Becoming Somebody: Helping Women Discover Dignity in Liberia
In a church building in the heart of Monrovia, Liberia, a small group of women gathered over the course of a few days to talk about their hopes for themselves and the other women in their neighborhoods. The phrase they repeated over and over was “become somebody.” They wanted to have the opportunity to become somebody, and they envisioned a future in which other women—particularly those who are vulnerable and living in poverty—would have the same opportunity. And they believed local churches should be leading this effort.
Their dreams have turned into the Empowering Women With Dignity project, which centers on vocational training. Through the project, they are working to see vulnerable women equipped with skills that enable them to provide for their families, experience dignity and confidence, and live as valued and respected contributors within their families and communities.
“I want a better life,” a woman named Marie shares. “I’m not educated. I want my children to know something.”
Marie, 44, is learning to sew clothing at a tailoring class she attends at Grace Chapel Church of the Nazarene, located in New Kru Town. Marie’s life—and those of most of the people in this dense urban neighborhood—have been marked by poverty. “I never went to school,” she says. “As a child I worked for my aunt.” When she was a young girl, Marie’s mother sent her to live with extended family. The expectation was that the aunt would send Marie to school. Instead, she treated her niece like a slave. “She treated me very bad,” Marie says. “I had no rest ever. From early in the morning, I was working, working, working. From 7 years old, I was selling in the market for my aunt.” At 15, Marie ran away and found her mother. Her mother wanted to send her back to school, but then civil war broke out, and those plans became impossible.
Marie became a mother herself at 19. Today, she has five daughters, including four children ages 7 to 19, but only two are able to live with her. The others are with an uncle, who can afford to cover their school fees and give them a chance at education.
“I’m very sad not to be able to see my children,” Marie says. “I want them to be beside me.” Marie’s goal is to start a tailoring shop so she can provide for her children’s basic needs and also ensure that they finish school so they have opportunities for success in the future. “If God blesses me and I get a business, I can take care of them,” she explains.
Women from local Nazarene churches in Monrovia have come together to equip other women to create better futures for themselves and their families through the Empowering Women With Dignity project. Three churches serve as centers that offer vocational courses, savings groups, and life skills workshops. In addition to tailoring, women come to learn catering, soap making, and fabric design.
The group has been selling cornbread, donuts, and cookies in their community. With the income they’ve earned, the women have been able to cover the cost of their children’s school fees. "We came together to do something for ourselves,” shares one woman in the class. “When we learn, we can do businesses for our very own selves. I feel proud. ... A little bit of happiness came to me.”