Written by Diamonds for Peace Liberia Staff
In an effort to aid the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in Liberia, Diamonds for Peace (DFP) identified and supplied COVID-19 emergency supplies to 70 less-privileged families in the Mandingo Quarter Community in Kakata City, Margibi County. Mandingo Quarter is the community in which DFP’s Liberian office is situated. The emergency supplies include faucet buckets, locally made fabric face masks, and soaps. DFP procured the faucet buckets and soaps from the local market and ordered the fabric masks from 2 female tailors in Kakata. DFP hired their services consistent with its interest in giving women equal opportunities compared to men. This statement is not in any way suggesting that DFP doesn’t take an interest in providing opportunities to men; in fact, men are mostly the beneficiaries in DFP’s fair diamond project given that the majority of artisanal diamond miners and approximately 99% of the diggers are male.
DFP believes the money women earn is usually spent directly on their children and family members, which makes greater impact on their families; this is why DFP prioritized the female tailors and awarded them the contract to make the masks.
Brief life stories of the two tailors
Story of Esther
Esther is a 37 year old, who was born in Paye Town, Margibi County. However, her origin is in Bong County, where both her parents originated. In 1997 she moved to Kakata to stay with her uncle, and since then she has lived in Kakata, though she currently lives by herself. Esther grew up as a very shy person; her uncle provided her the opportunity to attend formal school but she didn’t make use of it because she was overwhelmed by her shyness. She is a mother of a 15 year old son who is now in the 9th grade. Esther was left to take care of her son from birth up to age 13, because the father of the child abandoned both her and her child for another woman. Taking care of her child was a huge and challenging responsibility, especially for a single parent. In order to support her son, she had to work so hard; she was also engaged in petty trade. She had to deprive herself from getting new clothes and other necessities; and many days she went without food. In 2006, she started working as an apprentice in a local tailor shop, and later in 2010 she enrolled in a formal tailoring training program with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in order to improve her skills. She graduated from the training with NRC after 2 years. Currently, she is operating her own tailoring business in a small shop and paying annual rental fees of USD375. This is an average amount that is usually charged for the kind of shop Esther uses. She has been using this shop for 3 years running. When she took the shop initially, she had to borrow money to pay the 1st rent, but now she is able to raise the rent from her business; but with the emergency situation with COVID-19, her business is seriously challenged. Usually she makes more money from her sewing business during the Christmas season, at the beginning of a new school year, during schools gala day celebrations and from wedding ceremonies. But all these activities have been interrupted by COVID-19.
Esther is dreaming of expanding her business; she wants to fill the shop with many fashion designed African dresses and assorted daily food commodities. She believes that if she can have lots of goods in the shop, her income will be raised and then she would be able to open a bank account and begin saving. If her business expands and her income increased, she would be able to build her own house soon after.
Story of Oretha
Oretha is a 17 year old girl, born in Kolahun District, Lofa County and currently living with her uncle in Kakata. She is a 10th grade student attending one of the public schools in Kakata; her favorite subject is mathematics, but she says math is a difficult subject to understand. As a child, Oretha developed a passion for work as a tailor. Currently she is working as an apprentice in a local tailor shop and she finds her job very interesting and rewarding. She uses the money she earns from her apprenticeship work to help her uncle and aunt provide food at home and a portion of it goes towards paying her school fees. Oretha wants to become a professional tailor. Therefore, she plans to advance her skills in tailoring after her graduation from high school.
What does it mean for the tailors to be hired by DFP?
The existence of COVID-19 in Liberia is affecting Liberians in many different ways, for example, many people working in both the private and public sectors are no longer getting paid; commercial businesses sales have dropped because consumers’ purchasing power has lessened greatly; farmers cannot easily get their products from the farms to the market because of the lockdown; parents are finding it difficult to satisfy their families daily consumption needs. For the tailors, securing the contract from DFP to produce the masks means a whole lot. The tailoring industry is also seriously affected by COVID-19; nowadays people are not prioritizing buying new clothes, instead they prefer to use their limited resources to secure food for their families’ daily consumption. Hiring these 2 tailors was a boost to their businesses and their families too.
Esther: The money I received from this contract helped me a lot in paying the rent for my shop; I am really happy that DFP hired me for this contract; I wish I could get another opportunity with DFP in the future.
Oretha: The money I earned from my contract with DFP is used for 2 purposes; 1) I reserved a portion of the money to be used for my school fees when school activities resume, and 2) for food provision at home. Thanks to DFP for hiring me for this task.
Women empowerment is cardinal to nation building; there is a popular saying in Liberia that “when you educate a man, you educate just an individual, but when you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation”.
As a women headed organization believing in the power of women, Diamonds for Peace will continue to provide women with opportunities.
Front Photo:Esther prepares locally made fabric masks at her shop in Kakata(DFP)