"Women speak, and people listen."
- Annie, LiberiaIn honor of International Women's Day, we would like to introduce Annie, a member of Amani Liberia. [caption id="attachment_2514" align="aligncenter" width="336"] Ma Annie singing during devotion[/caption] Annie, usually referred to as Ma Annie, married her husband Jeremiah right after she finished high school on New Year’s Eve, 1989, five days after the start of Liberia’s cruel 15-year civil war. Their four children were all born in the midst of the violence, or as Annie told us, “the heat”. THE HEAT “My oldest son was born during the worst of the heat. There was no medicine available. We didn’t have salt or even soap”. As a result of the stress Annie was under during the first child’s pregnancy so he was born very underweight. Wartime experiences still haunt the couple. Fighters often dressed with bizarre accessories. “When they raided churches, they would take the choir robes and wear them, or they would wear women’s weaves on their heads,” said Jeremiah. Now, whenever Jeremiah sees young men dressed eccentrically, he feels panic. “Or when I see someone with a machete---my memories carry me back,” he says. The couple described the atmosphere during the war: “we might be sitting here, talking---just like now---and men would surround the house, demanding food. They might command the men of the house to come and carry something heavy, and if the load was too heavy, they were beat.” RECONSTRUCTION After the war, the family moved to Yekepa so her husband Jeremiah could finish school at ABCU. “I had nothing to do but take care of the children,” says Annie. “I started to sell coal, but people were buying on credit and not paying me back, so I did not make much money.” When Amani Liberia held its fashion show last year, Annie learned about the organization. She completed an interview and began work in October 2011. The work Annie does at Amani helps pay for her children’s tuition. “The future of my children is big in front of me, we just have to pray and trust God. I pray that when my husband graduates he can find a job and help the children in college.” An astonishing 85% of Liberians are unemployed, so obtaining a job after college is a harrowing task. WOMEN SPEAK, AND PEOPLE LISTEN Annie lives in a country where roughly 75%* of its females have been raped, a cornerstone tactic of the ex-president/warlord’s reign. But most research suggests that things are looking up, and Annie agrees. “A woman’s life (in Liberia) has improved. When my grandparents were living, women never had rights. Anything men said was the rule. But now, women speak, and people listen. “ MAYBE GOD WAS TIRED OF SEEING WOMEN SUFFERING . When asked why these changes have occurred, Annie exclaimed that, “Maybe God was tired of seeing women suffering!” Though Annie believes women are treated with much more dignity now, she insists that there is room for improvement. “The majority of women in Liberia are not learned. Women should learn.” Annie knows many women do not have a respectful husband like Jeremiah who believes education is the key, declaring, “You will always be under his control if you do not learn. He will bluff (trick) you because you don’t know better”. LIVING IN PEACE At Amani, Annie is the production manager and keeper of the keys. She distributes pay and work activities, keeps inventory, records hours, and learns to use a sewing machine on Mondays. One unifying aspect of Amani Liberia is the daily devotionals led by rotating Amani members, complete with drums during worship. “Devotionals allow us to hear God’s word. Not everyone here goes to church, so sometimes this is the only place they will hear from God.” Annie regularly leads devotionals, and always directs the worship songs with intensity and passion. When asked what she liked about working at Amani, Annie promptly declared, “The unity; we work and live in peace together.” [caption id="attachment_2515" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Jeremiah, Annie, and two of her children[/caption]
Click here to see Amani Liberia's blog and leave a comment for Annie.
*There are several studies that come to different conclusions, but they all point to a significant number of women in Liberia having been raped. For example, this blog suggests a significantly lower number.