Extraordinary voices that rose during a recent forum held by Kula Fofana for, on the visit of Under Secretary General and Executive of UN Women, Ms. Phuzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, left a podium of listeners awestruck and proud on how articulate Liberian adolescent girls are.
“It is refreshing to hear how concerned you are about your future,” Ms. Mlambo Ngcuka said.
Nervous, yet ready to move from behind the shadows of those who have always spoken out for them, were girls and teenagers with stories of their own who voiced out their concerns, issues, aspirations and recent let downs.
Romaine (not her real name) shared her experience about how she became disadvantaged and is now living in the quarters of the Tink Safe House.
“I had a baby at a very young age and ended up running away because of the circumstances surrounding that. I’ve found myself, along with my baby, for the past four years in the safe house of people who care about my wellbeing. If God could provide this type of people throughout the rest of my life, I know my future will be a bright one,” she stated.
The voices of two speakers – two girls– moved Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka to frantically write down what they had to say.
“The lack of support in participating at the international level is my concern. Why do we have to be left out but allow others to speak out for us when that’s not what we really want to say?” questioned Joanne Christensen, a student.
“I believe strongly that young women should be afforded opportunities to participate in lead roles, as it relates to issues of governance, etc. It is always the case that young women are being kept in the background and always overshadowed because adults claim we are not strong enough and productive enough, which is not true. We have a lot of potential, but because we are always shut out we don’t get to speak out or showcase our talents, therefore, no one really knows what we are capable of doing and I think that’s wrong.”
According to Joanne, who visibly moved the audience with her honest statements, she indicated that young Liberian women need opportunities to excel. Job opportunity, for example, she said is a challenge because most youths under 24 do not have work experience.
“At 24 you are expected from the job angle to have had some level of job experience. If you go for a job interview they expect you to have some level of experience. Opportunities should be available for young women to showcase their talents. If at first you don’t exceed, keep trying as the saying goes,” she advised.
Meanwhile, 22 year-old Norwu K. Harris claims she has been a member and coordinator working with ‘Sisters with Power’ for the past seven years dealing with adolescent girls, and is now a junior mentor of that organization.
Teenage girls voice their concerns
“Teenage pregnancy is on the increase and it is hampering our future. I believe young girls have all the mechanisms to help make the world a better place and some of you have the hand to help reduce this problem. Teenage pregnancy is one of those key issues affecting us, including early marriage, sex and rape. All of these issues are putting us down. How can we participate fully? I hope the executives of UN Women will look at these issues and how we can be helped so we can be better in the future,” said an adolescent girl.
“Our economy is poor, some of our parents are poor and as a student I need money for books, uniform and lunch. Where do I get the money from, or how do I help my parents get it and find solutions to this?” asked another adolescent girl.