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During the Liberian civil war, my parents were not together precisely.  My father had sought refuge in neighbouring country, Sierra Leone. Considering the  tension within our community, the Samuel K. Doe Boulevard (SKD), we (my mother and us) decided to move as a family seeking a better place.

On our way with no where special in our mind, we met some rebels at the Stephen Tolbert Estate Bridge commonly known as “Double Bridge”.   While there, my mother was searched by one the rebels’ leaders named Mango Menlor, who was a Special Forces trained by Charles Taylor to attack Liberia. He was among the first group of Liberians rebels that attack the country on December 24th, 1989.

After searching my mother, they saw that she had a huge amount of money which was taken away from her.  Then, believing that my mother would report them to some senior commandos, Menlor ordered my mother to be killed.  He then fully participated in the killing of my mother. I saw him when he shot my mother twice in the lower and upper sides of her body.  Thereafter, we were taken by him to a place called Kakata until his departure to other assignments areas.

Later, Menlor knew that we were children of the lady killed at the bridge. My twin brothers were given to some relatives of his as their own.  But I closely monitored their dwelling areas based on conversations I overheard about the relatives, and kept a close watch.

Then, at the age of 14, the rebel leader asked me one day go along with him to some unknown area.  I went along.  Upon our arrival and considering what he did to my mother, I became afraid.  But within a second, he threw me down, removed all my clothes and forced me into sex. In short, he raped me.

With such experiences, I decided to escape, which I did.  Then, with the coming of the Truth and Reconciliation Comission of Liberia, I was opportune to have shared my experiences. Menlor was called and questioned.  He admitted to his crime, and asked to make my two brothers available for the sake of reconciliation. However, just a few months after he met them,one brother was killed.  Today, only the two of us are living, our mother killed, and our father’s whereabouts unknown.

Agnes Umunna, executive director and founder, talks to the press

Agnes Umunna, executive director and founder, talks to the press

Monrovia , January 9, 2008: Straight From the Heart, a local psycho-social support group have said that it is going to embark on additional programs to empower vulnerable Liberian women.

Speaking over the weekend at its second general meeting with more than 150 vulnerable and war affected women and girls at its head office in Sinkor, SFTH Executive Director Agnes Umunna told journalist that her organization is presently partnering with a local organization MEASUAGOON Inc. to embark on a pilot project to provide agricultural training and vocational skills for 150 vulnerable women and girls from four counties.

The project is being sponsored by the International Trade Center ITC with headquarters in Geneva , Switzerland .

According to Mrs. Agnes Umunna, the pilot project is bringing together vulnerable women and girls from Lofa, Bong, Nimba, and Montserrado Counties . She revealed that the project will be implemented at the project site in Peleleh Town along the Gbarnga, Voinjama highway.

“We want to help you so that you can stand on your own, and no man will bluff you again” Madam Umunna said.

She noted that SFTH is committed towards empowering vulnerable young Liberian women and girls who were affected by the civil war and do not have any skills but rely on their bodies as a form of survival for themselves and their siblings.

Madam Agnes Umunna also announced that her organization and Saving Mothers Research Team-SMRT are negotiating to launch a midwifery training program for twenty Liberian women in Monrovia .

Cross section of women attending the program

Cross section of women attending the program

“I am also negotiating with this group to see how they can help with midwifery training for the first twenty of you”

Meanwhile, MEASUAGOON Program Manager, Bantie Brownell Fortune said that the women will not only received vocational skills but will be given formal training to learn how to read and write while at the Peleleh Camp.

She noted that the project aims to provide the women and young girls with marketable skills; so that when they leave the camp they will be able to survive on their own and not rely on unhealthy practices.

She added that both Straight from the Heart and MEASUAGOON are committed to empowering the women to be self sufficient.

Straight From the Heart was founded in March 2005 to provide psycho-social support services to war affected persons through trauma healing and counseling. It was collaborated with a number of local and International Non-governmental institutions, including the launch of the TRC’s formal statement taking process.