Written by Diamonds for Peace Liberia Staff
Liberia has a population of a highly illiterate society. Many persons don’t have a profession by which they can make a better living; as the result they resolve into petty businesses, and some into farming. However, they are engaged in these activities mainly just to get their daily bread. The cost of living is high—many persons live on one meal a day; sometimes they even go to bed hungry. This is real in most sectors in Liberia including the gold and diamond industry. In the midst of these conditions, some girls have sought a solution for themselves. They choose to hang out with men who pay them in exchange for sex. Sometimes they get involved into a short term sexual relationship just for monetary gain. Normally, people would move into a community whenever there is news that a diamond or gold deposit has been discovered.
These young girls also move into said community with the intention that diamond diggers, miners, brokers, etc., would pick them up for love; in this way they are able to get some money. This too is prostitution, but what to do? For these girls life must go on.
I had a personal experience on my way to Mabon Zingbeku to conduct a follow-up survey. I met a girl in Lofa Bridge; she is believed to be in her early 20s.
She claimed she had come from Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, in search of her boyfriend who she said was working on a diamond mine in a town called Mabon Wanga. This town is just after Mabon Zingbeku. She said her visit was triggered by the fact that she had not seen her boyfriend for over 11 months.
Mabon Zingbeku and Mabon Wanga are in the same direction, so this girl and I rode the same motorbike. Along the way, I began to ask her some questions:
DFPL Coordinator – Is your boyfriend aware of your visit?
Girl – No, I just want to take him by surprise
DFPL Coordinator – Have you been to this place before?
Girl – No, but he told me Mabon Wanga is the name of the place.
DFPL Coordinator – What will you do if you don’t find your boyfriend?
Girl – I will sleep where I am going and return home the next day.
When we reached Mabon Zingbeku where I stopped, she continued to Mabon Wanga. She came back after 30 minutes and told me she didn’t find her boyfriend, neither did she get any information about him. In fact, no one acknowledged knowing him. She asked me to help her with some money because according to her, she didn’t have enough money to return home. I was shocked by her request but discovered that she was up for something else. However, I gave her small money in the amount of 400 LD (Liberian Dollar) which is about USD4. This led me to the next set of questions:
DFPL Coordinator – What do you do for a living?
Girl – Nothing, I depend on my boyfriends for living.
DFPL Coordinator – Why don’t you try doing something (maybe petty trade) for yourself instead of always depending on boyfriends for help?
Girl – I have got no skills and don’t even know what I can do at this time to help myself. Perhaps I could try petty trade as you have suggested.
DFPL Coordinator – Why did you come here when you didn’t have sufficient money to facilitate your travel?
Girl – I was very sure to find my boyfriend because this is the place he told me he works, so I only concerned myself with coming.
Girl – Can I spend the night with you?
DFPL Coordinator – Why do you ask to spend the night with me, when you are another man’s fiancée?
Girl – This is not a big problem with me; all I want is to pass the night.
DFPL Coordinator – No, you cannot spend the night with me because I am another woman’s husband, as you can see the evidence in my wedding band.
She returned to Lofa Bridge that same day after a failed plan. On my way home the next day, I met some motorcyclists in Lofa Bridge who gave me a bit of information about these kinds of activities. They told me this girl actually lives in Lofa Bridge. This information was contrary to the one she gave me about where she lives (Monrovia). They said the girl perceived me to be a diamond or gold broker so she tried to link up with me in an attempt to get some money from me. This is a regular practice among many young girls in diamond and gold mining communities they added.
There is no pride in a woman using her body in exchange for money as an option to make a living. I believe something can be done to help people like this acquire skills that can help them live meaningful lives. When I turned down her request to spend the night with me, she became frustrated and very embarrassed. On the other hand, the situation caused me some embarrassment as well because I had to give her some money out of sympathy. There is a need for government and other philanthropists to set in place programs that would help these girls gain meaningful skills upon which they can make a living.
Front Photo:Girl and DFPL’s coordinator ride the same motorbike