Faces of some Zogos at the program

Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) and partners Global Initiative and Resilience Fund have awarded seed money to disadvantaged youths from six communities namely: Caldwell, New Georgia, West Point, Clara Town, Old Road and Bentol, respectively with entrepreneur skills.

The above six communities on Thursday, May 27, 2021 won 5000 USD each at the Slum Pitch Festival organized by ABIC held at the Monrovia City Hall in Sinkor.

The Slum Pitch Festival brought together over 250 disadvantaged youths from 11 communities, which include, New Georgia, Caldwell, King Gray, Duport Road, Old Road, Bentol, Careysburg, Gobachop, Clara Town, Center Street and West Point.

During the competition the 11 communities presented different business plans to judges but only six communities emerged as winners and walked away with 5000 USD each making it the total of 30,000 USD.

The money is going to be used for the establishment of businesses that each of the communities presented to judges.  This is intended to impact their various communities their lives as well.

The Slum Pitch Festival is part of the ABIC project working with the aspiring disadvantaged youth in communities.

Giving the over view of the project, the Head of Programs at ABIC, Gifty Mensah said that after months working with the youth the Slum Pitch Festival was the final part.

According to her the Slum Pitch Festival has been months of hard work, working with over 250 disadvantaged youths who are aspiring youth.

She said they started the program with the donation of hand washing station and face mask to the six communities among the 250 young people they are working with because they know that “we are still in the era of the COVID-19 so everything that they are doing are in line with the standard procedure of covid-19 until WHO declare covid-19 free”.

She indicated that they move to the youth peer-peer project which deal with the curriculum of peacebuilding and entrepreneurship because they realize that they cannot have a successful enterprises unless they tackle the issue of peace as such they started peace dialogue with the aspiring youth in the six communities and they were very receptive.

Madam Mensah said that they were able to bring the youth together to talk about peace and for them to share their stories and experiences, which was necessary for them to play the administrative role to look at how the issues are similar.

She added that during the urban peace dialogue one of the issues that the youth expressed is to established a rehabilitation center, acknowledging the fact that where they find themselves they are trying to change and ready to take responsibility for their actions and to make impact in the society.

She maintained that they went into training the youth in entrepreneurship which was a very defining moment because these are young people society have rejected and see them as negative to the society, emphasizing that all the communities came up with a beautiful business idea that identified problems in their communities and them it will create a solution in solving those problems.

“They didn’t just do it as individual project but have designed it in a away that it looks at the broader context which is contributing to the United Nation Sustainable Development Goal and today they are all here and this is a momentous moment and am hoping that everybody gets to win but as we have informed you we have money for a selected group but by virtue of the fact that you are here today know that you are all winners,” she said.

She concluded by telling the young people that the ABIC and partners are going to find way of creating those businesses that the young people have designed for them to transition back in the society emphasizing that it was wonderful working with the young people and is looking forward to more.

For her part, the Coordinator of ABIC, Cllr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh expressed excitement of seeing the young people, emphasizing that they know that the young people have gone ahead and done a lot of work.

Cllr. Wureh told the young people that they are not just sitting down, ABIC is carrying them far as they are their aspiring youth and they refuse to have them as disadvantaged, zogoo and zogees but rather aspiring youth who are going somewhere.

“We have carillon which is when you are presenting your business plan it should be something that will help your community, it must be a business and not a give away but something that must make money for you,” she said.

However, at the end of the competition Cllr. Wureh used the time to congratulate the young people most especially the winners.

She told the youth that she will not leave them behind not because all of them didn’t win today does not mean that they are going to leave them behind.

“We are coming to work with you and keep you up to speed. We are going to find that money and work with you; we are one people one nation, one destiny, peace in this country. We are moving forward and we are going to find a way for you, believe me,” she said.

Cllr. Wureh told the young people not to be discouraged but should be patient as the rehabilitation center, which they asked ABIC has already started asking people to help and they will continue because they want it to happen for the youth.

She thanked the judges, field mentors and representatives including ABIC staff for the time they put to the project and working with the young people stressing that this is not the end.

However, session one of the competition, West Point came first place with 164 points, Careysburg came fifth place with 97 points, Motorcyclist came sixth place with 81 points, Bentol came third place with 124 points Old Road- District #10 came second place with 144 points while Center Street came fourth place with 105 points and for session two, King Gray came sixth place with 98 points, Duport Road came fifth place with 112 points, Gobachop came fourth place with 122 points, New Georgia came second place with 141 points, Caldwell came third place with 140 points while Clara Town came first place with 144 points.

Meanwhile, Clara Town business plan was to construct a sanitation hall which consist of public toilet and the collection of waste, West Point business plan was the collecting of waste, Old Road business plan was Cosmetology, Bentol business plan was production of soap, New Georgia business plan was selling of water from the tank and Caldwell business plan was waste management.

The judges were Cllr. Pear Brown-Bull, Hon. Cyvette Gibson amongst others.

