Sierra Leone. From denied education to opening her own business

Date 26.03.2021

Tenneh Sheriff was born and raised in the suburbs of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. When she was nine, her mother organized her transfer to her aunt in Liberia, dreaming for a better future and quality education for her daughter. Once she arrived in Liberia Tenneh's life changed dramatically, she was forced by her aunt to sell clothes in a shop instead of attending school.

"I reminded my aunt what she promised to my mum: a better school for my studies. She replied that what I was doing was better than school." said Tenneh.

After few years, Tenneh managed to come back to Freetown, and here she started a new life with her boyfriend but, when she got pregnant, she was left alone. Due to pregnancy she was once again denied access to education.

It was at the time that Rupert, an AVSI tutor, realized Tenneh situation and, with the help of Tenneh’s close friends, convinced her to take part to a tailoring class. After years of difficulties spent out of school Tenneh, thanks to the IMAGES project, finally had the chance to study and acquire technical skills.

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My friend told me: as long as you are human being you cannot stop facing difficulties, but if you don’t do anything is just a waste of time. If you have technical skills, no one will bluff you anymore.

Tenneh Sheriff

Tenneh is now an independent woman, her business can count on regular clients and she can raise her daughter without the fear of depending on someone else.

Tenneh Sheriff is one of the 37 young vulnerable women who took part to tailoring courses organized under “IMAGES: Improving MAnaGement of CSOs in Education Sector” project.

The IMAGES project, funded by European Union, promotes gender equality, providing teenagers and young mothers with access to vocational courses and establishing a kindergarten for the babies of the students-parents, so they don’t have to worry about where they can leave their children during the classes.

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Tenneh is one of our beneficiaries who really impressed me, and I can say for sure that the project made a positive impact on her

Rupert B.E. King, AVSI tutor

Gender-based violence in its physical and structural forms is endemic in Sierra Leone. As reported from UNDP, almost all Sierra Leonean women have been victims of some form of violence in their lifetime. Access to education for young pregnant women is hampered not only by the discrimination in schools, but also by a sierra leonean law that prevents them from attending classes, except for specific classes. This mechanism increases young pregnant students school drop-out, since even after pregnancy, girls rarely return to school, finding themselves stuck in a negative cycle of poverty.

Under IMAGES project, AVSI and its partners Family Homes Movement and St. Mary Home of Charity are working on empowering young and teenage girls who dropped out of school, to guarantee them the possibility of having a better life.

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but is also essential to expand economic growth and social development.