While I was in Liberia with Girl Up, I met dozens of girls who shared with me their passion for learning and their dreams for the future. I met girls who wanted to be teachers, nurses, and lawyers—they were determined to receive the education that they deserved, so their dreams could come true. For many of us, having a safe space to attend school or classes isn’t an issue, but in the communities, we visited having a space for girls to learn, empower one another, and feel safe was a challenge. The girls I met in Gbarngay, a rural village in Liberia, emphasized this when we visited. It took five hours by car for us to travel the hilly, dirt roads to get to Gbarngay. Traveling in such conditions is not easy, which makes having an accessible space for girls all the more important.
The girls we met in Liberia showed me how important safe spaces are.
When we arrived at the village, the girls welcomed us into their school building with song and dance. They had decorated the building with beautiful flowers wrapped around the doorframe and there were welcome signs and balloons. It was clearly a space they were proud of, and a space they felt comfortable being themselves in. In addition to schooling, this building hosts empowerment programming and health curriculum for adolescent girls, so that they can gain confidence and learn how to care for themselves. Donations to Girl Up from girl leaders like you go to support programs and projects that create safe environments, in Liberia and elsewhere.
The girls we met in Liberia showed me how important safe spaces like this are—not just in Gbargnay, but in the other villages we visited as well. In the city of Monrovia, we went to West Point, the biggest slum in Monrovia, to visit their resource center. This building in the community was dedicated for programming to empower adolescent girls. It was a place that girls could gather to dream big and laugh hard. It is so important that girls have somewhere to attend class, talk about their dreams for the future, and feel safe in their communities. Girl Up’s work in Liberia is ensuring that spaces like these are accessible, so girls have every opportunity to go to school and change the world.
Kate McCollum is the Girl Up Midwest Regional Leader.