Sierra Leone: MAID4U-SL Undertakes Life-Changing Venture in Vulnerable Community
Adolescence is a stage in life between childhood and adulthood and is marked by significant physical, social, and psychological developments. Like many deprived communities in some countries within Global South in general, and Sierra Leone in particular, teenagers living in Down-Below Community encounter a lot of challenges in their daily struggles to make ends meet.
Most of them, especially the females fall prey to sexual exploitation, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), commercial sex work, early school dropout, drug abuse and addiction, unemployment, and other forms of abuse that limit their chances of actualizing their fullest potential. This unfortunate situation prevails in Down-Below Community owing to poor or complete lack of proper knowledge among teenage girls on sexual and reproductive health rights, the menace of drug abuse and addiction, the essence of acquiring skills for livelihood, and the lack of support for teenage mothers and victims of sexual exploitation who drop out of school, amongst others.
According to Mariam Janneh, founder of MAID4U-SL which is a Local Community Based Organization (CBO) that works primarily with vulnerable girls and women, it is her desire to support young girls who are unemployed, teenage mothers, commercial sex workers, drug addicts, school dropouts and victims of sexual exploitation with the Capacity building that she founded the organization, and decided to roll out the Catalyzing Youth Leadership for Education Reform (CYLER) Project in the Down-Below Community, which is situated at the back of Collegiate School, Off Wilkinson Road, Freetown. In her statement, Mariam explained the project targets 200 adolescent girls between the ages of 13–19 years as direct beneficiaries, and more than 400 young girls as indirect beneficiaries.
The CYLER project was supported with funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery Education Trust Fund through Restless Development Sierra Leone. As one of the local CBOs that received the flexible grant to implement the CYLER project, MAID4U-SL raised awareness of sexual and reproductive health rights among 150 school-going teenagers in the community, trained 50 other teenage girls on different forms of livelihood skills in Creative Arts, Elderly Care Service, Baking and Pastry, Advocacy and Nanny Services.
Mariam, founder of MAID4U-SL felt delighted that the CYLER Project has brought significant change in the lives of many teenage girls within five months of implementation in the Down-Below Community.
She highlighted that the project has attained a significant level of perception change among key stakeholders on education and increased passion for both formal and informal learning among teenage girls. Young girls now champion awareness campaigns on sexual and reproductive health rights and lead advocacy against sexual exploitation in the community. It has brought community leaders into the fight against the exploitation of young girls in the community. In addition, 50 teenage girls are now empowered with different forms of livelihood skills including creative arts, pastry, and nanny services. The project has also contributed to the increase in school attendance and a reduction in the rate of school dropout among adolescent girls.
One of the beneficiaries of the skills training in creative arts Mariama Mambu registered her appreciation to MAID4U-SL, in particular, the CEO, Md. Mariam Janneh for such a wonderful initiative, and in particular, for bringing the project to the Down-Below community which is extremely vulnerable to numerous challenges. She stated that she is now boastful of a livelihood skill that she could to earn a living for herself and to take care of her child.
CEO Mariam Janneh said her passion to drive development to vulnerable communities is born out of her personal experience as a single parent and the challenges she has been through despite holding a Master’s Degree.
“If I still face gender-related challenges irrespective of my level of education, what could you imagine of the numerous girls who have no form of empowerment? Someone has to stand up for them. I will not stop supporting vulnerable teenagers in deprived communities as long as I continue to receive funding from charity Organizations or donor institutions,” she concluded.
By: Famah Gbow