Liberia’s 14-year civil war devastated the country’s entire physical and organizational infrastructure. Commercial and productive activities ceased, communities were uprooted, and families separated. The social, political, and traditional governance systems were destroyed, and the economy completely collapsed.
Since 2005 and the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as Africa’s first female president, significant progress has been made, but the consequences of war remain particularly burdensome for women; rape and other forms of sexual violence continue as significant violations of women’s rights. During the war, the main perpetrators of gender-based violence (GBV) were fighting forces; today perpetrators are ex-combatants, community and family members, including teachers, husbands and fathers.
Liberia lies on a total area of 111,370 km bounded by Guinea on the North, the Atlantic Ocean to the South, Cote d’Ivoire to the East and Sierra Leone to the West. The country has vast tropical rain forest vegetation and an equal number of rainy and dry months. Women account for 49% of the 3.5 million people; over half of Liberia’s population is below the age of 20 years, and children under 15 years old account for 46.8% of the population.
In Liberia, gender inequality and women’s marginalization are entrenched in traditional and religious perceptions that portray women as the weaker sex. There is a high sociocultural tolerance for female subordination and male superiority, which enhance socioeconomic disparities. These sociocultural attitudes, sustained and maintained by cultural systems of socialization, are transferred and perpetuated through families, schools, communities and workplaces, and limit women’s participation in management and decision making at all levels of society.
Liberia experiences the widespread practice of early marriage and polygamy with approximately 48% of Liberian girls marrying by the age of 18 years. Estimates on gender-based violence from Liberia’s CEDAW report show that 44% of women aged 15-49 have experienced violence since the age of 15, 29% have experienced violence in the past 12 months, 17.6% have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, and 10% state that their first sexual experience was forced against their will. Of those experiencing sexual violence, the vast majority of perpetrators were people known to the victim. Though the Liberian economy is progressing, rampant poverty continues to force women and girls into prostitution and sexual exploitation for goods, food, and money. Many of these women soon find themselves in situations of greater vulnerability as pregnant, or diseased single mothers.
Access to justice for women remains limited due to the destruction of courts, the negative attitudes of Liberian law enforcers, inadequate capacity to process caseloads, as well as inadequate staffing both in law enforcement and adjudication. Rural women are particularly vulnerable under Liberia’s dual legal system, which subjects them to a wide range of unprotected social and legal regimes under customary law. Liberian customary law has been blamed for permitting harmful traditional practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation, which continue to go largely unchecked by the statutory system. For more information: Liberia Country Brief
About UN Women in Liberia
UN Women has worked strategically in Liberia since 2004 and currently holds one of the biggest offices in West Africa. It works closely with the Liberian Government and other UN Agencies through joint development programmes and the “Delivering as One” UNDAF model.
UN Women Liberia works in five priority areas: increasing women’s leadership and participation, the economic empowerment of women, women’s peace and security, gender responsive budgets and national priorities, and ending violence against women and girls. Some of UN Women Liberia’s Country Programme’s key initiatives include the establishment of the Liberia Women Empowerment Network, an association of women living with HIV, and the establishment of the Association of Women in Cross Border Trade, active in all fifteen counties with over 1,000 members. In addition, UN Women leads the Liberia Joint Programme for Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment and implements economic empowerment projects and training for Liberia’s Joint Programmes on Food Security and Nutrition, Adolescent Girls, and the Prevention and Response to SGBV.
UN Women Liberia has built networks of male advocates and community leaders committed to “zero tolerance” for violence against women, and has built and replicated the peace hut model, empowering community women to take action to combat violence and resolve disputes independently and with the support of the Police. UN Women supported Liberia in the development of its National Action Plan for the implementation of UN SCR 1325 and is supporting its implementation through ongoing support to the Ministries of Justice and Gender and Development. UN Women also supported Liberia in the development of a gender-mainstreamed Poverty Reduction Strategy, the development and presentation of its 1st to 6th CEDAW report and development of its first national gender policy. Click here to read more about UN Women’s work in Liberia.
