By Carter Center
When Regina N. Bee, a Carter Center youth information ambassador in Bong County, Liberia, told students that the country’s freedom of information law gave them the right to ask their principal about the status of their ID cards, the principal accused her of brainwashing them.
But Regina, 29, didn’t take this accusation personally. Instead, it reassured her that her work in educating youth about freedom of information was making an impact.
Regina was one of the 16 students in the Carter Center’s pilot Youth Info Ambassadors Program in Liberia, where the Center has been on working on freedom of information issues since 2010.
“For me, this program brings about openness and makes people accountable to citizens,” Regina said at the close of the nine-month Youth Info Ambassador Program in Gbarnga, Bong County.
While serving at Nyakoi Bee Elementary, Junior and Senior High School, Regina encouraged the students to ask the school’s leaders questions, especially about the fact that the schools’ administration requested that parents pay for their children’s ID cards every school year but never gave the students their IDs.
Students at Nyakoi Bee are required to have their IDs in order to get reduced bus fare and for admittance into different programs. According to Regina, it took weeks for the principal to provide information about the ID cards after students made their request.
Another way she and her team worked with students at the school was by giving them the courage to ask the principal to account for the 1.5 million Liberian dollars the minister of state gave the school. The principal told them how the money was spent and even showed them receipts.
During the project, the youth information ambassadors, along with the Center’s freedom of information facilitator, helped their peers and women in the community file 293 freedom of information requests with various government institutions and other organizations receiving public funds. The institutions responded to 105 of those requests.
Now that the program has concluded, Regina hopes to organize and train other young women so they can educate more girls and women in the communities she could not reach during the program.
She and her fellow graduates are working to form a freedom of information organization to raise awareness about the law. They want to inspire young girls and women so that they will never be afraid to speak up for what they believe in again.
To support these efforts, the Center has provided organizational training to the ambassadors and is assisting them in developing and filing articles of incorporation and bylaws.
One of their first planned activities is forming school information clubs.
“We are establishing the school information clubs because every school has students from several communities that, as young ambassadors, could not be reached during the project,” said Regina’s fellow ambassador, Enoch Domue. “But with the club, those young people will be able to take the message wider across their communities.”
The Oracle News Daily was not involved in the creation of the content above. This story was produced by Carter Center