Deafening applause from the audience filled the Love Center Ministries Church on the Old Road last Friday as graduates from the Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG), impressed their trainers, families and well-wishers by relaying what they learned from their seven-month training.
The girls, 60 in number, were recruited for the teacher’s aide and care-giving training last year following a thorough screening.
During Friday’s graduation ceremony, the trainees took turns in sharing their experiences and demonstrating how prepared they are to contend for the job market.
The guests and trainers were not only impressed because the trainees are girls, but also by their use of grammar and how politely they conducted themselves on stage.
Dressed in green and black uniforms, the girls explained and dramatized the roles of teacher’s aide and caregiver in simple but Standard English, which moved the guests to give the graduates resounding rounds of applause.
The guest speaker, Ms. Florence Allen-Jones, Assistant Education Minister for Early Childhood Education, said EPAG is a successful program that has impacted the lives of girls and women in Liberia.
“As we can see here today, development of girls and women means well for a country, and it should be a priority for government’s partners,” she said.
Apart from Liberia, other countries including Nepal, Rwanda, Jordan, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Laos and Haiti, have benefited from the program, according to Mrs. Jones.
She praised the trainees for devoting time to undergo the tough, seven-month training, adding that all the stakeholders, including the trainees, are feeling the rewards of the effort.
Meanwhile Mrs. Jones has cautioned the graduates to shun vices with negative effects, and to remain loyal and patriotic enough to pass on positive attitudes that contribute to nation building.
Montserrado County District #10 Representative Julius F. Berrian said to enlighten girls is like a blind man who finally gained his sight.
Berrian cautioned the graduates not to be creators of problems, but to be problem solvers instead.
He also noted that there will come a time when Liberia will experience donor fatigue, and in order to prepare for such eventuality, there is a need for government to take ownership of the program by allotting a budget to sustain it.
He said the program is essential because it helps to reduce social problems in the society.
A Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection representative emphasized the need for training girls and women to improve society and to bridge the gap of inequality between male and female.
Sceane Abdul-Baki then extended gratitude to EPAG on behalf of Minister Julia Duncan Cassell for training the 60 girls.
The EPAG and Early Childhood Development program are implemented by the Child Assistance Program (CAP) and funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
Ministries of Education and Gender, Children and Social Protection are also collaborating partners.
CAP’s Executive Director Mrs. Elizabeth B. Blama said 56 of the 60 girls have been assigned in various schools for internship, while the remaining four are operating their own businesses.
The EPAG pilot project began in September 2009, with the first and second rounds ending in December 2012. These phases were funded by the Nike Foundation and the Government of Denmark. It targeted 2,500 adolescent girls and young women in Montserrado and Margibi counties.
Round three was held from June 2013 to July 2014 and was funded by SIDA and implemented in Montserrado, Margibi and Grand Bassa counties, targeting 1,000 girls.
This fourth round began in February 2016 and ended in January 2017. It consisted of six components including Business Development Skills; EPAG Boys Pilot; Early Childhood Development Job Skills Pilot; Development of EPAG alumni system and activities; Village Savings and Loans Association Pilot; and EPAG Round Four Quantitative and Qualitative Research.