U.S. Organization Postpones Philanthropic Award to More Than Me’s Katie Meyler

An international award intended for the founder of More Than Me, Katie Meyler, has been withheld after a report of widespread negligence of sexual abuse against her institution.

Meyler was among four individuals, including the coordinator of Angie Brooks International Center for Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Development, Yvette Chesson-Wureh, listed for the 2018 She-Can awards in the United States.

She-Can is an international philanthropist that identifies less fortunate and academically talented young women leaders in Rwanda and Cambodia providing them with opportunities to obtain college education in the U.S. The awards are in acknowledgment of the individuals’ support to the group’s program since 2012.

The organization’s executive director, Barbara Bylenga, said the decision to postpone the award followed a discussion with the founder of More Than Me, a day after the ProPublica article was released.

“We have jointly elected to postpone presenting her with the SHE-DOES award until we have had time to conduct our own investigation into the incidents reported in the article and are comfortable the recognition of Ms. Meyler is appropriate,” Bylenga wrote in an email.

More Than Me Academy is a charity organization started in 2013 to take vulnerable young women from the streets and put them in school. The organization operates its own private all-girls school, the More Than Me Academy, in addition to 18 public schools as part of the Liberia Education Advancement Program, previously branded as Partnership Schools for Liberia.

The article which was jointly published by ProPublica and Time magazine, reports that a man, Macintosh Johnson, who had helped Meyler to launch the organization, abused his position of privilege by sexually assaulting many of the girls in the academy. The article recalls tales of Johnson raping students at his house, in the school building, and in the organization’s guest house. The events culminated with his arrest in 2014.

The report was accompanied by a documentary video and noted that the channels for the girls to report the rapes were compromised, as Johnson had been romantically linked to Meyler for several years, in addition to other staff members.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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