The voice of a young woman in the streets of Liberia
The voice of a young woman in the streets of Liberia
My name is Beatrice Monkonjay and this is my story.
First, I was born a daughter to someone I am someone’s daughter, sister, friend, wife and mother Yes, my tiny little eyes held promises as any father saw from staring into the eyes of his new born baby girl. I would grow up, do all the things a young woman does, go to school, and find a nice, dark and handsome fellow to call my husband. Graduate with honors, secure a high paying job, start a family.
Yes, I too had the dreams of any young woman. So before you roll out your judgment stick pointing at me, Ask what the heck happened to me, to my dreams. Yes, I fail my dad whose dream for his little girl went down the drain But should I say my dad fail me when he couldn’t afford to pay for my education because he did not have a job? Or shall I say the society failed both a father and his daughter?
As a young woman, all I wanted was my dad to send me to school. And nothing brings him more joy than granting my wishes as he holds me in high regards. But there was a problem, daddy had no job, mommy has never had a job, always a stay home mother.
What I want from my government is to invest in programs to keep us young girls active and occupied. In the primitive age, it was considered a “waste” to educate the girl child. But that was then, and this is now. Long time ago in the 70’s came the feminist’s movement. But the rate of improvement for the issues affecting women especially in developing countries, specifically in Liberia, has been very slow.
Even for Liberia where a woman was elected president, the issues affecting woman still far from being over.
Before you call me a street walker, ask how I got to this point. What happen to the school and the good grades I was making?
Before you label me whatever you wish, ask the men in society to see and treat us as their daughters they left home. Yes, I too wanted to be in school and graduate and get a job where I can make my own money and not street walk to earn my living wages.But I’m a product of society where my needs for development don’t count.
Yes, even in America where a lot to opportunities are available, there are still street walkers because it is a lifestyle some or majority of them choose for themselves. But for some of us in Liberia or in these developing countries, and I’m not speaking for all, but for a majority of us, it is the only way out.
What Where do I turn when they send me home for school fees that my father can’t afford? What do I do when Mr. Borbor offers me a little financial help but wants something from me in return?
What do I do when my mother moves from house to house because she can’t afford rent or to build a house, when at the end of the day, no food on the table… and Mr. Borbor promises me and my family a bag of rice but comes to my room at night to ask for sexual favors in return?
So I say no to Mr. Borbor…then the food stops coming; and yet, mom can’t afford to put food on the table. I can’t find job, didn’t finish primary school due to financial constraints, no trade schools or other auxiliary programs in my country for a person like me.
Then I saw my friend Mary, she too couldn’t afford to finish school; her background is similar to mine where parents couldn’t afford to send her to school. But she is living like she’s employed with a good paying job. So I asked her how and why she’s prospering though without a job?
The shoes, the matching handbags, the fashion design clothings, how and where you get all of this, I ask her.
She says, “I don’t need to work… Mr. Mathew says anything, just anything I want, he will do for me”. Is Mr. Mathew your family? “Oh no, that’s just someone I ran into and as I explained my family conditions, he told me he could help me and not to worry about a thing again”, says Mary.
So I told Mary my own ordeal. I too have a neighbor called Mr. Borbor…he too promised to help and he did help me and my family from the initial stage, but he asked to have me for sexual favors and I refused and that was the end of it. So Mary said to me… “Well girl friend, if you want to end the impoverished lifestyle, you got to get on with the game”. The “game”? I asked…what is the “game”. So Mary goes on to explain the “game”.
“You see, Mr. Mathew is married and some of his children and I are of the same age. But he asked if I do for him what he wants, never again will I be without what I want”, Mary explained
with a smile across her face from ear to ear. And what is it he wants?, I asked… “Oh, a little something…you know what I mean”, said Mary. No I don’t, why don’t you explain to me? “Well”, says Mary… “It goes like this…during lunch time, I go to his office, he and I go to lunch, we end up at a hotel where he asked me to do X, Y, and Z. I was uncomfortable the first time… but looking at all he promised in return and looking at my poor condition, I agreed to the second request, and then the third and then I lost count of all the requests from Mr. Matthew. Over time, I felt very comfortable and I saw nothing wrong as long as I got all these flashy things while a person like you is still living with your mother at someone’s house, Mr. Mathew pays for my apartment”, Mary concluded.
When Mr. Mathew’s wife found out about my friend Mary and her husband’s ongoing “operation”, she threatened to divorce Mr. Mathew. As a result, Mr. Mathew stopped seeing and doing things for my friend Mary. Unfortunately, my friend Mary took to the streets instead of try to put her life in order to find a real boyfriend to help her with her needs.
I on the other hand got pregnant from the one time Mr. Borbor had forced himself on me and had his way with me. I am stuck with a child from being raped by a man who will not claim the child because he wants to punish me for not agreeing to him having his way with me in return for helping my impoverished life conditions; and also, he is probably ashamed of society if they were to find out what he did.
So the next “Mr. Borbor” that I ran into, I asked myself…what do I have to lose…? With a child on the way, I can’t even feed myself, why shouldn’t I agree to give Mr. Joe what he wants if he can help me live from one day to the next.
That was the beginning of this street walking life for me.
Yes, I too had a dream of any young woman…a college grad, a good job, husband and children… I had all of those dreams growing up.
But my story is what happens to a lot of girls in these developing countries. While it is arguably true that some girls come from homes where the mom and dad did all they could to give them a descent life and they still took to the streets, a lot of us out here doing the street walking didn’t have the means to fulfill our dreams; and this street life was not a choice we made, it was either a do or die kind of situation we found ourselves in.
From the way I see, if I should just speak for myself, if there where jobs for everyone, my dad would afford to give me the life every young girl wants at the hands of their loving father.
If there were such programs like a GED, vocational trade schools, social activities to keep a young woman like myself active and occupied, maybe, and just maybe, my life could have taken another turn.
For a society to function and adhere to all its citizens, jobs creation should be a priority. Because when the parents can take care of their families, a lot of us young girls will not be forced into some of the things we got ourselves into.
Let there be during and after school programs for girls, sewing, baking, home designing and interior decoration, just to name a few. It takes time to build and revamp an entire nation, especially coming from 14-years war, but let there be the initial effort to start these things. And all girls may not want to take advantage of what her government has to offer, but progress starts with one person at a time. As bad as the situation is in Liberia, I am sure it will take more than just one but a lot of young girls will embrace the opportunity to make something of themselves instead of sex-slaving themselves to the affluent men of their society.