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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Liberian Girls: Ruth

I've been working with UNICEF on a project about Liberian girls for the past few weeks. I'll post a lot of the photos here over the next view days, so check back often. All of them are already up on

Ruth Dureng wants to be a reverend and a doctor. A Reverend Doctor, Rev Dr. Dureng. She doesn’t feel the limit of choosing among careers – she wants it all. And when she smiles, anyone near by couldn’t help but want to give it to her. Especially because when her smile breaks, you understand how much has been taken away from her.

Ruth was abused and forced out of her house when she refused to become to the second wife to her aunt’s husband. She left home and has the strength to speak out. In a culture where women are shamed for saying no, or shunned when they are the victims of sexual violence, Ruth’s strength and perseverance are an outlier, but also an example of hope and pride for other girls.

“Your ‘no’ can save and protect generation unborn,” she says. “I stood up to protect my pride, you can do the same, no matter what the case is. Stand up. Life is better, live it positively.”

Pink stuffed animals, blond baby dolls and silk flowers seem almost out of place in Ruth’s new bedroom when she slips on heels and a head scarf, and walks out of the house like a force of nature.

“I’m living on my own by the grace of God,” she tells a group of girls who have all had to make their way through similarly challenging circumstances. Some have had it better than others and some worse, but none easy. Liberia’s two decades of civil war, violence and strife left no one in this small country untouched.

The odds are stacked against her and other girls: almost half of Liberian girls marry and bear children before age 18 and few attend school. Ruth has already beat these odds. Three out of five women in Liberia can’t read, and married women often believe that it’s okay for men to beat women.

When Ruth left her house, she left behind illiteracy, domestic abuse, and an end to schooling. She embraced her future and is ready to advocate for other girls.

“I have a dream that one day this great nation, Liberia, will be free of guns, violence, domestic abuse, and sexual exploitation,” she says.

When Ruth sings, along with the other girls, I have overcome, she sings the words to sing, but also to remind herself.

She has overcome.


John said...

What beautiful images and the accompanying story is really inspirational. Thanks pointing your lense in Ruth's direction.

Raquel said...


Lev said...

Does Ruth identify at all with her biblical namesake?

Though not a stranger in Liberia, she certainly has had to pick up unexpected life skills and risk her life to pursue happiness.

Scarlett Lion said...

@John - Thanks!

@Raquel - Ruth was very lucky and managed to escape early marriage. Many young Liberian girls are not so lucky.

@Lev - You know, I didn't ask her that, but she's very religious and spiritual, so I hope she does. Ruth in the Bible and Ruth in Liberia actually have quite a bit in common.

Maggie Fick said...

Fantastic work, these photos and the way your portray Ruth's story are powerful and noteworthy. Well done.

Karen Bulthuis said...

Glenna, my first time on your blog, and its beautiful. Your photos in particular, but the stories too. Thank you.

Scarlett Lion said...

@Maggie - Thanks! Just looked over your Niger blog - very cool. Makes me want to head yonder.

@Karen - Thanks for reading also. Didn't even know you have a blog before this, but really love the girl with the puppy on the beach in Sinkor.

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