By Erica Jordan
Bosh Bosh, a colloquial term describing African fabrics that are sewn together, is also a new NGO project that is empowering female students in Liberia. The project, which was founded by Peace Corps volunteer Charlene Espinoza who was a teacher at the time, first became an idea after she learned that many of her female students were much more likely to drop out of school than their male counterparts due to high teenage pregnancy rates.
Charlene created the Bosh Bosh Project as part of a Girl’s Club that already existed at the school, but had become inactive due to issues with maintaining participation, and a lack of support and funding. She addressed these issues by incorporating a sewing component to the program, which allowed female students to learn both the technical and creative aspects needed to create bags and accessories. The girls are taught how to make the products in typical Bosh Bosh fashion from a local professional tailor. The textiles are sourced from neighboring countries as well as within Liberia. The goal of the project is to empower and encourage these young female students to stay in school through gaining a new skill. Recently, Bosh Bosh has collaborated with the Wellekama Group, which provides training in weaving country cloth to the women who are creating their unique handbags. The completed products are then sold at craft fairs and local venues. Each of the Bosh Bosh Project products are more than just pieces of cloth sewn together, they represent the education that will enable these girls to rise above poverty and become self-reliant. Bosh Bosh recently began providing scholarships for male students who act as security guards at the site or provide tailoring support, as well as any children that the members have. The Bosh Bosh Project also provides aid to the students’ schools during times of instability and when the government fails to do so. In addition to financial aid, the Bosh Bosh Project has scholastic requirements, workshops and social opportunities for the participants to encourage them to stay engaged in school. (To learn more about these programs and the Bosh Bosh Project, please visit their website). “We have seen tremendous change within the girls. Their self-confidence has increased, their study habits have improved along with their own self-awareness,” said Charlene. To continue the mission and to give more students the opportunity to go to school, she hopes to build a Bosh Bosh training facility to accommodate more young women. Charlene also hopes to use the NGO to help women in rural areas gain access to training and to help promote artists and artisans who struggle to sell their goods. These collaborations will support school-aged girls and women in Liberia as they sew together a promising future.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Erica Jordan obtained a degree in biology and worked in the pharmaceutical industry before getting addicted to travel. She has since traveled extensively while teaching English in Japan, written a grammar textbook and sailed around the world as an interpreter and translator. Some of her interests include sustainability, modern art and hunting down cozy cafes. You can read about her adventures on Kizzling Around or connect with her on twitter @Kizzling Around.