Muloma Women’s Development Association (MUWODA) is a community based organisation that focuses on improving the socio-economic situation of marginalised women, youth and children who have found themselves in difficult circumstances. One of the ways MUWODA does this is through its vocational training programme. Cyrilyn is one of over 250 people who have received training.
“I attended Luke’s Commercial Secondary School and attained 3rd form in 2003. I could not continue schooling because of lack of support. My parents were both old and not able to fend for themselves. I became the source of their livelihood. While looking for support from possible philanthropists for both my schooling and support of my ageing parents, a young man pretended to be one and promised he was going to help me go back to school, but that we should be boyfriend and girlfriend. Unfortunately, I became pregnant before schools reopened, so the idea of going to school was no longer feasible.
“My misfortune continued when the man abandoned me while pregnant and until now I do not know where he is. I had to care for the baby alone. During that time, I had to resort to frying and selling of cake to be able to support the home and the fatherless baby. I was at the mercy of men. I wanted money for the above reasons so I used to yield to most things that could have earned me my daily sustenance. Men could call for the cake and end up yearning for me, most of which I accepted. So I was more or less trading in my body than in the cake.
“In one of my ordeals, I came across a Fulla, driver by profession, who proposed marriage to me. As usual, I yielded but this time with caution. At the end, however, I was indulged into sex and the man started mistreating me. I did not know that I was pregnant so I decided to go to the Sierra Rutile company to seek a job where a cousin of mine is. I did not know what job I was going for. I did not see the sister but made a friend in the mining area who kept me for some time. While with the friend, I felt sick and was taken to hospital where it was disclosed that I was pregnant. Left with no alternative, I returned to Kenema to ensure that the man responsible for the pregnancy take responsibility. He advised that I go for abortion which I outrightly denied. He refused to take care but was forced by his relations and he did for some time.
“He supported me a few months after delivery and later abandoned me and the child. I had almost given up as all efforts to get stability in my life were failing, and then I heard about the UNDP Youth Support Project through a local councillor. I applied and was admitted into the programme at the MUWODA Skills Training Centre in Kenema.
“I am now a productive woman after training at MUWODA and proud to say that my physical condition has changed. My dignity as a woman is fully restored. I no longer accept men for the simple reason of getting my daily bread. People and groups knowing my handiwork in the kitchen now give me catering contracts and I am conveniently living on that. My experience as a result of sharing with my fellow trainees has tremendously increased. My advice to others out there is to have hope and prepare for future through training.”
* Name changed to protect anonymity