled, watch a video, or just to get a ride in someone’s vehicle. (Save the Children UK, 2006).
Why Is this Allowed to Happen to Young Girls?
There are a number of reasons:
Poverty (the primary reason)
- Liberia is poorer than it was 30 years ago – the per capita income, since 1980, has dropped by 56%. (Ferguson, 2012). In 2010 it was around $500 per capita (index mundi, 2012).
Lack of Education
- In many cases, it is an unsafe and unfriendly school environment for girls. Only 39% of girls are enrolled in primary school. While 14% are enrolled in secondary education (Harmful Practices…, 2011).
Low Expectations/Self-esteem/Peer Pressure
- Low expectations of the girl child by the families and community. Most feel that the boy child is superior or at least more important that the girl child.
- Low self-esteem, which should not be surprising.
- Peer pressure by friends, and the desire to have what their friends have.
- Parents often push the girl child into selling her body, while other parents feel powerless in stopping their girls because they have no way of caring for them and providing food and clothes (Harmful Practices…, 2011).
When you live in a poor country and you have no skills, education, or resources and you are not valued because you are a female, then it is not surprising that the primary job for many young girls and women is prostitution.
I want to end on a happy note and let you know that at the fashion show we were able to sell a significant amount of Amani products and in addition the women gave almost $5,000.00 toward women’s educational scholarships. The team did an amazing job and I so appreciate their work. Most importantly we raised awareness of what is happening to women around the world. But the all important question remains, now what do we do?
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (Women) do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)
References Not on the Web:
Ferguson, N. (2012 6-February). Newsweek. The Inequality Dodge , 159 (6), p. 13.
What is a Think Through? It is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.
I wrote about what is happening in Liberia, but women have needs all over the world including the Western world. What is one thing that you could do in your community to help meet the needs of a marginalized woman or women?