By Stephen G. Fellajuah
The Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) has begun identifying with at least 250 youth in six selected communities, by initiating peer to peer peace engagement process which was followed by Urban Peace Dialogue on Friday, April 22, 2021 at the Paynesville Town Hall in Montserrado County.
The underprivileged youth are expected to benefit training in entrepreneurship and seed capital for business venture and rehabilitation centers. The communities to benefit include Clara Town, Caldwell, New Georgia, Gobachop, King gray and Duport Road South Community.
Welcoming participants and giving the overview of the program, the project coordinator Gifty Mensah noted that ABIC will train the underprivileged youth and provide them seed capital to commence a business venture within their communities.
The project, she said targets youth in slums and ghettos in Liberia, which form the largest portion of the population (more than 50%) rarely have jobs to do. This Madam Mensah asserted, is commonly traced to the destructive 14 years civil war that brought the country unto its need.
According to the Project Coordinator, while the population of young people is mostly referred to as the future in many countries, the huge percentage of youth idling about in the slums and ghettos is the discovery of the fragility in the country’s economic sector, with multiple adverse impacts.
As head of the project, she added that this accounts for the several networks of organized crime and gang, which unfortunately, transcend these youth groups to include state actors, who instead of creating economic opportunity for the youth, acts with impunity by recruiting, sponsoring and utilizing these disenfranchise youth in criminal activities to win political power.
She further asserted that this initiative a circle of poverty and negative imagery that is often difficult to break for the generations, adding that against this backdrop, the youth in slum face not only a lack of basic services, little or no education and employable skills, but additional have to deal with the issue of creating their identity, shouldering responsibility and making it on their own.
“Therefore, creating economic opportunities for such population is crucial for the peace and security of the country”, she said
She Continued, “ABIC in partnership with the Global Initiative Resilience Fund have piloted an entrepreneurial project in 5 communities for 250 gang youth between August and November 2020.
This project was the first to link youth from selected slums and ghettos with entrepreneurship, which will ultimately create role models for other gang members within their communities, thereby breaking the stereotype attached to these youth.
She averred that the goal of the project is to identify youth in selected communities, train them and provide seed capital to commence a business venture within their communities.
Some of the underprivileged and less fortunate youth from the targeted communities, thanked the Angle Brooks International Centre for the opportunity to express themselves and tell their experience in the ghettos.
A resident of Caldwell, Alfred Kollie, known as the “Ghetto Mandela”, said he has been consuming drugs for eight years, and called the ABIC to build rehabilitation centers that will enable them to achieve restoration. He said when this is not done, there’s likelihood that they will return to the ghettos.
Kollie’s comment was backed by Oretha Faith Boakai, who said she is willing to quit the ghetto to become a productive citizen and a security of her country. While appreciating ABIC for providing hand washing materials in their respective communities, she used the occasion to call on the humanitarian institution to empower them and build hand pumps and toilets.
In her response to several requests made by the youth, the Establishment Coordinator of Angie Brooks International Centre for women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security, Cllr. Dr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh said the youth made a genuine request and her institution is going to make it possible that they have a rehabilitation center.
“You are going to have that rehabilitation center, I don’t know how but send everything back to God. Believe me as I stand here in my faith, I promise God is going to make it happen”, Cllr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh vowed.
The need for adult literacy, she said “Those of you that did not make it to the classroom, not only adult literacy in term of regular school, but interm of skill training for you all to be able to move forward, adding that the immediate need for sanitation and drinking water is paramount but the rehabilitation center is number one.
She thanked the Global Initiative and Resilience Fund for providing opportunity to the participants and also thanked them for the courage to make a turnaround to do things differently to positively impact their lives and community and urged them to be agents of peace.
Also in remarks, former Foreign Affairs Minister, Olubanke King Akerele urged the youth to take advantage of the opportunity they are getting and make their services available, saying “You are being prepared to play a critical role in the future of this nation.”
She further urged them to stop the divisiveness in the country, that we are all Liberians and they should not allow any individual to manipulate them to get into the streets to cause problems that will further damage the image of the Country.