The Helping THEM for a Lifetime Project – empowering young women in Sierra Leone

About the Initiator

Being a victim myself and coming from a society that respects men with more than one wife, I kept experiencing domestic violence as a child right from my family and the entire neighborhood I was raised in. Today, after having learned about the complexities surrounding women and the daily struggles they face, I suddenly came to the realization that being a man I could also add voice to the silent majority of women in need of help.

My inspiration has therefore been built upon these daily struggles women – our mothers – face and being at the help of my organization’s governance strata I am able to institute a youth-led approach towards ending violence against women. Musa Ansumana Soko

As Executive Coordinator of the Youth Partnership for Peace and Development (YPPD), Musa manages several programs that strive to tackle the issues of gender-based and domestic violence within some Sierra Leonean communities. The programs aim at raising community awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence and its effects; training community leaders in conflict resolution and mitigation; incorporating these topics into educational curriculum; and providing clarity to the laws on domestic and gender-based violence against women. Musa has many years of experience and is interested in expanding his organization’s livelihoods program to women in order to increase their independence and economic freedom. He is a graduate of the Young Women Knowledge and Leadership Institute (YOWLI); a flagship program of the African Women’s Millennium Initiative on Poverty and Human Rights (AWOMI) in 2010 – Dakar, Senegal.

About the Organization

Youth Partnership for Peace and Development (YPPD) is a Sierra Leonean based youth-led development organization working with partners across the world to foster youth-led approaches to development. The organization was formed in 2005 by young people who strongly believe in the strength of youth to help bring about meaningful changes within the communities they live in; by changing the mindset that young people should not only be regarded as beneficiaries or objects of research, but as equal and trusted partners in development. Please read more on http://www.yppdatwork.org

In our programs that address domestic and gender-based violence, YPPD have used a number of interventions ranging from direct action to policy advocacy endeavors. In my organization’s effort, we have the “helping them for a lifetime” project that provides a safe haven for survivors and victims of domestic violence. This approach has been very helpful in addressing the economic vulnerability of women in a male-dominated society like Sierra Leone, especially in our operational areas.

Project Summary

We are changing communities from within and creating a common language of hope for an already hopeless situation. I am in; are you? Beneficiaries of this project are provided training at no cost.

The project’s goal is to address the acute poverty and unemployment faced by young women, who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence by proving supports through practical and vocational skills training and start-up facilities to 40 beneficiaries a year that will enable them to be employed within a 12 months period.

We want to continue to offer an opportunity for each young woman in situations of extreme violence and poverty so they can in turn change their own lives and bring about positive change to others. To do that, I need your support since I cannot do it alone. A little from each of us can do so much in the life of a young woman!

Youth Partnership for Peace and Development want to continue to improve access to non-formal education through the provision of vocational skills training for vulnerable youth, who are mainly war-affected victims, teenage mothers and former combatants. This will increase access to sustainable livelihoods, reduce youth unemployment, violence and promote self-reliance and sustainable peace in the country. It will benefit 40 illiterate, war-affected, drop-outs and ex-combatants within the age limits of 15 and 30 and will last for a year. Beneficiaries will be trained in dressmaking and textiles design inclusive gara-tye dye, entrepreneurship, basic measurement and calculation.

Trainees will be certified and given sewing machines and other materials and equipment as a start-up kit that will assist them in setting up their own cooperatives. Regular and periodic monitoring will form part of this project.

Selected Success Stories from our Beneficiaries

Mabinty Kamara (20)

Personally before now I used to find it very difficult to listen to the radio especially when there is no interesting sound track playing.

Well this has changed about me for just a day that I listed to the SLBC Radio Station I heard a public notice about YPPD’s project that aims at helping people like us to be better empowered economically. I am glad I am fortunate.

Kadiatu Bangura (21)

Had a project like this been available in Makeni, I would have gone far by now to emancipate myself from the burdens of unemployment and sale of my body for daily survival. I just feel like enrolling again year-after-year but I need to move on with my already-acquired skills that will help me and my only daughter. I am glad I now have a way of uplifting myself to the next level.

Memunatu Conteh (27)

Owning a business of my own has always been a dream but before now I kept asking myself on how I will achieve that dream. Through YPPD and UN-Habitat for providing their support, my dream is a reality as I now have even an apprentice working with me in my small Tailoring Shop.

Trainers at the Centre provide free training supports and treat us with dignity and respect as young adults and to me that’s really amazing to see as compared to other institutions even when you pay your money you are still not respected.

Fatmata Bangura (Female 27)

Being a disabled young woman had brought nothing to me but abandonment from my family and friends, because they believed I could hardly do things on my own. Here am I today. I am now a certified graduate with an opportunity for a lifetime I never imagined. My start-up kit will forever be with me as I continue adding more to it.

Winning this great battle does not mean I should stop practicing and I will continue to grow as I have graduated from the training YPPD continues the regular support.

Mamusu Kamara (26)

NGOs come and go year after year but I sometimes wonder what they really do to address unemployment and societal problems. I am glad I am a part of the Sustainable Youth Livelihood Training Center of YPPD. I’ll remain grateful forever. Especially, as the Chairlady of the 2010 program I feel much honored among my collagues. This has never happened in my entire life.