Having the cognizance that adolescence is a vital stage of growth and development when young people are intensely influenced by their peers and the outside world, Mrs. Ora Barclay Keller says her organization, the Girls for Change (GFC), since 2013, has been keeping sleeves above elbow to provide lifesaving skills to teenage mothers and nurturing them to form a self image, manage emotions, build relationships, strengthen social skills, and deal with peer pressure.
The Executive Director of GFC, Keller added that adolescents at this stage are more prone and vulnerable to high risk especially considering the fact that more than half of Liberia’s population is under the age of 18 years. These scaring stats are further compounded by the availability of limited opportunities for education, training and employment which render this age group particularly vulnerable. It is this situation, she said GFC is working to address with the requisite support from those who believe in Liberia’s future.
Speaking in a exclusive interview on Monday, May 20, 2019 at her Thinker’s Village office, Mrs. Keller intoned that GFC is prepping these young women, most of whom dropout of school due to early pregnancy through the provision of scholarship, health clubs in schools, training and awareness on teenage pregnancy, early childhood development for teenage mothers’ children while they are in school and mentoring.
According to the GFC Executive Director, this initiative grew out of the realization that many young women who dropped out of school would go back but not stay in school because there are no facilities to cater to their children while they are in school. It is based on this that the Girls for Change organization began running their childhood development programs to provide care for these kids in order to sustainably keep their mothers in school. “This allows the mother to be settled in school and pay attention to her studies because her child is being taken care of at our child development center. Most of the girls we are providing opportunities for are victims of sexual abuse and some got pregnant while in school. Retaining them in school is a primary concern for us. We saw a gap in the lack of a safe environment for those children to play and learn,” Mrs. Keller stressed.
Besides taking of these children while their mothers are in school, GFC saw the need to educate teenagers on reproductive health as the surest way to prevent teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and the consequence of getting pregnant while still seeking primary education since there are not courses in schools to provide such knowledge.
During non-school period, beneficiaries of GFC scholarship program and other community residents are encouraged to attend skill training activities such as tailoring, graphic design, knitting of African slippers, painting that would keep them busy during vacation. Mrs. Keller told newsmen that more 500 teenage mothers and their children have benefited from the organization’s programs. Some of the students who completed the training are being used as ambassadors to teach their peers about the importance of healthy living, prevention of teenage pregnancy and peer-to-peer coaching.
The Girls for Change organization is a nonprofit self-supported civil society organization based within the Thinker’s village community and operates within Montserrado, Bong and Lower Margibi Counties with focus on supporting teenage mothers, less fortunate girls and under privilege and marginalize youth through the provision of scholarships in formal and informal education. Over the past years, the program has supported over 300 girls in formal and vocational education thereby making them productive citizens some of which are currently giving back to the entity. GFC is a women’s rights organization committed to transforming society and supporting women/girls affected by all forms of violence. GFC expertise provides a holistic trauma sensitive and empowering approach to survivors of sexual and other forms of violence and to service providers and stakeholders.