Making reunification dreams come true for Liberian refugees in Guinea
Mamie, 25 years, is Liberian and currently lives in N’Zérékoré, the capital of the Forest Guinea Region. When her village in Liberia was attacked by rebels in 1990, she ran away with three friends to neighbouring N’Zérékoré as an asylum seeker. Separated from her parents and relatives, Mamie, 13, did not have any support. To survive, her friends became sex workers, while Mamie offered to take care of their shack. At 14 years, Mamie had to fend to survive in difficult circumstances. Life became very hard and dangerous. She was often a victim of violence and abuse. Luckily, she heard about a UNICEF-supported TWIN project, where she started an apprenticeship as hairdresser and also received food and psychosocial support. Sometimes, in the evenings, she had time to attend to her personal business.
During the training period, because she no longer took care of their ‘home’, Mamie was rejected by her former friends. She ceased all dealings with them and had no choice but to live on her own in a tiny room. Later on, in addition to the training, Mamie was offered a package of activities for her social rehabilitation and reintegration together with other adolescents and women at risk of violence, abuse and maltreatment.
Today, with her hairdresser’s certificate visibly hanging in the centre of her own beauty saloon, Mamie receives many regular and new customers with a smile that expresses hope as well as hides many sad memories. Thanks to her booming business she can fully meet her basic needs. As luck would have it, she found her brother in Nonah refugee camp a few years ago. She then rented a modest house in N’Zérékoré where they now live and support each other.
The certificate obtained from the UNICEF-supported TWIN project, coupled with the psychosocial support she received from friends and teachers, gave Mamie the self-confidence that now makes her one of the happiest young ladies in N’Zérékoré. However, her joy is often damped by her dream to reunite with her family. She wants them to be proud of her new life now that she feels empowered to assist them. UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) hope to make her dream come true through the Durable Solutions Project.
© UNICEF Guinea/2006