The Paramount Young Women Initiative or PAYOWI commemorates its 10th anniversary today, Thursday, March 5th under the theme, “A Decade of Empowerment, Identity, Strength and Mission”.
A dedicated group of young women for the last ten years, continue to volunteer and ensure that young women and girls are empowered and educated. In the last few months with the toll of the deadly Ebola virus, PAYOWI members were in the trenches raising awareness to help eradicate the deadly virus and keep the environment safe as well as highlight the tremendous role young women have and continue to play in contributing to the development of Liberia through empowerment and education.
The journey started ten years ago on March 5, 2005, when young college women attending the African Methodist Episcopal University on Camp Johnson Road in Monrovia, concerned about the high rate of university dropouts at the time after the civil war, conducted a small research to ascertain the reason(s) for the high dropout rate.
Financial difficulty was key among the findings and they decided to found an organization to contribute to young women attaining education by conducting fundraising activities. Later, the organization re-strategized to serve a larger number of the needy population and expanded its reach to high school students as well as those not in schools.
It also included programs like Advocacy, Capacity Development, Running and Book Clubs, Mentoring Program, Health Awareness (HIV/AIDS, Teen Pregnancy, SGBV, etc.) Community Service, Civic Engagement Peer Group Meetings, Intellectual Discourse, Career counseling etc. to meet other needs of young women and girls.
Officer Princess Suku, is one of PAYOWI’s many scholarship beneficiaries, who was supported through high school. Upon her graduation, she decided to join the Liberian National Police to contribute to the country’s reconstruction through the Security Sector. Like Officer Suku, Ms. Weedor Forkpa, a single mother, who found it difficult to make ends meet, saw herself selling char-coal by retail to pay her tuition at Smythe Institute, which could barely pay her school fees at the same time take care of her young sibling school fees and other needs as well as her family.
She indicated to the scholarship team that many days she wasn’t allowed to sit her exams until PAYOWI stepped in. Today, Ms. Forkpa is a proud graduate of Nursing from the Smythe Institute and is currently serving in Rivergee County at one of the remote villages Health Center. These are two of many young women whose lives have been impacted by the organization.
The official celebration will be held today, Thursday, in the organization’s conference room where the launching of a scholarship drive for 2015/2016 will take place. PAYOWI will officially open the “Girls Drop In Center”-which will be a safe space were girls can meet and discuss issues relating to their health and development and obtain information and interact with professionals in order to reduce health challenges, especially teenage pregnancy and Sexual Gender Base Violence.
PAYOWI will also join the Ministry of Gender and Development and other partners to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, 2015, to climax the official celebration.