The Uncommon Man

May 27, 2008

MRI in Liberia: Jr. High GBV Classes

Today, Tuesday, was one of the best days of many great days. We got to visit a junior high school (grades 5 - 8). There were at least thirty students who are part of a new initiative, Gender Clubs. This class is headed by a teacher who was trained as a GBV instructor while in the camps. When we arrived, the students were asked to share what they remembered from their GBV classes and they responded by listing the topics area they have covered: sexual exploitation and abuse, forced marriages, rape, domestic violence, child labor and others.

They were asked why they felt it was important for them to learn about these topics. One girl responded by saying that lots of people don't know these things and they get taken advantage of. Another girl said that if an older man comes to talk to them about helping them out for money they will tell them that this is wrong and go tell her parents. Another child talked about how she told her father that when he hits her mother and yells at the children that he is doing domestic violence.

The children then asked us what they can do when they see domestic violence taking place. We acknowledged that this is one of the questions most often asked of us. We said it was important for them to keep from being harmed themselves in those situations. And that to look and pay attention can help draw attention to the situation. We suggested finding an adult to talk to or going to the authorities. We recognized that sometimes there is nothing they can do to stop it, and talk to someone about that feeling of powerlessness is important. Finally, we reinforced how important it is for them to learn to be healthy adults themselves, and share their understanding with others.

We then went with Edwin, GBV staff trainer, to the community called "Chicken Soup Factory" to meet with some youth who are no longer attending school for any number of reasons: not being able to afford tuition, needing to fend for themselves and not having a stable place to live. The two instructors, Kebe and James, who were both in the four day training with us, were in good form, sharing the facilitation. They had the attention of the class as they talked about gender and sex. These students ranged from 12 to 30 years old. We also had a brief but lively interview, had lunch, and went on to another WAG & MAG community center.

The women at this women's center were taking a workshop in sewing. They reminded me of when I was an apprentice tailor back in Belize. They were practicing sewing button holes with different stitches -- all by hand. Then they were learning how to cut materials to complete a pattern. The instructor told us that she is volunteering her time because this is a worthwhile endeavor.

A few minutes later, the leader of the MAG, Pastor Samuel D. Karnley, came to meet with us and with several other men's action group members. They told us how they helped the women's action group build the women's center we were in, and affirmed their commitment to supporting the WAG. They expressed the desire to address what they see as a major problem in their community. "Many young women in this community are now spending lots of their efforts trying to get money from men and it's destroying our community." Pastor Karnley told us of his goal to provide skills training and other forms of support for these girls so they would have other options for taking care of themselves. He asked our advice for how to get assistance in implementing this plan. We recommended that these ideas get discussed with the women of the WAG, so that any proposals are developed from a partnership between women and men. And we suggested that they get from Edwin a format for a grant proposal that could be given to possible funders.

In Peace,
James Arana

To read all Liberia entries in chronological order and to see photos from the trip, click here.

Posted by at May 27, 2008 12:07 PM

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