Liberia is still struggling to recover from a brutal 14-year civil war that killed an estimated 250,000 people, ending in 2003. During the conflict, many women experienced violence and the country was left in social, economic and political ruins. The vast majority of Liberia’s 4 million population lack access to electricity, safe water and adequate sanitation.
The ongoing reconstruction process in Liberia has created an opportunity to address longstanding gender inequalities. But years after the war, women still face high levels of discrimination. And harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), continue in rural areas.
- 35 per cent of women have experienced physical violence from a partner (UN Women 2011-2012).
- Two thirds of women have undergone female genital mutilation (UNICEF 2013).
- 60 per cent of girls completed primary education in 2011, compared with 70 per cent of boys (UNESCO 2011).
- Just over a third of women aged 15 to 24 are literate, compared with 64 per cent of men of the same age (UNESCO 2011).
- Women only hold 11 per cent of seats in Liberia’s national parliament – a fall from 13 per cent in 2010 (World Bank Data).
- Liberia has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates – with one in 24 women dying during pregnancy or childbirth (UNICEF 2013).
Tackling the Ebola crisis
There were over 10,000 Ebola-related cases in Liberia in 2014, and almost 5,000 people died from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.
The traditional role of women as caregivers to the young, sick and older people has increased their burden and risk of exposure to the virus.
In patriarchal societies such as Liberia, discrimination and violence against women and girls also often increase during times of crisis.
With our help, our partner Liberia Women Media Action Committee (LIWOMAC) is working on:
- Producing and broadcasting campaigns on how to prevent Ebola on radio and television
- Creating ‘listening clubs’ where women can get information on their rights and national developments
- Lobbying the government to provide accurate data so it can assess the impact of Ebola on women and girls.
Women in the media
Laws that protect women’s rights in Liberia are weakly enforced. Reported crimes against women are often not fully investigated, and many authority figures, including police offers, lack the necessary resources and skills to deliver justice.
The role of the media is critical in exposing the injustices faced by women, and to give them a voice. The Liberian media, however, is male dominated with women accounting for just five per cent of editorial leadership positions.
This means that issues affecting women are rarely highlighted. This adds to women, especially in rural areas, being unable to engage in processes and decisions that directly affect their livelihood, peace and security.
LIWOMAC works with media so it can help women learn about their rights and challenge traditional attitudes.
With our support, the organisation is:
- Operating Liberia Women’s Democracy Radio (LWDR FM 91.1), the only radio station in the country run by women for women
- Training and mentoring women in the media so that issues concerning women are brought to the forefront of political debate
- Developing radio programmes on legal rights, inheritance laws, rape and forced marriage to educate women and girls, especially those in rural communities
- Using radio to motivate women to become involved in politics
- Helping women and girls to hold the authorities to account through community-based forums and radio phone-ins
- Developing guidance for authorities, including the police, on how to deal effectively with cases of violence against women and girls.
Our impact in Liberia
Thanks to our work with LIWOMAC in Liberia:
- 35 print and radio journalists have learned about women’s rights, resulting in more sensitive reporting and an increase in stories that focus on issues that affect women.
- The proportion of female journalists in the Liberian media increased from 13 per cent in 2010 to 22 per cent in 2014.
- The Liberian National Police are drafting a handbook for police investigators on how to respond to female survivors of violence, especially rape.
- Over 200 women have taken part in community forums reviewing the National Constitution.
- Approximately 1,254,743 men and women were reached through radio and TV discussions about women’s rights.
Find out more about our impact
Help us do more
£60 a month will help translate public service announcements on women’s rights into local languages.
£90 a month could pay a technician to keep LWDR FM 91.1 broadcasting to at least 12 counties in Liberia.
£120 a month could pay an LWDR FM 91.1 journalist to continue reporting on women’s issues.