LIBERIA: “We Are Vulnerable, Don’t Ignore Us” – At-risk youth leader tells a national dialogue

‘’When we get in trouble, nobody listens to us, they just condemn us and put us in jail right away, nobody asks us questions about the case’’, says T. Armstrong Joe, Deputy Spokesperson of the At-Risk Youth (Zogos).

He spoke on Thursday, September 30, 2021, at a National Stakeholders Dialogue organized by Youth Crime Watch of Liberia, with support from the Carter Center and funding from the Government of Sweden, held on the theme ‘’the Current status, challenges, and prospects of Youth and Access to Justice in Liberia’’.

‘’This is the first time to be invited as at-risk youth to the table in a place like this, and we appreciate the Carter Center because in recent years, it is the only organization that has called to learn about the challenges we as At-Risk Youth face when we come in conflict with the law’’, Mr. Joe declared.

Speaking as a panelist, alongside, Rev. Francis S. Kollie, the Country Director of Prison Fellowship, Mr. Joe represented the At-Risk Youth popularly known in Liberia as ‘’Zogos’’, to address the theme, “How does the state deal with youth coming in conflict with the law? This was one of four panels convened during the event.

Mr. Joe named three things that usually drive them into criminal activities: illegal drugs, lack of education and sometimes Politicians use them.

He called on the Liberian society to pay attention to the youth by empowering, educating, and organizing programs for them on the Laws.

The At-Risk Youth Deputy Spokesman emphatically told the National Stakeholders Dialogue, “we are vulnerable and if society does not pay attention to us, some evil people could give us drugs, money, and weapons to cause trouble for the whole society”.

Mr. Joe said, because they have no helper, some predatorial individuals often prey on their vulnerabilities to at times lure them into performing disruptive and counterproductive acts that could undermine our fragile peace.

He urged the organizers and the sponsors of the event to take the dialogue to the national level and decentralize it for the benefits of other At-Risk Youth (Zogos).

The dialogue focused on key recommendations which centered around the implementation of existing youth policies and strategies relating to education, governance, peace security and health.

Some of the issues discussed by the youth at the National Stakeholders Dialogue included Youth and Challenges to Accessing Justice, How does the State deal with Youth coming in conflict with the law? and   Women and Girls as Victims of Crimes.

The participants were drawn from high schools, universities, Liberia National Police, Liberia Prison Fellowship, Louise Arthur Grimes School of Law, Judicial Training Institute, Liberia National Bar Association, Liberia Student Union, Federation of Liberia Youth, Mano River Union Youth Parliament, Liberia Children Parliament, Liberia Motorcycle Transport Union, etc.

The Rule of Law Program Lead, Saah Charles N’Tow and Acting Senior Legal Associate, Joseph Matthew Cheeseman represented the Carter Center at the one-day National Stakeholders Dialogue organized by the Youth Crime Watch of Liberia.

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