News / Africa

Making Jewelry Empowers Former Female Prisoners in Sierra Leone

Rikke Clevin Jensen teaching a class to women at the Advocaid office in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (VOA/N.deVries)
Rikke Clevin Jensen teaching a class to women at the Advocaid office in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (VOA/N.deVries)
— Former female prisoners in Sierra Leone are finding creative ways to incorporate themselves back into society.  They are making beaded jewelry that is not only giving them confidence, but is starting to gain recognition in stores worldwide.
 
Rikke Clevin Jensen teaches a beaded jewelry making class to former prisoners twice a week in the capital, Freetown.
 
She says the classes have given women a chance to learn not just about the art of jewelry making, but also how to stay focused.  "They take pride in what they are doing, they concentrate, they sit down and in some lessons you can hear a needle drop because they aren't saying anything," Jensen said.
 
A Salone Style necklace (VOA/N.deVries)A Salone Style necklace (VOA/N.deVries)
x
A Salone Style necklace (VOA/N.deVries)
A Salone Style necklace (VOA/N.deVries)
The bold vibrant colors include necklaces and earrings.  Some of the designs feature the popular Sierra Leone material known as lappa, a type of cloth used in the country.
 
Jensen, who has a degree in jewelry design from Britain and has had her jewelry worn by American socialite Paris Hilton, decided to get involved with teaching the women after the organization Advocaid put out a call for people to help former female prisoners learn new skills.
 
Advocaid offers legal services to women in prison and helps former female prisoners reintegrate back into society.  According to Advocaid, women in Sierra Leone make up a small percentage of the prison population - less than 10 percent.  However, this number is on the increase in Sierra Leone and across the world.
 
Executive director Sabrina Mahtani says reintegration programs like the jewelry class are crucial because some of these women are innocent.  She says even those who did make mistakes deserve a second chance to be able to become productive members of society.
 
The women in the jewelry class have been charged with everything from petty theft to murder.  Getting a second chance has been a life-changing experience.
 
One woman taking the class says in her native Krio language that before jewelry making she didn't know anything about beadwork but she feels more confident in life generally now because she knows she can learn and put forth new skills.

The jewelry made in the class has already developed into a small business called Salone Style and sells across the country.  It has been around for just over a year but some of the work has already been sold abroad, in South Africa, Canada and Australia.

Salone Style brings a positive image to Sierra Leone, says Jensen. "We really love to create something beautiful that is Sierra Leone and maybe helps to change perceptions of Sierra Leone, that isn't just a place where people get their hands and feet chopped off," she stated. "And I think that's a really lovely way of doing it."

Jensen says selling jewelry also gives women empowerment and financial independence.

Another woman taking the class, also speaking in Krio, says her husband is glad she is making jewelry and he may give her money to start her own small business.

The concept of using creativity to help women after life in prison is something Prison Watch Sierra Leone would like to see more of.
 
Mambu Feika is the director and says for former prisoners, getting back into society is always hard.  Many times prisoners families disown them. "A lot of them are victims of abandonment, victims of neglect, victims of community neglect, so it is really a serious problem for them," he said.
 
As for Jensen, she hopes more women will become involved in the classes.

Right now they have about 10 women.  Jensen says the the main reason the class is such a success is that it's a safe haven where women can bond with each other. "I think the space, the class, is a chance for them to forget the past and to look forward," Jensen explained.
 
And that is exactly what they are trying to do.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid