GIRLS AS EDUCATORS 2015
Women4resources supports a girls programme involving training groups as peer educators to raise awareness against the spread of Ebola. This is taking place in seven communities in our community link area of Paynesville, Liberia. This is being done in partnership with a Liberian adolescent girls charity based at the Centre or Liberian Assistance. Liberia has been successful in reducing the number of new Ebola cases and we believe it is partly due to the preventive work bring undertaken by women and girls in their local communities.
CONCERNED WOMEN FOR PROGRESS 4 LIBERIA 2013
W4R has always been about ” women doing it for themselves” and we wish Concerned Women for Progress 4 Liberia success in their next venture. After eight years of financial support from W4R they have decided it is time to run their Centre themselves. The partnership of course will continue with the community and we will have regular updates on the Centre’s work.
JAZZIN 4 AFRICA 2012
Jazzin’ 4 Africa supports Swansea Liberia Community Link
The charity, Women4Resources, linking Swansea with Liberia was the recipient of monies raised during a swinging evening of jazz favourites and African songs with the Syncopated Sisters, Women in Jazz All Stars Band and Company B.
The £1,500 raised will support the Liberia Women’s Training Centre where women have learnt new skills enabling them to move from breaking rocks for a £1 a day to running their own businesses thus making enough money for their children to attend school.
Women4Resources supports initiatives designed and managed by women in Wales and Africa dealing with the alleviation of poverty.
Volunteers from Swansea and Liberia have visited each other’s communities exchanging ideas and learning new skills.
Women4Resources recently received two commendations from the Welsh Assembly Government for its poverty reducing educational and community work in Wales, Liberia and Kenya.
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN MICROCOSM 2010
I think we will look back on the project we have set up in Liberia in years to come and marvel at our ambition, shaking our heads at the same time and breath a sigh of relief that it worked well without damage to life and limb.
Women4Resources is a small band of determined women in Swansea. In Liberia, CWFP4L is an equally determined group of women living from hand to mouth, thanking God for everyday they wake that illness hasn’t struck their families. They try hard to grasp the opportunity being offered of training for a better life in the future, while trying to maintain their families in the here and now.
Our task has been to provide training in marketable skills and in running systems of financial accountability. Training too in lateral thinking to see gaps in the market for income generation for themselves and now for the future of the training centre. All this, from the basis of an education that is strong on learning facts, but where problem-solving is absent. We are now asking the group to prepare for a future with decreasing funding from us, when the whole country is struggling to escape from the last 20 years of hand-out thinking, the unforeseen effect of the UN and USA supporting them through the aftermath of the dreadful civil war.
It is only on this, my 4th visit that some people began to speak without prompting of details of the war. When I commented on the stench from deep puddles of standing water in the centre of Monrovia, one woman said “the rebels used to make us lie down in the mud and said ‘swim for your life’ and watch us struggle through this”. They may or may not have been shot while doing so. They told me stories of their survival while seeing death within inches of their children.
A usually ready source of bread today is at hand from “bustin’ rocks”. However, I learned that the building industry is slowing as the Chinese road programme nears completion and a more suitable source of harder rocks has been found and is being quarried and broken mechanically some distance away.
They can see that the laborious process of becoming a competent tailor, baker, hair dresser and now, literate computer user is where they need to go, but the privations of life, demands of the family and frequent illness inevitably get in the way. The temptations presented by funds from the North, are all too real. (I could be describing Social Regenerations programmes in WALES, UK).
These are the headlines. The other women can see these successes and take courage. The next group of tailoring apprentices will start in January 2011. It was a huge pleasure to see the now experienced trainees, teaching new group members.
The group accepts that it must:
- find ways to achieve self-sufficiency.
- challenge financial discrepancies fearlessly as they realise that they are dealing with their money not ours.
- plan ahead to use the solar panels to power the computer and lights
- share power in the group and build the next generation of leaders
- make decisions in the group, stop leaning on W4R and learn to think through the consequences
- summarise for others decisions reached, so that rumours can be challenged with fact.
- respect argument and disagreement.
This is the sort of learning we do in Community Development in the UK. It is barely more difficult there than here. Poverty and trauma are not conducive to new thinking and taking risks – we cling to what we know. The fact that some can do it, encourages the rest. The dedication of the small leaders group in Rockhill Village is remarkable and their growing ability to face change gives me great hope.
Hannah started with nothing 3 years ago, paid back a $600 loan from selling fabric and increased it to $1000 within a year, bought a car in year 2 and now is on the point of opening a double shop selling fabric and groceries.
Oretha is the group Finance Officer, despite having had no schooling whatsoever. Her mother was blind and she was the one to lead her around. She now feeds and educates 8 children, looks after a disabled husband, all from an income from making donuts at weekends, rising at two in the morning to start the process. She learned how to do this in the baking class. She regularly came to me on her way to the market at 7.30 am for a maths lesson and a bit of simplified double entry book-keeping.
Rebecca hugged me warmly when we met in the road. She struggled most to become a tailor and still comes to class to continue learning. She also bakes to provide for her family and sells basic food stuffs such as oil and pepper. She has been going to literacy classes every evening for the past year, after working all morning and coming to class every afternoon, as has her friend Hannah.
I described after my last visit as the saddest woman I met. Now with a tiny loan of $25, she makes simple rice and sauce in her house, serving only 10 – 15 people at a time, but is happy and prospering and aiming to open a small restaurant. Her son has been in hospital for 2 months after a football accident, but fortunately her family in the interior have stepped in to look after him (the essential value of family support).