Meanwhile, the Establishment Coordinator of Angie Brooks International Centre, Cllr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh has called on the women of Liberia to unite in order to lift Liberia.

Cllr. Wureh made the call over the weekend when ZOA and the Angie Brooks international Centre (ABIC) along with partners launched the Sustainable and Inclusive Peace in Liberia through promoting women’s leadership and participation in civic and political life and their strengthened role in conflict resolution with funding from United Nation Peacebuilding (UNPB) held at Bella Casa Hotel in Sinkor.

Speaking at the launching ceremony Cllr. Wureh said one of the problems women in politics face is that they come out too late with their ambition and when that happens they are not able to do much before elections.

She said that the other thing is to get the women to come forward and because of the male dominant society they feel that they should not be seen nor heard, emphasizing that they are going to change that and make sure that the voices of women are heard.

“We are going to be heard, we are going to step forward and women are going to support women, we started that with Botoe Kanneh and Edith Gongloe-Wleh with the Lappa Revolution which has started and my people are not going to stop”, Cllr. Wureh said.

She indicated that the partnership between ZOA and the Women Situation Room did not just start today. She said ZOA uses if “appreciative inquiry” which according to her is something they are all looking forward to because it is a methodology that ZOA protects the voices of women continuously.

“We are excited about it and are looking forward to inclusion in this project, both ZOA and ABIC are not talkers but doers, we accomplish what we set up to do and we are telling you the inclusiveness of women and appreciative inquiry, these are things you are about to see that will happen. You will see women step up to the front,” she said.

She noted that women promote coexistence and peaceful conflict resolution among political actors. The aftermath of the midterm and senatorial election got local authorities and traditional leaders improved conception and commitment to women participation in politics and leadership, which are the two major level outcomes. She said they want to actually get women to start thinking now ahead of 2023 and to get them understand and step upfront now.

The ABIC national Coordinator further said that the project is important because it is transformational in terms of how they go ahead to solidify the national agenda, emphasizing that the United Nation Peace Building Fund (UNPB) has recognized the need for women to participate not only in political process but in mediation and peace building.

She maintained that when women lead, things happen, and there are changes that happen in Africa that when women lead, as such women are disruptors when they lead and not only that they build and make changes; therefore, the peace building fund that they are utilizing has recognized the uniqueness of ZOA and ABIC and ZOA has appreciative inquiry which is something that is utilize to have inclusive dialogue with people as they go along which is a necessity as they look toward to peace building.

She also disclosed that the project is gear toward having meeting with traditional leaders for them to recognize the inclusiveness of women in the political process and also with the women mostly in Bong and Montserrado counties and other rural and urban areas across the country.

In conclusion, Cllr. Wureh said ABIC is excited to be in partnership with ZOA and appreciative of the fact that UNPBF has decided to fund the project to make a difference, which she assured that they are going to make a difference.

Also speaking at the occasion the Manager of Program Quality of ZOA, Marleen Spieker said that they started the project with ABIC because they believe women are strong leaders and they play key role in politics and make right decision for the whole society.

Madam Spieker indicated that women are also great peacemakers and they are the ones who can mediate and resolve conflict, as such they have a key role in society. She said they recognized the fact that women have many barriers, which prevent them from fully participating in society.

“So we are happy that we are here today so we can do something about it and see how we can support these women to become more active and to take a role in society and to make Liberia a bit better.

She added that when they talk about women not just few but from different backgrounds whether young or old we all need them to make Liberia a better society and to make it a valuable place for all of us to live in.

“We are happy that we can kick start this project in the right way. Thanks to ABIC, UNPB and to all the women local CSO and ZOA, we will work really hard to make this project successful.

Representing CSOs, the Program Manager of the Young Women Christian Academy (YWCA), Sarnor A. Saul stressed that it is know that where there is a woman there is magic and women have strength within them.

She said what women need from the world is to be recognized and also change the way they perceived the strength of a woman. She said it is no longer the time that women sit home and take care of the children but it has reached to the point for women to take the lead and be change makers in peace building and conflict resolution.

She thanked ZOA, ABIC and UNPB fund for choosing them as implementing partner, stating that they look forward to a cordial working relationship.

The ceremony was graced by both the private and public sectors, rural and traditional women and leaders CSOs, women organizations and the government of Liberia.

The project is meant to provide intervention to the aftermath of the December 2020 mid-term senatorial elections, and the constitutional referendum. The project also provides interventions towards the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections in Bong and Montserrado Counties.

The project aims to promote women’s leadership and participation in civic and political life and strengthens their roles in conflict prevention and resolution among political actors. The project will through the Women Situation Room (WSR) mechanism and basic Appreciative Inquiry (AI) seek to enhance women’s capacity and agency within the political, civic and mediation spaces. The project is in line with the ‘Strategic Roadmap for National Peace building, healing and reconciliation.

By: Leila B. Gbati

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