Agnes-Josephine Kenderman, a Liberian teenage mother, is benefiting from a UN-backed initiative to empower young vulnerable girls, which includes training to help her make and sell pastries and other products.
“My name is Agnes Kenderman. I am 19 years old and I live in New Kru Town, Monteserrado County, with my mother and my son. My community selected me for the training programme.
My mother is in poor health, and my father died a long time ago, during the civil war. I have one older brother. We did not have much growing up, we looked here and there for food to eat, and survived in the community, like everyone else did, through hustling.
One afternoon, I think I was about five years old, and I was helping my brother to fry fish which our mother was later going to sell in the market. I don’t know what happened that day but before I knew it,
I had fallen into the hot oil. I’m lucky that my brother saved me before my face got burnt. I don’t know what would have happened to me.
Surviving domestic violence
Our mother was a market woman selling fish, pepper, and other small things like vegetables if she got them. I was cooking and looking after the home when she was away at the market, and my brother and I did not attend school.
She married another man after our father died. He was not kind to us at all and he drunk plenty of alcohol. I can remember how he used to beat our mother many times.
It was painful and I was always quiet and feared him, but my brother would try and stop him from beating our mother, and he would turn and hit my brother badly. Whenever he or anyone tried to harass me, my brother protected me.
After about five years he decided to leave us alone. Then our mother became very sick and she could not support the family, life was hard.
Now, my brother is married with his own wife and children. He had to move out on his own. And now I am the only one looking after our mother here, and also my son.
Cooking up a brighter future
My life has improved since I was selected to take part in this programme. I am much happier, and I get respect from the community.
I learned catering – which involves cooking, making bread, short bread, cookies, pastries and different things. I trained for three months. After the training, they gave us flour, oil, butter, sugar, milk, yeast, flavour, measuring cups, baking powder and milk. These items lasted for one month.
We had to get up very early in the morning to go to the training centre. But when I thought about what the training will make me become tomorrow, the benefits for me and my family, I just quickly got out of bed and ran!
In the future I want to keep learning. I am really interested in making cakes and icing for cakes for weddings and birthdays, and also want to cook special fried rice and salads.
People like to eat and if you make something sweet and tasty, they will come again and again. During Christmas and New Year I made so much money from sales!
This training empowered me to be independent. I can now support my family with money and other expenses”.
A NEW START
- Agnes-Josephine Kenderman was one of 40 girls and young women from vulnerable backgrounds who were selected by their own communities to take part in Spotlight Initiative-supported economic empowerment training.
- In Liberia this is implemented by UNICEF through a local organization, Defense for Children Liberia.