The issue of rape has overtaken many national discussions, but finding practical solutions to combat the rising menace nowadays seems Herculean for most communities and duty bearers in Liberia. But one Liberian who has taken the bull by the horns and is tackling rape, while addressing the educational plight of adolescent girls, is Brewerville VOA Rainbow Community’s own Sara Beysolow-Nyanti.
A resident of the VOA Brewerville Rainbow Community, Mrs. Nyanti is founder and visionary of the Social Movement for Change, a project of the Development Brokers, Sara’s local NGO, that is fighting to change the outlook of many impoverished communities around Montserrado County. For the past five years they’ve carried out community level activities with the building of latrines, digging of boreholes, micro-credit, supporting schools with generators and computers.
Now, it’s her own community’s time to benefit.
The Development Brokers has collaborated with other residents of Rainbow Community to construct a learning center where adolescent girls will receive home tutoring in English, Math and Science, as well as receive psychosocial counseling on rape and other forms of sexual and gender based violence.
“This Learning Hut is the work of all of us together. Your parents have invested their interest and their power and given it to the community chairperson, and she has been speaking on your behalf; and today we have this result. You all now have the responsibility to come and utilize this facility and learn. Let learning be interesting for you. You should seek to learn,” Mrs. Nyanti informed her fellow Rainbow Community residents and beneficiaries during recent dedication of the Learning Center.
She further ensured that the girls who will benefit from the Rainbow Community Learning Hut will be taught about preventing rape and sexual abuse, because rape is rampant in Liberia.
“Rape should not happen in this community; it should not happen in any community in Liberia. Liberians are better than this. Liberia is better than this. We are not rapists. We have gone through wars, different bad situations. Things have happened to us. But we don’t have to succumb to those things. We are better than those things. And we have to rise above those things,” Madam Nyanti insisted, further encouraging parents to protect their children by educating them.
“Those things that have taken us backwards, we must rise above them and move forward. We want the girls of this community to benefit from this learning hut, because when you educate a girl, you educate a nation. We want to encourage you to learn; even while there is COVID, and school is not opened, we want you to come here and learn. Take in all that the teachers are teaching you. Ask questions,” she counseled the prospective beneficiaries.
“We will also provide psychosocial support, counseling for those who may need it. We are partnering with a very good partner of ours, but we ourselves must make sure to take care of ourselves. When others see us doing something, they will come and help. Protect your girls. Back in the days people used to say, ‘educate you son and it will be alright with you’. I will tell you, ‘educate you daughter and she will take care of you; love and protect you, and she will educate her siblings as well’. I am not saying do not educate your sons. Educate all of the children, but I know what the girls will do,” she further advised.
“You know the rapists among us. When you know the rapists, identify them and give them help. Refer them to psychosocial programs or do something, but don’t allow them to prey on our small children.
I have worked for children all around the world, and when I think about our own country, I feel for our own children who are being violated. We have to raise our voices and say, today is today. Rape must stop today. We have to preserve our children so all of them can grow because they are the future of Liberia. We don’t want to hear about rape in this community. If every community commits to no more rape, it can stop,” Madam Nyanti intoned.
Achieving Development Together
For the last five years, change agents of the Development Brokers’ flagship project, the Social Movement for Change or SMC4C, visited communities in Montserrado County, engaging with the communities, and discussing what the issues are in the communities and what the communities themselves want to do about it.
“Our programs are all anchored on human rights, our basic rights. There are duty bearers who are supposed to fulfill those rights. There are challenges here and there. But the community cannot sit and wait; we also must rise up and do what we can do,” says Boima C.J. Toure, a Change Agent of the Social Movement for Change, who has been working with communities to impact positive change.
“This community agreed with us and they worked with us to identify what they want, and then we did it together. We decided we wanted to do a learning hut together with a latrine and office. This was supposed to be a round learning hut. But this community is so strong. This community pushed, pushed and pushed; saying they wanted it this way and that way, till it turned out like this.
For me, it’s a joy because it’s community empowerment. The community is taking responsibility for its own development. It’s not just sitting back. And that’s what this is all about. It’s a partnership,” maintains Mr. Toure.
A Facility of Renewal
The Learning Hut will house 30 adolescent girls, at least 10-19 years old, who will be taught by a female teacher to be employed by The Development Brokers. The students will receive training in Math, English and Science even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This place will be electrified. The Development Brokers have already wired this place with electricity. For houses that don’t have electricity, the children can come here and study in the evening, so that they all tomorrow can be the future of Liberia we can be proud of,” says Mrs. Kebbeh Sheriff, chairperson of Rainbow Community.
When they asked me to bring 30 girls for the program, I was so touched. I am so overwhelmed. These are your 30 girls you asked for. We promise you that we will do our best to keep our girls protected under this program, we will sustain the Learning Hut,” Mrs. Sheriff promised.