Margaret Barnard - Sierra Leone

WINNER!

Nominated by International Rescue Committee.

As a volunteer, I have been doing a lot of mentoring with girls in and out of school on topics like reproductive health, menstrual cycles, family planning and choosing and using modern contraceptives. These practices have reduced early marriage, forced marriage, unwanted pregnancy, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among women and girls in Kailahun Town.

Girls especially the "GIRL MOTHERS" (those girls who have children but no husbands and are totally responsible for their children) have also been boasting of how they can only get pregnant now when they are married. They always say "God Bless Margaret’’ for enlightening us on how and where (MARIE STOPES) to prevent ourselves from unwanted pregnancy. Women also bless Margaret for leading them on the right path (HOW AND WHERE TO PREVENT UNWANTED PREGNANCY).

Women and girls never knew of SEXUAL EXPLOITATION before. Girls now realize that most of the incidents which led to their early pregnancy were a result of sexual exploitation, some from their teachers, family members, male authorities and from other community men. They pose as helpers for the girl children by starting to pay their school fees or renting rooms for them to dwell in and at the end of the day they use these provisions as a yardstick to exploit these girls and only to end up denying them when they get pregnant.

These mentorings I have done with these girls and girl mothers have also helped them to choose Small Business as their career as they have nobody to help them further their education. By selecting these girls and women for receiving loans, I have helped the girls to care for their fatherless children and themselves. "ME BLIE NA ME HUSBAND"’ meaning my basket where I carry my goods to sell is my husband. Loans have created a tremendous positive impact on the lives of women and girls in the Kailahun community.

With this award, I would continue to educate and provide more loans to these girls and continue to sensitize them on how they can continue to better their lives and care for their children.

To read an update blog from March 2014, click here