Sexual Violence Prevention in West Africa and Beyond
We are developing Speak Out: a self-contained curriculum to raise awareness about sexual and gender-based violence, specific to West African experience. It is a short booklet which will provide a thorough education about all aspects of sexual abuse, including:
Explaining terms and concepts such as consent, grooming, sexual extortion, harassment, and weaponized rape
Understanding trauma in abuse survivors
Identifying sexual predators and how to guard against them
Removing barriers to effective reporting of abuse and harassment
Creating a culture that validates abuse survivors, and opposes perpetrators
Fighting back against human trafficking and de-stigmatizing victims
The Speak Out booklets will be given to local leaders, NGO and government workers, missionaries, and school personnel. They can be used as a strategic tool to educate anyone working with young people and survivors about the realities of sexual abuse and gender bias. Education and awareness lead to prevention and empowerment for all people moving forward.
Healing for Survivors of Sexual Abuse
We are collaborating with Trees of Hope, a powerful ministry for survivors of child sexual abuse, to bring their recovery program to Liberia. Trees of Hope offers a healing curriculum called Thorn for young women who have experienced sexual abuse. Lydia House International has partnered with them to create a version of Thorn that will be fully relevant to young women in Liberia and West Africa. Women from Liberia will work with us to develop effective content for the curriculum, and the finished product will be offered to the residents at Lydia House in Gbarnga. We would also like to donate the curriculum to other West African programs helping women and girls.
Education and Empowerment at Lydia House
Still in its initial phases of construction, Lydia House will be a woman-led, woman-staffed home, where girls will be given the support they need to become “women of substance.” The home will provide a loving, safe place for them to heal and grow spiritually, while they complete their education, learn vocational skills, and become strong and independent. They will achieve proficiency in relevant trades, and procure a sustainable source of income upon graduation.
Residents will also be instructed in women’s rights, and prevention and reporting of sexual abuse and harassment. They will become mentors in a new program to introduce sexual violence prevention programs in the local schools. More women in leadership means greater change for the entire country.
Feminine Hygiene Kits
In developing countries all over the world, young women begin to encounter difficulty the moment they begin menstruation. Many do not even own undergarments, let alone have access to feminine hygiene products. In cultures where this subject is taboo, girls do not even have the option of asking for help – and often they have never been educated about their own bodies and reproductive health. They may be made to feel that they are inferior or unclean simply because of their bodies’ natural developments.
Without a reliable, sanitary way to deal with menstruation, girls begin to miss school regularly. Initially, this may cause their grades to fall; ultimately, it can lead to them dropping out of school entirely.
We are partnering with Vessels of Mercy Intl to bring their SOAR program to the girls of Liberia. This program brings self-awareness and confidence to girls through the simple gift of sustainable feminine hygiene kits. Each kit contains washable feminine hygiene products – rated to last three to four years – along with underwear and cleaning supplies. These kits can keep a girl in school and help her reach her goals!
In the spirit of working toward sustainability, vocational training at Lydia House will include teaching some of the residents to sew these kits. The kits they sew while in training will be given to the residents and donated to the local school, and the rest will be sold to cooperating NGOs and the public to provide a source of income.