-Empower 50 teenage girls in Cape Mount
Sixteen year-old Bendu Massalley was practically out of words when she was presented with a certificate as a graduate of a Life Skills Training project that was buttressed by sexual and reproductive health education.
This achievement comes with the requisite skills that enable Bendu to fend for herself and her two children. She can now make bread, doughnuts, cakes and other pastries for sale.
Bendu was one of fifty teenage mothers and school dropouts, ages 16-19, who formed part of the graduation exercise of the YWCA project in Tienii, Grand Cape Mount County.
The project was funded by Activa Group Foundation in collaboration with Activa International Insurance Company, Liberia Limited, at a cost of US$33,000.
The Foundation is an international non-profit entity in the island State of Mauritius, and serves as the corporate social responsibility arm of Activa Insurance Group. The girls benefited from life-skills and business management training. They are school dropouts in Tienii and its surrounding communities.
However, before the age of 15, Bendu had become a mother of two children. This means she had already dropped out of school and was out of her parents’ house. Her situation got worse when she moved in with an uncaring and promiscuous boyfriend who abused her at will. She was now trapped into the deepest pit of poverty and foresaw no way out—she became hopeless and vulnerable.
Bendu and her kids were practically surviving at the mercies of others—but not anymore, now that she has acquired skills that are enabling her to make money.
“I can now make my bread and other things to sell and buy food and clothes for me and my children. I don’t have to depend on anybody anymore,” a smiling Bendu said.
Bendu’s story reflects the life challenges many of the beneficiaries were faced with prior to enrolling in the program. It is noteworthy that these demeaning circumstances are not only unique to adolescent girls in Cape Mount but this is prevalent across the country. It is hoped that the ACTIVA/YWCA project will benefit others in other counties. One of the major reasons of these adolescents predicament is teenage pregnancy, one of many by-products of economic hardships.
The graduation ceremony was well attended with some high profile officials from the Insurance Company, YWCA, the county, district and other places.
ACTIVA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Atty. Saye D. Gbalazeh, served as the guest speaker and said the primary goal of the project is to promote financial independence among vulnerable teenage girls.
“We have a shared conviction that by building your capacities through information sharing and empowering you to take charge of your lives, you have acquired skills that would help you overcome dependency,” he said.
ACTIVA, he said, always endeavors to balance the pursuit of profit with a commitment to its social obligations.
“It is Activa’s culture that when we do well as a corporate entity, we should do our best to provide communal and financial support to improve the community we operate in,” he noted.
The project, he believes, “is a small but meaningful response to some societal needs and a demonstration of our corporate citizenship and conscience.”
He described teenage pregnancy as a serious virus that is affecting the Liberian society. “It affects the family, community and the society at large. It is disruptive to young women’s careers and goals,” he said. “Many of you had unplanned pregnancies and you cannot solely be held liable as you lacked the requisite knowledge, like family planning education, to prevent it.”
YWCA Secretary General, Roseline Toweh, lauded the beneficiaries for remaining steadfast throughout the program. She said the aim of the program is to help reduce the vulnerability of adolescent girls who have dropped out of school; provide training that encourages them to be confident, and independent at all levels.
“We are opening doors of opportunities and this program will prepare you to walk through these doors. We urge you to take full advantage of the opportunity afforded you,” he said.
The occasion was also graced by county and district officials who lauded ACTIVA and the YWCA for the initiative.