At 25 Sarah is in her final year of school, has been in the group from the start. In 6 months she has bought her own sewing machine with the proceeds from making school skirts for her classmates. She has taken change of the agricultural project we have just started next to the centre, which will mean getting others to help her carry water from a creek 20 minutes away in the dry season.
Eighteen months ago Marian could not thread a needle and now makes the most beautiful elaborate tailored traditional clothes. She also runs a market stall selling second hand clothes and described how she started with the profits from selling children’s clothes she had made with us, and then bought bigger and better quality bundles of used clothes until her goods are excellent quality and commands good prices. She is a huge asset to the group and has an instinctive business sense. She now teaches hair design, this is big business – you see hair being plaited and woven on the roadside, near houses and in a growing number of beauty parlours. Marian readily sees to the heart of the matter and expresses her opinion freely. She often has a hard time for this but is passionate about the group and I value her honesty and staying power.
GROWING AND LEARNING 2009
Visit to: CONCERNED WOMEN FOR PROGRESS 4 LIBERIA by Women4Resources, Trustees, Nonn Vaughan and Jennifer Twelvetrees,
March 13 – 27, 2009.
Purpose of visit:
- To continue joint work on MD Goal 3, women’s empowerment and equality.
- To monitor and evaluate the financial systems of CWFP4L.
- To discuss and review progress of 2007/2009 training programme.
- To understand the lives of the women during the 14 year civil war and its impact on their present life in post conflict Liberia.
- To examine the progress towards achieving the goals of the Gold Star Partnership.
- To evaluate the quality control systems for the sewing project.
- Direct evidence provided by CWFP4L of graduates achieving economic and social empowerment through the training programme. Examples include having the confidence, skills and financial backing to establish a fabric business trading between Guinea and Liberia; taking the first steps in sewing competence by making their own school uniform.
- Agreeing with OXFAM, Liberia to join their network meetings that will enable CWFP4L to be part of a wider civil empowerment movement.
- Committing to be the “community eyes and ears “for monitoring free.
- Memorandum of Understanding agreed between W4R, Swansea/SA1 and the Community Council, Rockhill, Paynesville and CWFP4L. provision of two keys drugs to prevent maternal mortality, provided by Hope for Grace Kodindo Charity to the local ELWA Hospital.
- Thorough audit of CWFP4L accounts resulted in a Not for Profit, women only bank account being opened by CWFP4L in Eco Bank, Liberia.
- Training programme undertaken by W4R treasurer for CWFP4L treasurer and committee to embed new accounting systems.
- Terms and conditions of membership of CWFP4L agreed and each member given an identity card and photo.
- Quality Control systems reviewed and new systems established for sewing project.
- Pump priming provided for a pilot scheme for four graduates of 2007-2009 training programme to expand their businesses using a simplified version of Micro Finance structure.
- These Businesses were agreed, after the women provided a business plan and costings: Tailoring, Baking, Soap Making and expanding space and goods for a locally run shop.
- W4R undertook a radio interview on UNMIL in Monrovia highlighting work of the partnership.
- On United Nations Radio Programme (UNMIL) we took part in a discussion on Women’s Issues, W4R plans to support the Liberian Governments initiatives on Violence against Women.
- We learnt about the horrors of the 14 year war and the consequences including the death of children, witnessing deaths and violence, multiple rapes, sex slavery, child soldiers, becoming refugees and having to repeatedly flee from their homes .We discussed Truth and Reconciliation Work.
- Regina, our tailoring teacher and one of the key leaders of the group, used a small space in someone’s shop to make a living.
- We were lucky to be able to stay in a family house in the Rockhill community and to chat to local market women who came to use the pump in the garden. Sadly, we had missed the Colloquium to thank the Market Women for their work in ending.
- The baking class was going well, with everyone taking a turn at mixing, baking and selling so we bought a charcoal fired cooker made out of an old freezer. Most women will use a pot oven at home with charcoal above and below the pot.
- She wanted to take women from the group once they had done their basic training, to have a professional apprenticeship. With our help, she managed to find a small shop to rent so that she can do this and take on Sarah as our first professional apprentice.
THE PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT 2008
In January 2008, when we visited Paynesville, we gave disposable cameras to the women we are supporting. We asked them to document their daily lives. None of the women had used a camera before but all came back with beautiful, touching photographs. They showed us their lives; digging and breaking rocks to earn a living, selling small quantities of food by the roadside, washing their children or making the family meal under a tree. Most of the photos on this website were taken by Concerned Women for Progress 4 Liberia Starting on International Women’s Day weekend, in association with Women Centre Stage, you can see their photographs alongside Welsh women artists who are exhibiting as part of the celebration. The women’s photographs from Paynesville add the International theme to the Month’s celebrations.
Most of the group earn $1 a day (50p) breaking rocks. Some are paid by the landowner who then sells them on for road and house building, others sell direct. They work in family groups so even the smallest children contribute. This means that they then can’t go to school.
FAMILIES WORK TOGETHER
Familes work long hours together in very harsh working conditions for the meager wages of $1 a day! No matter what their ages, the women and children contribute to the family budget by carrying heavy rocks long distances.
Training to earn a living by sewing was the group’s first choice. There are now three treadle machine, bought locally and one hand sewing machine, which we took with us from the UK. Trainees start by hand sewing a book of ‘patterns’ of a variety of basic collars, sleeves, pleating.
Rockhill is a busy, friendly community. Children hold our hands as we walk up the road to the school where the group meets. Outside their houses, families prepare food, repair things, sew and care for their own and neighbouring children.
Rockhill is fortunate in having a good water supply for most of the year, but in the driest months, the well at the school where we meet runs dry, even though it has been re-dug with the help of money from another Swansea group which supports the school. The children loved seeing themselves on the digital camera.