By Deborah Gonkpah (YES 2018-2019, Liberia, placed by CIEE in Winchester, IN)
On October 11, International Day of the Girl Child, I partnered with Girls Initiative Liberia to host a street jam. The event aimed to encourage girls to go to school and take on leadership positions in Liberia. We also hoped to encourage parents to send their girls to school. At the street jam, we had representatives from several organizations speak about the major issues affecting girls in Liberia, including girls’ education, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, and girls’ involvement in government and politics. Fifty people joined us for the street jam and we handed out flyers to dozens of passersby.
In addition to hosting the street jam, I also had the amazing opportunity to interview Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former President of Liberia. She is an inspiration to me in terms of pursuing higher education and being a woman in leadership in Liberia. During the interview, we discussed how women’s representation has helped Liberia move forward and why increasing women’s representation is important for Liberia’s future. We also talked about how President Sirleaf stayed motivated to keep going, despite all of the challenges that she has faced in her life.
She views girls’ education across Africa as key to fostering real and sustainable change. I was able to interview President Sirleaf through SHE-CAN, an initiative which equips young women with the education and skills needed to become leaders in their nations. Through this interview, I learned what it means to have real power, and what we need to do to create lasting change.
I am deeply passionate about girls’ education and changing the narrative about girls in Liberian society. I hope to use the platform I created, Girls Go For Education, to provide scholarships for Liberian girls to pursue higher education. Through this platform, I have recently donated more than 500 copybooks, pencils, sharpeners, erasers, and pens to 85 girls in rural Liberia. My goal is to provide school materials for 100 girls in rural Liberia. I am feeling even more motivated to achieve this goal—and even more—from my experience on International Day of the Girl Child.