Dare to dream—escaping violence in pursuit of an education

“Little by little, I am becoming the person I want to be.” With dreams of a better future, Nantoe Peter ran away from home as a 14-year-old. After years of hardship with rape, prostitution and abuse, she is beginning to find her way.

Nantoe Peter is now 25 years old and takes part in training provided by Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation LIWEN. Photo: Wolobah Sali
Nantoe Peter is now 25 years old and takes part in training provided by Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation LIWEN. Photo: Wolobah Sali

When she was merely 14 years old, Nantoe Peter decided to leave her home. She had a dream of a better future with a more qualified education. Together with a friend, she left home and ran away to Monrovia—Liberia’s capital city. But what followed was hardship and brutal violence.

“We found no shelter and were forced to sleep outside in cars. One night, I was raped by several men. I didn’t know how or where to seek proper treatment,” says Nantoe. “I got involved in prostitution just to survive. I was scared, but I had no choice.”

“Out there, it’s dangerous for girls. Prostitution is dehumanising. When a man takes you to bed, he will do all kinds of bad things to you because he feels he’s paying you,” she continues.

Pregnant after months of abuse

During the days, Nantoe kept her dream of an education alive by attending public school. The promise of a job opening in a gold mine took her to Bong County.

“But there was no job waiting for me. Out of sheer frustration, I got together with a boy who promised to send me to community school. He abused me and after a few months, I discovered that he was on drugs. But at that point, I was already pregnant,” says Nantoe.

The beating got worse when Nantoe told the boy about the pregnancy, and, once again, she felt forced to leave—this time to Buchanan where she stayed afloat by washing dishes in exchange for food. At night she slept in abandoned buildings.

Ashamed, desperate—and homesick

“I was afraid to go back home. I felt I hadn’t accomplished anything and would only bring back an unwanted pregnancy. I felt it was disgraceful to my grandmother who had raised me. She didn’t deserve to see me pregnant with a child who had no father, so I decided to kill myself. But each time I tried, it failed,” says Nantoe in tears.

Nantoe never had any prenatal care. Luckily, she went into labour during daytime and was rushed to a midwife in the community, where she gave birth to a baby girl. With no financial means, however, Nantoe had to give the baby away.

Finding her way

At this point, Nantoe decided to enroll in public school again. That is how she came across Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation, LIWEN. One of her classmates invited her to a workshop which was part of LIWEN’s so called “girls’ club”—a programme which provides girls with support and leadership trainings.

“LIWEN welcomed me with open arms. For the first time in many years, I felt encouraged and loved—I knew that I found a family,” says Nantoe.

She adds that whenever there’s a girls’ club meeting, the staff at LIWEN always come to fetch her early. At the forums, she has been taught how to speak in public and how to support women’s initiative. Because of her active role, Nantoe was even selected as president of the girls’ club.

“Little by little, I am becoming the person I want to be,” she says.

Now, Nantoe wants the government to launch a programme through local non-governmental organisations to help girls out of the streets. And she wants everyone to be able to have a qualified education.

Reunited with her child

Thanks to LIWEN, Nantoe feels that she has “gotten her life together”. With the support of the organisation, Nantoe was also able to get her child back.

“Because I love education, I go out into the streets and talk to young girls who are homeless. I have convinced several of them to that they could have a better life,” says Nantoe who is happy that she has been able to encourage more girls join the girls’ club.

“I want to empower girls. I have the passion to teach and now I am looking for help to go to university to become a teacher. The truth is: people do change. Help someone out of their situation and don’t judge them. If you help a girl, remember you have just rescued a nation.”

 

Kvinna till Kvinna has worked for women’s rights in Liberia since 2007 and we have an office in Monrovia. We support and work with several local partner organisations, including LIWEN, to end all forms of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls. Read more about our work in Liberia.

9 December 2021