Margaret Bouibo is distributing record books during one of the community workshop meetings. Photo: Wolobah Sali

Why The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation works in Liberia

Liberia has a history of violence and armed conflict. The country’s women’s movement has played a major role in establishing peace – especially in 2003, when they helped end the second civil war. In a context where many have been quick to take up arms, the movement distinguishes itself by its refusal to resort to violence.

One significant illustration of the empowerment of Liberian women was the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the country’s and Africa’s first democratically elected female president. Yet despite this positive evolution, structural inequality persists.

Sexual violence during war

The Liberia war, which was in stages from 1990 – 2003 which displaced millions and killed up to 250,000 people, greatly impacted women. Many women suffered sexual exploitation, abuse, and torture if they refused to provide what the rebels demanded.

WHO reported that during the 14 years of civil conflict in Liberia, the incidence of rape was high among women and girls. It is estimated that from 1990–2003 between 61.4 and 77.4 percent of women and girls in Liberia were raped during the war.

Women’s political representation and gender-based violence

Women’s representation in Liberian politics remains low: 84% of seats in the national legislature are held by men. Women make up less than 11% of the 103 seats in the national Legislature. Many women struggle to access the labour market or get loans. Held back by illiteracy and a lack of education, they are often stuck in extreme poverty. Gender-based violence is worryingly prevalent in society – from rape and domestic abuse to harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation.

In theory, Liberia has laws to protect women’s rights, including a national action plan on UNSC resolution 1325. But as most of these laws remain unimplemented, they have made little difference on women’s daily lives.

Published 3 April 2024