In 2003 Liberia emerged from 14 years of brutal civil war, during which women experienced enormously high levels of violence. As many as 75% of women and girls are thought to have suffered.
Women’s rights in Liberia
Though great strides have been made towards gender equality since the end of the conflict, including the election of Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, mandatory 30% female representation in government, and a new court dedicated specifically to rape trials, there is still much to be done.
- Women’s life expectancy is 61.5 yrs
- Women hold only 13% seats in
- national parliament, despite a mandated 30%.
- Only 26% of women are literate in rural areas, as compared to 61% in urban areas
- Of those affected by HIV or AIDS in Liberia, women make up 61%.
- 90% of women work in the informal economy and agriculture, and only 24% of paid jobs are held by women.
- 44% of women have experienced physical violence since they were 15 years old.
- 58.2% of women aged 15-49 have undergone some form of female genital mutilation
- Maternal mortality rates are extremely high at 994 deaths per 100,000 live births.
[Sources UN Data, UNAIDS, UN VAW, UNICEF, African Development Bank. Data most recent available as of January 2011]
Challenges to women’s rights
Lack of access to justice
Liberia has parallel legal systems of formal and customary laws, which contributes to inequality as the customary laws often discriminate against women. Under these traditional laws for example women can be prevented from inheriting property or appearing in court without their husbands. For most people in Liberia the formal justice system, which is slow, inefficient and expensive, remains out of reach.
Low awareness of rights
Due to illiteracy and poverty, many Liberian women are unaware of their rights and how to seek redress if their rights have been violated or they have been discrimination against.
Violence against women
Levels of violence against women remain high in post-conflict Liberia, especially rape, sexual exploitation, domestic violence and harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
This is partly due to a culture of impunity and an inaccessible and unresponsive formal justice system, compounded by extreme poverty. They are also in part due to widely held discriminatory traditional views and practices.
Women have no say in decision-making
Women are still excluded from the majority of decision-making at all levels, despite the government’s attempts to create opportunities for women. For example, out of 94 lawmakers, only 14 are women. At the county level, administrative structures are dominated by male officials, chiefs, and elders. This imbalance is due to long-standing discrimination against women in Liberian society, a belief that politics is a male domain, and limited educational opportunities for women.
Our work in Liberia
Womankind has chosen to work in Liberia in order to focus on increasing peace and security for women there. In April 2012 Womankind began an exciting partnership with Liberia Women Media Action Committee (LIWOMAC), a media development organization that empowers women in grassroots communities through media, skills development, research and advocacy.
Our project with LIWOMAC is focused on raising awareness about women’s rights using the media, and in particular through radio. Find out more