YES Inspires Girls to Speak Out

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Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), an accredited nonprofit, voluntary grassroots youth-led development institution has organized ‘Speak Out Girls Speech Competition’ to harness enthusiasm, imagination and initiative of girls in lending their voices to raise issues that affect them.
The competition was designed to inspire people of all ages and gender to learn from girls and take action about their challenges. It also facilitated a unique platform that deepened girls’ understanding about personality development skills, such as self-awareness, self-confidence, self-esteem, problem solving, persuasive skills and ability to make informed decisions.
The event which took place on Friday, 3rd July at the Billie Call Christian Institute (BCCI) in Wood Camp, Paynesville City brought together eleven contestants from eight elementary, junior and senior high schools in the municipality of Paynesville to compete for the grand prize of L$10,000.00 while second and third place winners received L$2,000.00 and L$1,000.00 respectively.
The prizes were made available through generous donation from Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, owner of the Daily Observer Newspaper, Mr. Philip N. Wesseh of the Inquirer Newspaper and Mr. Randolph Dennis of the Liberia Maritime Authority.
Jerelyne E. Cheady, 18, and a senior student of the Messiah Mission Institute, who presented a speech on Girls and Education, won the first place prize while Julie I. V. Onuigbo, 16, from the 10th grade of the Billie Call Christian Institute, presented a speech about Early Marriage and walked away with the second place prize. Snothee Slems, 20, from the senior class of CFTAOLY Mission School, presented a speech on Rape and got the third place prize. Theresa Saah was given special recognition for presenting the most succinct speech, which was timed under five minutes.
Delivering a special statement, the Founder and Executive Director of YES, Stephen B. Lavalah, outlined some of the challenges responsible for girls performing poorly and dropping out of school. He stressed the need to engage, educate and empower girls to achieve their full potential by completing secondary school and acquiring tertiary or technical and vocational education.
The youth advocate said most girls are over-age before starting school and all too often, a considerable number reach puberty while in the elementary and as a result many become sexually active which leads to teenage pregnancy.
He indicated that every so often, the majority of the girls who get pregnant and give birth under extreme conditions do not think about going back to school, because of their children or their inability to mobilize support in addition to being further discouraged by friends and relatives.
“The government needs to ensure standardized free and compulsory education for every girl across the country; institute well-defined and structured pre-school curriculum; design public policy to avert teenage pregnancy through the introduction of health science as well as sexual and reproductive health education; and provide family planning services including the passage of a legislation that empowers girls to continue their education after teenage pregnancy,” Lavalah said.
The youth leader further stated that social vices such as the distribution of domestic jobs in accordance with gender steretoypes and the consistent use of girls as breadwinners on the part of most parents and guardians, put girls at the disadvantage in achieving their full potential.
Keynote speaker, Mr. Sam Hare, Jr., former Deputy Minister of Youth & Sports and now Secretary-General of the National Commission for UNESCO revealed that girls are at the lowest end in the Liberian society due to abject poverty, high level of illiteracy, rampant corruption including appalling levels of maternal and infant mortality rates.
“We live in a country where many people live on less than one U.S. dollar a day, according to the UNDP Development Index. We have one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world, one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world and ranked as one of the most corrupt countries on earth, compounded with the lack of political will to change the system for the common good of all,” Mr. Hare said as he urged the youth, especially girls, to adapt the three “Cs” to succeed in life: competence, character and contribution.
He stated that girls should practice to be good at whatever occupation they find themselves, learn to exhibit high degree of integrity and significantly give back to society.

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