I am a community radio producer and reporter. I produce two programs: “The Missing Voice”, which amplifies the voices of marginalized people with disabilities and “Women and the home”, which deals with issues faced by single mothers, stepchildren and kids who are selling in the streets.
I decided to do this work because I know how difficult it is and what it takes to survive and live below the poverty line in Liberia. You feel that no one seems to care for you in any way. My situation is similar to theirs because I am the last out of eleven children with both parents deceased. My siblings were unable to support me and I was on my own at a young age. I know how it feels to be in the shoes of those whose situation I want to highlight. I can’t support them financially, but what I can do is provide moral support and create space for their voices to be heard.
I learned about so many issues affecting women and girls in Liberia through these programs having interviewed so many women. Being a woman myself, they feel comfortable to share their situation with me. I learned that most of these women live on less than $1.25 per day. Many women and girls are the breadwinners in their family. It puts women at risk. Some are forced to be sex workers, others face violence by the men around them. Teenage pregnancy is a growing problem – as many as 1 in 3 Liberian girls are pregnant before the age of 18. Also, 80 percent of victims of gender violence in Liberia from 2011-2012 were younger than 17. Almost all of them were raped. This is a harsh reality for young women in Liberia. Many of them have children they can’t take care of, further increasing their poverty.
What keeps me going are the people I report on. They want to tell their stories and want to be heard. By shining a light on their stories they are able to receive some support from individuals and organizations interested in their situation.
I often sit and reflect on my country and the situation of the young people. I ask myself: When will my people have good food to eat? Will our government continue to fail the youth, especially young women and girls? Will we ever have decent work and income? It leaves me hopeless sometimes. But I get inspired when I listen to other activists who continue to work for peace, justice and equality against all odds. I had the opportunity to speak with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams, who I admire very much for all her work and leadership. She told us how she became an advocate and campaigned for the voiceless. Her inspiration will help me to continue my work.
I am so grateful to be here in Canada and to share my stories with all of you and hearing from the other mentorship program participants and to learn about all the problems that women and children face around the world. It is great to hear what can be done to address some of these issues by ourselves, by our countries, and by the world. I want to say thanks to the entire team at the Nobel Women’s Initiative for having me as this year’s mentorship participant.
Read the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program blog to find out more about Josephine and her experience in Canada.