More than Me and Liberia’s Increasing Need to Protect its Girl Children
On the International Day of the Girl Child, some devastating news came out concerning the girl children of Liberia. As a nation, we became angered at our realization that we have failed to protect our girls from ourselves and failed to protect them from outside corruption and exploitation. On this day, while the world was on one hand celebrating the girl child, Liberia found out that dozens of its girls had been raped, impregnated, and exposed to HIV at the More than Me Academy under the leadership of Katie Meyler. Such horrendous acts occurring with Meyler and the majority White Board of Directors having oversight has prompted discussions on the “White savior” complex when it comes to the African aid sector. This revelation has led us to question what can be done to rid ourselves of this mentality, how the aid sector of Liberia can be reformed, and how the nation can better protect its girls from all forms of abuse moving forward.
Since the story first broke out back in 2014, to when the article and documentary were recently published, Meyler, the humanitarian mastermind fundraiser behind More than Me, has continued to play naïve and shift all accountability for the prolonged abuse against the girls to the existing rape culture in Liberia. She has instead used their story to shift the focus of the people on the work of the school, which was founded on the premise of protecting young girls against sexual exploitation and abuse, without truly addressing the abuse of the girls by her Liberian ex-lover, or her role and complacency in it.
This failure to act by Meyler, has gotten Liberians around the world infuriated, with many taking to social media to voice their distaste for it. In the midst of all this, is when the world discovered that there are many Liberians who were made aware of the situation since 2014, after which Meyler was approached by a seemingly desperate Liberian government under former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to replicate her schools across Liberia. It was a great idea on paper, except, it ignored the fact that Meyler was tainted by her past failure to protect dozens of Liberian girls from a predator, remaining silent as they told their truth against that perpetrator, Macintosh Johnson. Meyler and her team rather left the country in the midst of it all, and the entire story was swept under the rug.
While many people are expressing distaste for what transpired, there are others expressing their support for Meyler and the very important initiative of More than Me to provide free education to hundreds of at-risk Liberian girls.Likewise, some are not overlooking Meyler’s silence in the situation, but are rather highlighting the silence of the Liberian government, the media, and the people at large, and our overall failure to protect our girls time and time again.
This incident is not the first of such in the Liberian society. After the Liberian civil war, the country was ridden with UN peacekeepers from around the world. The nation was in a vulnerable state, and so were its people, especially the women and girls. Some of those peacekeepers notoriously manipulated that vulnerability and engaged in highly imbalanced sexual relationships and sometimes abuse/assault with young girls and women in Liberia. Some went on to impregnate these girls and women, leaving them and the child without support or care when their time in the country came to an end. This story was also lost, swept under the rug, and forgotten by the masses. Although, for these survivors and those of the More than Me Academy, it is an ordeal that remains unforgettable.
Liberia, due to its vulnerability, continues to be exploited by people swearing to protect it over and over again. This is true for the government and its role in silencing the situation and even rewarding the White perpetrators; this is true for the White perpetrators who see the vulnerability in the system and know they can take advantage of it; and this is true for Liberians themselves who adopt these same “White Savior” mentalities and exploit the nation and its people for money, prestige, and other selfish gains.
While we believe strongly that Meyler’s explanations and that of More than Me is not enough for what happened to those girls, we also believe that it is important how the public reacts in handling the situation, keeping in mind the current students and beneficiaries of the school. It is important that the government of Liberia rights the wrongs it committed in its deafening silence in the matter and do right by the girls by holding the administration of the school accountable. In doing this, the government must require Meyler and all those involved to step down from the board and administration of the school, with all funding raised handed over to a newly appointed administration of highly qualified educators, therapists, etc. Likewise, this incident should serve as a wakeup call to Liberians who carry the mentality that only Whites can deliver us from our shortcomings, as it only continues to leave us exposed, bruised, and exploited. It should also serve as a wakeup call to the government of Liberia to implement stricter rules and guidelines governing the aid sector, so as to better protect the Liberian people, especially the young girls who prove to be most vulnerable.
Katie Meyler is not the first White person to gain fame, income, and prestige from the exploitation of the African story, despite having met people on the ground doing the exact same work, however, it is imperative that she is the first in Liberia to be held accountable for the exploitation and abuse that transpired in the midst of it.