Tenneh and me

In Liberia’s capital of Monrovia, I had the pleasure of meeting Chid Liberty, the energetic co- founder of the Liberian Women’s Sewing Project. Chid’s family owns Vamoma House, located on one of Monrovia’s biggest boulevards, an imposing multi-story building painted in faded light blue and cream. During the Civil War, Vamoma House was occupied and pillaged, providing a safe haven for warring factions, including Charles Taylor. Chid returned to his native Liberia to bring his family’s building, scarred with bullet holes, back to life. In the basement of Vamoma House, the women of Made in Liberia, Africa’s first free trade-certified garment factory, are filling orders for companies like J.Crew, prAna, and FEED.

MIL2Tenneh and me

The women of Made in Liberia, who were on both sides of the fighting during the civil war, now own and operate a business together. About 75 percent of Made in Liberia’s profits are used for community development projects, with the remaining 25 percent staying within the enterprise, allowing the women to build equity over time. Made in Liberia’s Right to Work program includes a 4-course curriculum intended to train women in entering the workforce, personal finance and job skills. Every graduate is guaranteed a full-time job at Made in Liberia, and an opportunity to save for their future. Made in Liberia’s Working Assets program encourages women to save by matching 100 percent of their savings for one year, enabling them to invest in major assets like land, education or starting a business.

MIL1Chid Liberty and the women of Made in Liberia
The women working at Made in Liberia were eager to tell me about their goals. Tenneh Bakana has been working at Made in Liberia for two years. On the “inspiration wall” (a wall filled with employee photos and their handwritten goals) and in our conversation, her motivation is apparent: her children. She wants her job at Made in Liberia to result in a better future for them. Many of the women here are mothers, victims of rape or abuse, working together for a unified and healed Liberia. In a feature on Made in Liberia filmed by CNN last year, Tenneh talked about her journey from victim to businesswoman. It’s hard to leave these amazing women in this little factory, humming with the sound of sewing machines. But I feel so lucky to have met them, and I know that they will succeed in building a better future for their children and their country.