Contact Info:Monrovia, Liberia Sheelagh Kathy Mangones, UN Women Liberia Representative Administrative Telephone: + 231 511 0088
VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Liberian People ‘Dance, Rise, Walk’ in support of One Billion Rising to End Violence Against Women and Girls
14 February 2013, Liberia - Watch this exclusive video from Liberia where the Liberian people danced and rose up to call for an end to Violence Against Women and Girls. Working closely with strong civil society partners, such as THINK, UN Women Liberia mobilised the population and joined the global movement “One Billion Rising” to end Violence Against Women and Girls on 14 February 2013. The “One Billion Rising” initiative was also supported by UN Women Executive Director, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, as well as the UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women and girls. To watch the short video, click here.
VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Liberian Deputy Minister of Research calls on women and men to work together to ensure women and children live in a world free of violence
15 January 2013, Addis Ababa - In an exclusive interview, Ms. Annete Kiawu, Deputy Minister of Research, Ministry of Gender & Development in Liberia, speaks of the importance of the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (14-16 January 2013) and what it will mean for the women of Africa.
Ms. Kiawu spoke of the trauma women suffer as a result of Gender Based Violence and how many cases of violence against women go unreported. Ms. Kiawu also made a strong call for “the countries, our fellow women, and our male counterparts…to join our efforts and work together to ensure our women and our children are protected and will be able to live in a world free of violence.” To watch the full interview, click here.
Enhancing women’s local knowledge and ownership of Savings Loans Association in Liberia
July 6 2012 – UN Women closed a two week-long training session on Savings and Loan Associations (SLA), conducted by Care, International. The initiative brought together 35 rural women from all 15 counties in Liberia and ten local NGOs in an effort to build skills, share experiences and expand local capacities for the expansion of the SLA methodology in rural Liberia. The rural women attendees were selected on the basis of their community leadership and their enthusiasm for spreading the SLA programing in their counties. Their current knowledge of the SLA structure and benefits was supplemented by lectures, exercises, and site visits. For the full article, click here.
Partners in West Africa of the Trust Fund of the United Nations to End Violence against Women are working hard to prevent violence
18 April 2012 - Partners in West Africa of the Trust Fund of the United Nations to End Violence against Women are working hard to prevent violence and provide basic services – including legal assistance, medical care, shelter and psychological support – for women and girls survivors of violence. This is the case in Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia where several partners are working with local communities and government to help spur a change, both behavioral and institutional, through innovative initiatives.To read the mission report on the Trust Fund visit in Liberia, Click here
International Women’s Day : “Connect, Reconcile and Empower Women and Girls for the Future”
March, 2012 – HE President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf launched the newly formed Adolescent Girls Unit at the Ministry of Gender and Development, and the African Women Entrepreneurship Program, a program to empower African female entrepreneurs. Other events carried out included, in Monrovia, a visit by the Liberian National Police and the UN Police (UNPOL) to female inmates at the Monrovia Central Prison, and in Bomi County, a street parade including Women Organizations, Religion leaders, differently-abled women, and local government authorities. For the full article,click here .
Women traders in Liberia join forces to increase economic opportunities & stop sexual abuse, exploitation & harassment
February 29 2012 – Women traders in West Africa continue to face disrespect by border security forces and are often faced with sexual harassment and sexual exploitation in the process of crossing security checkpoints. In response women working in cross border trade in Liberia gathered in Sanniquellie in Nimba County from the first to the fourth of February to discuss common issues and develop an agenda for action. Please click here to read the full article.
The Nobel Peace Prize 2011: “The universality of women’s struggles”
On December 10, 2011, during the Official Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in the Norwegian capital Oslo, the prestigious award was bestowed upon three women; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”. The choice of the 2011 laureates was based on the affirmation that there can be no democracy and lasting peace, without women’s equal opportunities to influence developments at all societal levels. The official ceremony was held in Oslo City Hall on Saturday the 10th of December. It was graced by the royal family of Norway, and guest from across the World including ordinary Liberian Women who stood up for peace in the face of danger and threats to their lives. Among the guests were UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, UN Women Regional Director for West Africa Josephine Odera and UN Women Country Director of Liberia Izeduwa Derex-briggs, who had all come to celebrate with the laureates and to affirm UN women’s continuing commitment to the universal struggle for women. Click here to read the full article.
31 October, 2011 – Seventeen markets across five counties in Liberia closed for one day in October as 982 market women graduated from the Next Level Business Programme. The UN supported three month programme trained women in business and financial skills, in order to empower them to develop their businesses and improve profits. The programme was so successful it will be looking to expand to reach an additional 2000 women next year. Click here to read the full article.
