Source: The Inquirer
The civil conflict in our country brought about a serious brain drain and not only that but doubly incapacitated the female section of the country; who at the time were not given many privileges to economic empowerment and life skills training.
Therefore to correct this wrong and to bring them on par with their male counterparts, the Gender Ministry and its partners have graduated 332 more young women entrepreneurs under the “Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women” (EPAG) project. To date, this project has trained nearly 1,200 adolescent girls and young women in business skills and job skills. Yesterday's graduates have learnt entrepreneurship principles, money management, customer service, business analysis and other areas of study etc.
During the graduation ceremony at the Monrovia Christian Fellowship in Sinkor, Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan admonished the girls to be proactive, work harder, and put their entrepreneurship to practice; adding “your training is over, but your education still continues.”
Explaining their life changing experiences, two of the graduates Kebbeh Kamara and Frances K. Jackson, shared their stories with the audience. Miss Kamara described her trip to Washington, D.C. USA last year, during which she represented the EPAG project at the Adolescent Girls Initiative forum. She said that before EPAG she had dropped out of school when she got pregnant at the age of 17. She is now doing business in the morning and going to school in the afternoon. She is even running a scholarship program for a small number of high school dropouts in her community.
For her part, Miss Jackson explained how the EPAG project found her in a state of hopelessness, but has tremendously turned her story around to a life with meaning. She is now reunited with her family, doing business, and attending school at night. She thanked President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for her farsightedness in starting the EPAG project.
EPAG is a three-year pilot project that aims at increasing employment and incomes among 2,500 Liberian young women ages 16-27 years; it is also a part of the Joint Program on Youth Employment and Empowerment (JPYEE). According to the EPAG project, all the graduates have savings accounts with local banks. The trainees are presently being supported in their transition from the classroom to the real world through mentoring, internships, job placements, business plan competitions, linkages to business capital etc. The trainers for yesterday's graduation were International Rescue Committee (IRC), Children's Assistance Program (CAP), and EDUCARE.
These girls, whose lives were taken from grass to grace during the graduation ceremony, come from the Doe Community, Bentol, Pipeline, New Kru Town and West Point, while special awards were given to deserving mentors, community leaders and students in the categories of mentors' appreciation, most cooperative community leaders, best record keeper, most business orientated and others. There will be one more EPAG graduation on Monday, February 28th.