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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More