Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor over the weekend donated L$1 million to the Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS), to empower vulnerable young women and girls who have obtained technical and vocational skills to start their own businesses.
VP Taylor said the gesture is intended to empower and enhance beneficiaries’ starter processes.
VP Taylor made the donation when she served as guest speaker at the 7th graduation ceremony of beneficiaries of the Women Training and Integration (WIN) project of the LNRCS, held at the Centennial Pavilion in Monrovia over the weekend.
The LNRCS’ WIN project focuses on training women in cosmetology, Tailoring and Catering in four different communities in the country. The project was established in 2009, with a direct mandate to empower women and girls affected by the conflict. These include ex-combatants, single mothers/self-supported, commercial sex workers, rape and domestic violence victims, drugs users.
The fund, according to the VP, is to serve as a starter endeavor for those scores of young women and girls. It will be managed as a micro loan for the graduates to begin their small businesses. “This comes with zero percent interest,” Madam Taylor said amidst huge applause from the graduates and their parents.
One hundred ninety-eight women graduated after a year-long training.
In her official address, the VP urged the graduates to cultivate the ideals of hard work, commitment, selflessness and fairness—and if they do, there will be no obstacle on their way. “Your attitude determines your altitude. Look beyond the sky, and never stop until you reach your goal. Let your action help in creating a better Liberia,” the Vice President said. She lauded women for their tenacity, commitment and quest for empowerment.
She described women as people who are multi-tasked and who perform their duties exceptionally.
“Everyone wants to live a better life, contribute to his/her family, community and country. But you cannot do that if you don’t have the skills. This is why everyone should be hungry for knowledge, not just academic, but technical as well,” VP Taylor said.
“Education is the light of those who seek it diligently, and it is good to always pursue your dream. I’m glad you all have reached thus far,” she noted.
The WIN project aims to restore the dignity, values and morals of vulnerable and marginalized girls and women in those slum communities, and according to Madam Taylor, the beneficiaries can use the skills obtained to better their lives. “This should be a turning point in your lives if you can make maximum use of your skills,” VP Taylor said.
The graduates were trained in one of the three components (skills training) of the project. The three components are psychosocial case management and documentation activities, adult literacy and skills training. They were also trained in food nutrition and catering, cosmetology, tailoring, Adult Literacy and Business Education.
“This pledge is in support of our government’s pro-poor agenda, and we want to see how we can help our sisters who have achieved these great feats today. This is our initial support to women vocational training,” the VP added.
The VP continued, “As part of LNRCS beneficiaries’ empowerment package, we will be distributing starter kits and providing cash grants to the graduates on Wednesday, to enable them start their businesses.”
LNRCS’ president, Jerome Clarke, is endeavoring to expand the WIN project to other parts of the country apart from Montserrado County where it has concentrated since 2009. “The need for this program outside Monrovia is very urgent, and we hope to go out if we are to mobilize the needed resources soon,” Clarke said.
“We are winning indeed as we take our vulnerable girls and young women out of their vulnerabilities and make them productive. This is one thing we are very proud of at Red Cross,” he said.
Mr. Clarke then urged the beneficiaries to be examples in their communities, “because your work out there will encourage others to search for the headquarters of the LNRCS.”
Meanwhile, recipients 13-45 years of age are primary direct beneficiaries, while their spouses and children are the secondary. The project has been conducted in disadvantaged communities, such as Logan Town, Clara Town, New Kru Town and West Point.
From 2009 to present, the WIN project has graduated 1,202 direct beneficiaries in various skills: food nutrition and catering, cosmetology, tailoring , adult literacy and business education.