The story of Joyce Kekulah

The girl who never gives up

unicef Liberia
Joyce Kekulah
UNICEF Liberia/2018/Ratnam
16 January 2019

I am eighteen years old, and my name is Joyce Kekulah. I live in Kakata City, Margibi County, in Liberia. 

I want to be an accountant. I am inspired by the female manager of the local branch of a commercial bank. I’m yet to tell her that she has inspired me.

She comes to my church, and I see her every Sunday. One day I will tell her how she inspired me to become an accountant and work in a bank. I also want to be able to earn enough to look after my family.

joyce and her father in the garden
unicef Liberia
I help my father in a vegetable patch he cultivates behind our home. My father is retired, does not have a steady income anymore, and now barely earns enough to support the family. The little money he earns comes from selling vegetables cultivated in the small garden. Some days, my family and I only have a single meal a day as we do not always have enough money to buy food.
Joyce Kekulah with her family
unicef Liberia
I live with my parents and siblings in a house at the border of a small community in Kakata, Margibi County. My eldest sibling is 34, and the youngest is just one year old. Each morning, I wake up by seven, make my bed, help my mother by sweeping the house and yard, and bathing my brother and sister before I get ready for school. In the afternoon, I help my mother cook meals, work on the vegetable plot, and care for my young brother before I take some time to study.
Joyce in a wheelchair
unicef Liberia
When I was seven, I felt pain in my leg while at school. The next day, I could not even get up as I had no strength in my legs, and was admitted to hospital. At the hospital, I fell off the bed, breaking my hip. For four years, I remained in hospital or in a wheelchair.
little joyce
unicef Liberia
When I returned home from hospital, I was keen on resuming her studies. I cried when I saw other girls going to school. I pleaded with my parents, and they enrolled me back in school, and continue to support me in my pursuit of becoming an accountant.
Joyce on a bike
UNICEF/Liberia 2018
I have to take a motorbike taxi, or pehnpehn, from our community to the school, a distance of about a kilometer. Most times, I do not have enough money for the trip, which costs US$ 0.12 cents (Euro 0.11 cents) each way. I have to negotiate a lower price with the rider, or walk to school. Even walking that distance causes my knee to swell up, causing great discomfort and pain. However, I am determined to go to school, complete my education and become an accountant. Nothing will stop me.
Joyce in the classroom
UNICEF/Liberia 2018
I am the fifth of eleven children, but the first to reach Grade 9 in school. Some of my older siblings missed out on school due to the war. Several are now married and have children of their own, with no time or funds to return to school. My father and mother did not attend school. I study very hard, as I want to do well in life and help my family.

I am a member of my school’s Girls Club, and together with other members, I go out to speak to other young girls and encourage them to join or return to school.

Joyce speaking to kids

The Girls Clubs have been set up in 45 schools in 18 districts of 6 counties, where education indicators are lower than the national average. They have been set up as part of the Ministry of Education’s Gender Equitable Education Programme (GEEP), which is supported by UNICEF and implemented by ADWANGA. The GEEP programme seeks to promote access to education and increase the retention and completion rates of adolescent girls in grades seven through nine.

To date, some 5,000 girls have benefitted from the GEEP programme in Liberia.