The Young Women’s Christian Association of Liberia (YWCA) has taken a giant step in transforming the lives of many girls some of whom grew up on the streets of Monrovia and other places.
Over the weekend, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf rededicated the Girls Hostel (Save Our Future Project) at the Headquarters of the YWCA in Congo Town. The Girls Hostel is expected to improve the lives of disadvantaged girls and women by giving them a place to live.
At the dedicatory ceremony, President Sirleaf said many of the young women and girls sleep on the streets and were largely invoived in prostitution while some were drug addicts. Pres. Sirleaf said it was predicated upon this that the Minister of Gender, Julia Duncan-Cassell got on the streets in search of the young women to do something about their plight.
The Liberian leader said based on the strides by the Gender Minister, she (Sirleaf) began to seek partnership to support the YWCA in meeting and ensuring that the girls have a place to stay and acquire some skills.
She then called on every Liberian as well as paerners and friends to join in what she calls worthy initiative intended to bring pride and dignity to young Liberian girls.
Earlier, the National General Secretary of the YWCA of Liberia, Roleline K. Toweh described the rededication of the Girls Hostel as a very important day in the Life of the YWCA of Liberia since its establishment in 1941.
Madam Toweh said the project is intended to improve the lives of disadvantaged girls and women of Liberia by giving them a place to live at the girls hostel. She stated further that the fourteen (14) years Liberian civil strife negatively influenced the situation and condition of children, youths and women in Liberia and the sub-region. She added that the destruction of the social fabric affected the already most vulnerable segment of the population and further undermined their social and economic potential.
She said on the 18th of May 2012, 103 girls and young women between ages 11-45 years were picked up in the street at late hours and sheltered at the YWCA Compound in Oldest Congo Town. Madam Toweh added that the Ministry of Gender and Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Liberia and other partners commenced an intervention to rescue vulnerable young women and girls off the streets.
“Some of the women and girls involved were commercial sex workers and suspected drug addicts. The categories of women and girls screened were; (1) The Adult women, who are matured adult females comprising of 40 persons ranging from ages 25 to 45 are providing for themselves and their dependents; the vulnerable young women and teenage female students who live with their parents and guardians were 36 ranging from age 11-24; the most vulnerable females ranging from 11 to 24 years who are homeless, abused, relocating and involved in commercial sex and drug abuse were 25 girls. She said from the screening it was also noted that most of the girls are single mothers.
She put the cost of the the project or renovation to US$200,000 to bring the girls hostel back to its pre-war status. She said the Government allotted US$100, 000 in the 2012/2013 budget to help carry on this through the Ministries of Gender and Youth & Sports. “We also received the amount of US$8,000 from the YWCA of Finland in 2011 to start the renovation. The renovation work is now 85% completed,” Madam Toweh disclosed.
Among other things, she said the YWCA project is intended to ensuring access to basic services for all categories of vulnerable street girls targeting fifty most vulnerable girls first; provide formal and non-formal education and recreational activities including interactive forum, focus group discussions, site visitations and outreach outside Monrovia; providing psychosocial counseling and mentoring twice a week; invitations to women leaders as role models or icons to share their stories of change and testimonies with the girls. Madam Toweh said the goal of the YWCA Girls Hostel is to fully renovate the Girls Hostel to its pre-war status to accommodate adolescent vulnerable girls.