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UMCOR skills training for ex-combatants in Liberia

25 August 2004

UMCOR has launched the "Apprenticeship Skills Training, Accelerated Learning and Small Enterprise Development Program" for more than 1,400 demobilized ex-combatants in Montserrado County.

Funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the National Commission for Disarmament Demobilisation Reintegration and Rehabilitation (NCDDRR) in Liberia, the program will run for eight months and will offer ex-combatants training in various areas including aluminium work, auto mechanics, masonry, vehicle body work or electrics, furniture-making, carpentry, printing, embroidery, fish-processing, metal-work, welding and more. Trauma healing and psychosocial counselling will be included in the program, as well as literacy training.

Many thousands of young Liberians were conscripted into warring factional groups during 14 years of conflict in Liberia. Such ex-combatants have rarely had access to education or skills training and in fact, many of them have never even seen the inside of a classroom. Without the skills to enable them to earn a legitimate livelihood, the chances of them turning to criminal activities are high. Programs like this aim to provide ex-combatants with greater chances of finding work and earning a living while also facilitating improved stability for society as a whole.

The program commenced with a five-day general orientation workshop, which took place in August 2004 in Monrovia. During orientation, participants received information about program goals, monitoring and evaluation strategies of UMCOR and the code of conduct at the training centers.

After orientation, ex-combatants are allocated to training sites in and around Monrovia. Five days a week for eight months, they will spend five hours in skills training and two hours in literacy and numeracy classes. In addition to the training, each ex-combatant receives US$ 30 allowance per month. At the end of the training all graduates receive a certificate of participation and a 'Start-up Kit' relevant to the skills they have learned.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Labor, UMCOR Liberia will assist those who successfully complete the training to identify potential employers and comply with labor requirements as well as assisting them in their job search. Those choosing self-employment will receive assistance in the formation of work groups and registration as small businesses.

The process of disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and rehabilitation is vital for long-term stability in Liberia. By providing ex-combatants with skills and viable income generating opportunities through programs such as this, the likelihood of them returning to armed conflict is greatly reduced.

By Naomi Crusoe, UMCOR Liberia