On October 7, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to three women advocates, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman, “for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”. Johnson Sirleaf and Gbowee, both from Libera, have an historical partnership with UN Women West Africa (ex UNIFEM). “UN Women stands beside women around the world who are demanding that their voices be heard and they have equal participation in decision-making” -UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet. Click here to read the full article.
On October 7th, the Nobel Peace Prize 2011 was awarded jointly to three women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee announced that the women were awarded the prize “for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Click here to read the full article.
22 September 2011, Monrovia, Liberia – During the Global Open Day for Women and Peace, Special Representative of the Secretary General in Liberia, Ellen Margrethe Loj, met with 30 Liberian Women Leaders at Cape Hotel in Monrovia to discuss the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.
Click here to read the full article.
9 September 2011, Monrovia, Liberia – Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, officially launched the Progress of the World’s Women Report: In Pursuit of Justice, along with Liberia’s revised National Action Plan on Gender Based Violence (NAP on GBV). H. E. Madame Johnson-Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratically elected female President and the recipient of prestigious awards such as the MDG 3 award, the African Gender Award and the Women of Excellence Award.The Progress of the World’s Women Report: In Pursuit of Justice is the first major report published by UNWomen. It highlights the important progress made towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment around the globe, but also the many complex barriers still remaining. The fourth chapter of the report features a case study of Liberia on the topic of justice for women during and after conflict. Click here to read the full article.
17 June 2011, Dakar, Senegal – In a most memorable evening with more than 500 guests in attendance chanting and singing along toThis is our time, led by Liberian songstress Miatta Fahnbullen, the 2011 African Gender Forum and Award (AFGA) was presented to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and her country on Friday, June 17 by the President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, alonside Senegal’s Minister of Gender, Awa Ndiaye; the Chairwoman of the Selecting Committee of AGFA, Gertrude Mongella; and the Executive Director of Femmes Africa Solidarity (co-0rganizer of the event), Ms. Binta Diop.
Click here to read the full article.
8 March 2011 – Monrovia, Liberia – UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet commemorated the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD) with a visit to Liberia’s capital,Monrovia, 7–8 March 2011, where she engaged with women demonstrating leadership in rebuilding the country from the conflict that dominated its recent history.
On her visit, she met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, community peace-builders as well as women peacekeepers. One of her first acts upon arriving in Monrovia was to meet with women in the security sector for an exchange of views on the challenges that women face in this area. Bachelet, a former defense minister in her native Chile, spoke forcefully on the need for women to be involved in national security, as soldiers, police personnel, prison guards and customs officials. Click here to read the full article.
‘Liberia: Tackling the Legacy of Violence against Women’
Watch this short video on how women tackle the legacy of sexual violence in post conflict Liberia, their struggle for justice and the role of ‘Peace Huts’. “The key is to continue to invest in the power of women”. Producer: UNTV, UN Women; Date of Release: July 2011. Length: 4 min 27 sec
Listen to an interview with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Sheriff Bojang Jnr of West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) during UN sponsored conference on Gender Parity and GIMAC African Gender award. President Johnson Sirleaf is the first democratically elected African female Head of State and Nobel Peace Prize winner 2011.
In the interview President Johnson Sirleaf describes her feelings after having been awarded the African Gender Award 2011 and pays tribute to the people of Liberia.
Please click here.
Listen to an interview with prominent Liberian activist Etweda Cooper by Sheriff Bojang Jnr of West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR).
Ms Cooper describes the devastating effects of war on the lives of Liberian women, about taking a stand and the struggle for peace.
Please click here.
Press Releases and News Briefs
- Liberia Table of Activities for International Women’s Day 2013
- Liberia Table of Activities for International Women’s Day 2012
- Newsbrief: UN Women Supports Equal Opportunities Policy for the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, Monrovia, Liberia – 30 November 2011.
- UN WOMEN Liberia Pilots Gender Responsive Budgeting Initiative in Grand Bassa County, Liberia – 3-6 October 2011
- Liberian Women Advocate for Land Rights, Gender-Based Violence and Skills Training, Fair Ground Town Hall, Buchanan, Grand Bassa, Liberia – 17-19 August 2011
- Leadership and Organizational Training for Women in Cross Border Trade, Gbarnga, Bong County, Miriam T. O’Brien (MTOB) Training Center, Liberia –May 2011
- UN Women and the Ministry of Gender and Development Lead the Implementation of UN SCR 1325 in Liberia