The story of a Youth at Risk, taking a chance on a new lease on life

November 18, 2019

Nana shows scars of Gender Based Violence (GBV) meted against her by the father of her three children.

29 years old Nana Karyea of King Gray township in Monrovia, was a victim of gender-based violence. She dropped out of school in the 5th grade in 1999 and hooked up with a man by whom she had her first child. With time, they parted ways and she got into a relationship with another man, with whom she lived for 11 years and had three more children. It was in this relationship that the violence begun. As a result of beatings, she lost two pregnancies.

Speaking to UNDP, Nana was traumatized and in a state of confusion. She showed us scars on her head and on her left hand inflicted by her partner. She fled the violence at home and ended up in nightclubs and on ghetto streets drinking excessively, shooting illicit drugs and engaging in prostitution.

“I was so frustrated; I had to get out of this relationship. My life has been a complete mess. I have been involved in smoking, drinking, and sex work. I also did house-keeping jobs to get little money,” Nana said with a sad, serious and reflective expression on her face.

Nana was among over 500 disadvantaged youth that benefitted and graduated from a UNDP peacebuilding and vocational training program designed at empowering disadvantaged youth to make something of themselves.

“Since the introduction of this program, I have decided to be a better person. I went through the counselling and vocational trainings,” she said. “I am interested in hairdressing; I see my friends making money from it. I know I can do the same and get my shop open one day as long as I keep focus. I believe I can change. It’s not easy, but I’m sure that changes will come gradually,” the determined Nana said. She is also part of a village savings program through which she is saving up to open her salon.

Funded by the UN Peace-Building Support Office under the Liberia Multi-Partner Trust Fund (LMPTF) it is being implemented through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the Government of Liberia, in partnership with the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD).

SEED targets 500 youth at risk within Montserrado County and meant for those mostly found in ghettos, street corners, cemeteries, and other unfit dwellings. Many are on drugs and other illicit substances.

They face these circumstances for different reasons, including peer pressure, Gender Based Violence (GBV), abuse, and trauma from a bad experience.

With the commencement of activities under the SEED Project, Nana has completed the first phase of the Psycho-social counseling provided by YWCA and was enrolled in the training on Business Management and Entrepreneurship (BMEs) skills.

As these young people go through the programme, they have expressed interests in plumbing, tailoring, the military, IT, graphic design, and hair dressing etc.

Willet Salu of CAFOD says, disadvantaged youths are at different educational levels, including high school, college but mostly elementary school dropouts. ”The dropouts are provided with Adult and financial literacy training to improve their numeracy and literacy skills, to fully grasp lessons on Business Management and Entrepreneurship,” says Willet.

They are divided into groups of 25, targeting New Kru Town, King Gray, Thinker’s Village, and Red-light, where beneficiaries are performing well and regularly attending the sessions, while for Central Monrovia, it’s a bit slow due to the attraction of other activities for the same group of people.

It is estimated that 79% of Liberia’s population is comprised of young people between the ages of 15 and 36 with at least 85% of them unemployed due to lack of education and skills which limits their chances of accessing social, economic and political opportunities.