The people of Sierra Leone in West Africa have seen more than their share of conflict. More than 50,000 people died during the civil war that raged from 1991 to 2002, and in the decade following the end of the fighting, life is still far from easy. This is particularly true for the thousands of young women and girls who suffered at the hands of soldiers. Many girls and women in Sierra Leone were sexually exploited, abused and killed, and a decade later, women are still struggling to recover. ChildFund has worked in Sierra Leone since 1985, and we continue to work with girls and women so they can fulfill their potential.
Atrocities committed during the war have left their mark on many of Sierra Leone's survivors. Psychological trauma stemming from sexual abuse is among the most common challenges facing many women and girls in the country, and without treatment, this debilitating condition can make it almost impossible for them to reintegrate into society and move on with their lives.
To promote children's rights and help survivors cope with their experiences, ChildFund has trained more than 1,000 adults to provide care and support for girls and young women. Our initiatives have also helped girls understand their rights. Following training programs, young women like Wotay have gone on to work with ChildFund and our local partners to provide information and support to children from impoverished communities.
Even girls and young women who were not affected by sexual abuse and violence during the war face many hardships. Gender discrimination, as well as an overall de-valuation of education in Sierra Leone (more than 60 percent of children are not enrolled in school), keeps many girls from getting an education, making it difficult to break the cycle of poverty.
ChildFund's initiatives have touched hundreds of girls' lives, though, and have helped them overcome adversity and achieve their goals. We've helped provide child-friendly spaces, family mediation, psychosocial support and job training. In the Youth Employment and Support Project, which we run with funding from the World Bank, many young women have enrolled in vocational programs.
"My dream is to become one of the best female auto mechanics in the country, so I can work for the big companies," said 18-year-old Mamadi.
Conditions are slowly improving in Sierra Leone, but we need your help to maintain the momentum we have established. To invest in the future of Sierra Leone, please consider sponsoring a child. Your support will make a world of difference to a vulnerable child, and give him or her the chance they need to emerge from poverty.