Christine Seyboe Tour’s middle name ought to be ‘determination’. Nothing else would suffice to explain the spirit of a 11 year old refugee, separated from her parents from Liberia, thrown into a refugee camp in Ghana rose up to be salon specialist who helped train 500 girls around the camp to empower and support themselves rather than slide into the easy, dark and murky world of easy money – prostitution.
Her beauty school was the first of its kind in the camp, and they had to ask students to bring their own benches to sit on. When Liberia’s civil conflict ended in 2005, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) efforts in encouraging Liberians to repatriate home from Ghana was one factor in her returning to Ghana. But the main reason was more of a personal nature.
Christine says, “One night on the trip, I went out for a drink by myself, just to relax. I saw this beautiful girl, she could not have been more than 18 years old, and she was on the street working as a prostitute, trying to get men’s attention. I watched her for a little bit and then I walked up to her to invite her to join me. Over drinks, she told me her name was Quica Dolo and that her aunt had brought her to Monrovia. But her aunt had died so she didn’t know anyone, had no one to help her, and she was in the streets for a living. It was then that I realized that girls in Liberia needed more help than girls in Ghana, so I decided that I would return home. I promised her that when I did, I would train her, teach her how to work and make something of herself.”
With her savings from the beauty school in Ghana and a small grant from UNHCR, Christine was able to re-establish herself in Liberia, accompanied by her husband, who works in IT support, and her infant son, Steven. She opened a shop in 2008 and restarted the beauty school in 2009. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program supporting women entrepreneurs around the world and CHF International, who implements the program in Liberia, accepted Christine for their second cohort of businesswomen in 2010. Through the program, and as part of International Women’s Day celebrations, she flew from Liberia to the USA to meet with Michelle Obama and tour government and businesses in Washington, DC and New York City as an example of the women entrepreneurs who are changing the future of the developing world.
To expand her business Christine needs access to finance, which is not easily forthcoming. In Liberia, she has to rely on a gasoline generator and has no running water – she has to use the hand-pumps in town. The supplies she needs for her business are expensive in her country, but she cannot afford to go to Ghana to pick them up at a cheaper price in bulk. Christine remains determined. With her acquired skills in management and business, Christine is determined in helping reshape Liberia, one girl at a time.
Christine Seyboe Tour speaks about her enterprising journey.
(Video Courtesy : Goldman Sachs)