On October 11, 2018, ProPublica and TIME Magazine published a report about the sexual assault and rape of girls in the care of an NGO based in West Point, Monrovia, Liberia. Since then I have been present with the news – no sharing on social media, a few conversations with trusted colleagues and FFW board members, sitting with the heart-breaking reality that an American NGO founded by a woman could have allowed this to happen to desperately poor and innocent girls striving to create a better future for themselves in this country. I have heard from many of you in the US, questioning how it could have happened and wondering if I’ll stay in Liberia and continue my work in a place I have called home for 12 years.
I’ve been asked if any of us knew of or read about the perpetrator, Macintosh Johnson, being brought to the court system for these crimes. There was one article in the Liberian Observer about the perpetrator being charged with rape. It appeared on June 25, 2014. I did not see or read that article. At the time, the Ebola crisis overshadowed most national or international stories. By April 23, 2014 there were already thirty-four cases and six deaths from Ebola in Liberia. To be clear, I was in Liberia when the Ebola crisis began and when the story about the rapes at the More Than Me Academy was published. I never saw news of this story then, nor did any member of our Foundation for Women Liberia team.
I understand the world’s reaction now: with so much bad news coming out of this country, why not completely withdraw? This is understandable. When a story of this magnitude breaks, instincts can be to retreat.
Many may be wondering if their charitable contributions will make a difference or if or how they can trust NGOs in Liberia. We here on the ground do not share this view. More than ever, Liberia’s women and girls need help and hope. If we retreat, we deepen the wounds. We have an opportunity to listen, learn, and serve. We are committed to this path. And as an organization we are fully grounded for impact, which I will report on in a forthcoming message.
To this end, the Foundation for Women will take an even greater leadership role here now. On behalf of the women and girls of Liberia, we are moving forward and hope you will join us.