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Projects for Peace: Earlhamite to offer vocational training for young Liberian mothers

March 28, 2017

Peniel Ibe ’17 will travel to west Africa this summer to lead entrepreneurial and life-skills workshops for teen mothers as part of a Davis Projects for Peace project.

Peniel’s project, “Young Mothers 4 Peace,” will span two-and-a-half weeks in the Liberian capital of Monrovia and is funded by a $10,000 grant from the Davis foundation.

“Liberians are still rebuilding from the Civil War and the Ebola crisis,” Peniel says. “The social fabric is still broken in some communities from markets closing and schools being out of session.

“This project aims to populate Monrovia with financially independent women,” she says. “I decided to focus on teenage mothers because I feel like it’s a section of society that has been looked down upon. I want them to know that just because they have a baby they don’t need to cancel their life’s plans.”

Peniel, an Environmental Studies major from Nigeria, is the 14th individual or team from Earlham to be selected for funding from Davis Projects for Peace since the program was established in 2007. Recent winners have established a “Sisterhood Peace Project” to address gender inequality in STEM education in India, and workshops for young adults in Brazil affected by homophobia.

“To know that somebody saw what I wanted to do, understood it and believed it was doable just felt really good,” she says. “It’s a win for a lot of people, not just me. It justifies my decision to come to Earlham and not another university. It justifies my mom’s decisions about my education.”

Earlham’s success in preparing students for awards from the Davis foundation is indicative of the College’s focus on helping students connect their academic interests with opportunities to create positive change in the world. Earlham has bolstered its commitment in this area with a major initiative known as EPIC that brings together classroom learning, immersive experiences outside the classroom and enhanced advising throughout the four years of college.

For this project, Peniel will work in partnership with the Liberia Women’s Mentoring Group and the Mineke Foundation to offer the workshops to about 20 girls and young women age 12 to 18. The workshops are designed to teach vocational skills for girls to become hairdressers, make-up artists, and knitters, among other trades.

“In Liberia, and other African nations, the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is very true,” Peniel says. “Childcare is not a barrier. In most African societies, women just put the baby on their back and tie a wrapper around to hold the baby into place. You can literally build a mountain with the baby there.

“With the funds I will receive from the Davis foundation, I can purchase start-up equipment for these girls and women,” she says. “If it’s hairdressing, you need a comb, hair cream and a mirror, maybe a chart with hairstyles. For many women, you need those supplies and a stool in front of your house where you can sit there with your child and get a customer.”

After the workshops end, Peniel hopes the girls form a network and bond over shared experiences while earning money to pay for continued education.

“This isn’t just a couple of classes and we’re done,” she says. “I want these young girls to not only learn new skills, but form a network where other young girls can get support and be empowered to become ambassadors in their community.”

The Davis Projects for Peace began on the occasion of philanthropist Kathryn W. Davis’ 100th birthday. Until her death at 106 in 2013, Davis was intent on advancing the cause of peace and sought to motivate tomorrow’s leaders by challenging them to find ways to “prepare for peace.” The Davis family continues to honor her legacy by funding Projects for Peace.

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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.

 

 

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