Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone: Education for peace - getting back on track

News and Press Release
Originally published
In this interview, two young women, Caroline Cole and Elizabeth Langley, once taken captive by rebels during the war, talk about how they've gotten their lives back on track through the USAID-sponsored "Education For Peace" program.

After losing both of their parents and being carried off by rebel soldiers as "bush wives" during the war, Caroline Cole and Elizabeth Langley's lives had spun out of control-both were identified by community leaders as "troublesome" youth who needed help. A wise village leader, Robert Momoh Bendu, Vice-Chairman of the community management committee, along with World Vision staff, persuaded both women to take the USAID-sponsored "Education for Peace" training program.

Both participated in training modules developed by Management Systems International that emphasizes self-discovery, healing, health and well-being, judicious use of the environment, democracy, good governance, and conflict management. Ex-combatants and war-affected youth like Caroline and Elizabeth are given counseling, and are empowered with the self-knowledge necessary to allow them to reintegrate successfully back into their communities, develop appropriate job skills, and develop basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Komayi Koroma, Community Representative, tells us, "We're trying to help women learn new skills, and to do more than what they are doing. What these women are always asking for is empowerment." The following interview is Caroline and Elizabeth's account of how they have learned to live peaceably with others in their own village community of Tombo through "Education for Peace." They have also learned new skills that are helping them make ends meet - both for themselves and for their younger siblings.

The authorities asked for an intervention because they said you were "troublesome"-what does that mean?

CC: During the war, we were captured and taken into the bush. While we were there, we were given drugs. When we came back, the drug use still had an effect on us. We were wildly out of control-we did whatever we felt like doing, so that's why the authorities asked the World Vision people to come.

EL: We didn't listen to anybody, and nobody could tell us anything. We saw ourselves in control of our own lives.

What about your parents?

EL: My parents both died, but with the help of the Education for Peace program, I've learned how to manage my life, and now I'm trying to help some of the younger kids in my family.

What did you learn?

EL: I'm currently a voluntary worker at the radio station but I've also learned to do hair dressing and braiding. That's how I'm getting by.

CC: We are also doing some tailoring, and some gara tie-dyeing. After the training, we've been trying to change our behavior, and do something constructive for our own lives. Since we don't have parents, we are working hard to make ends meet to take care of the younger children in our families.

How are you getting money to make ends meet?

EL: I'm getting some money when people make dedications over the radio or messages to loved ones, so we get 500-1,000 Leones per day. In addition, with the hairdressing, if I don't get money I get something bartered in exchange from my customers, so that's how I'm getting by.

During the war, were you part of the groups that were fighting, or were you just taken?

CC: We were just captured-we didn't shoot.

They just took you with them to have women?

Both women: Yes.

CC: The Education for Peace program has helped us go in the right direction, and to do something positive for ourselves. We still need some support... .

Are either of you in the literacy program?

EL: Yes, although I was in school when I was captured and know how to read and write.

CC: I started going to school, but dropped out because we couldn't afford it. I had already dropped out when I was captured, so I only did a few years of school and can't read or write very well. I'm in the program-I'm making progress.

Do you like the classes?

CC: Yes-I want to learn more than I know already-I joined the class because I didn't have the chance to go to school after my parents died. Our teacher has a lot of constraints-few materials-but we're getting by.

What do you want to do next? What plans do you have?

EL: I'd like to be a tailor, if I can get my own machine. That's what I want to do in the future.

CC: I want to be a caterer-I'm already making cakes to sell--and I want to do gara tie-dyeing. I'd like to grow economically, and see us become successful in business like other people I know. I want to do things that will help me become successful like a man.

Interview by Laura Lartigue and Edward Benya