Learning new skills after the war in Sierra Leone

Publié: 23 mai 2011 14:30 CET

Like any teenager, Agnes is into clothes and talks excitedly about her tailoring course.

She has learned to use a sewing machine as part of a Red Cross programme that helps young people who were badly affected by the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Proudly showing off one of the garments she has made, she says: "After the war I was not a happy girl. But now I’m very happy, because I can work as a tailor and I don’t have to depend on anybody."

When Agnes was 10, forces attacked her home town and her parents were killed.

Agnes ran away to the bush but she was alone, she had nothing to eat and no-one to support her. In the end she was forced to live with the fighters who made her carry a gun. She was one of 17,000 children who had little choice but to become combatants during the decade long conflict.

"One of the soldiers took me as a wife," Agnes says. "But when the war ended he left me and never returned. For a time I moved from village to village, I couldn’t find food and I felt traumatised from everything that had happened, but then I heard about the Red Cross centre."

Accepted in the community

When Agnes registered on the Sierra Leone Red Cross’ child advocacy and rehabilitation programme, she not only got the chance to train as a tailor but she also received counselling.

Agnes says: "I felt very comfortable with my counsellor and now after all the support and training I’ve had I feel very happy. Since graduating I’ve set up my own business. The people in my community now appreciate the work I can do and they ask me to make clothes."

"Without this programme I would have been doing very hard work in the bush or on a farm to make enough money to buy food. But with the money I make from tailoring I’m even building my own home. The best thing for me is that I can now support myself."