Fourteen years of civil war over power and raw materials have left lasting scars in Liberia. Many regions are characterised by extreme poverty, which very often leads to discrimination and violence. Women and girls are the main victims: domestic violence, sexual exploitation and rape are everyday occurrences. Support programmes are lacking, as is any general awareness of women's rights or how to prevent violence. In 2013 the Liberian government did work on measures to improve the women's rights situation, but their impact is very slow. Particularly in south-east Liberia, far away from the populated west coast, the infrastructure is weak and state institutions or aid organisations are rare. Tens of thousands of refugees from the Ivory Coast have also been staying in the border region since 2011 and these have to be supplied as well.

  • In Liberia, an estimated two out of three women were raped during the civil war from 1989 until 2003
  • Estimates suggest that 50-70 per cent of women have been raped – often this involved gang rape, sexual torture and mutilation. 1 Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces: Sexual violence in armed conflict, 2007 Sexualised violence was carried out by all sides in the conflict.
  • In 2003, 74 per cent of respondents in a sample survey of 388 female refugees said they had experienced sexualised violence which had been intended to drive them out of their houses. 55 per cent reported they had experienced sexualised violence during their displacement.
  • An estimated 40 per cent of the 53,000 combatants were child soldiers, including about 2,000 girls. Child soldiers were almost always affected by sexual exploitation.
  • Psychosocial or medical care is only available for raped women in a tiny minority of cases.
  • Teenage pregnancy is a particular problem: nearly one in five young women in Liberia has her first child at the age of 15 to 19.
medica mondiale Liberia has built up a wide network to provide rapid support and protection to women even in the remotest villages. Copyright: Sanne Kaperlat/medica mondiale
medica mondiale Liberia has built up a wide network to provide rapid support and protection to women even in the remotest villages.

Since 2006, medica mondiale has been doing work in the structurally weak southeast of Liberia – in a joint project with Deutsche Welthungerhilfe for medical and psychosocial care for Liberian women. The aim is to improve women’s life situation and implement preventive measures to stop violence against women. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development and is part of a programme of the Reconstruction Credit Institute.

Project region: Monrovia and River Gee, Grand Gedeh and Sinoe provinces

Activities & Objectives: setting up solidary and protective networks; Reintegration and reconstruction programme; Core funding and combating Ebola; Empowering local communities in the fight against Ebola; Organisational development

Partners: Medica Liberia

Funding: Welthungerhilfe e.V. through the Reconstruction Loan Corporation (KfW), the Pro Victimis Foundation, Medicor Foundation, Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), private donations

Project expenses 2015: 1.412.113,32 euro

More than 260 women and girls took advantage of the legal advice provided by Medica Liberia in 2015.

 

More than 2,800 psychosocial, medical, and legal counselling sessions were provided to women and girls in our target areas

385 women worked in solidarity and support groups in their villages to counter violence and thereby provided women with easily accessible, fast, and trauma-sensitive support.

About 14,000 women, men and youths from a total of 73 municipalities have participated in awareness- raising sessions on sexualised violence and its consequences provided by the network of Medica Liberia counsellors.

Source 'facts & figures': annual report 2015

Counsellors trained in trauma work and psychosocial support help women to develop new prospects in life. Copyright: Rendel Freude
Counsellors trained in trauma work and psychosocial support help women to develop new prospects in life.

Solidarity network against violence

In remote areas of the South East, most women and girls do not know who they can turn to when they are faced with violence or threats of violence. So medica mondiale Liberia has built up a wide network to provide rapid support and protection to women even in the remotest villages. Volunteers have been trained to be community counsellors for these women. Together with the women seeking help, they consider the options available to deal with a case of rape or violence in the family, and accompany women to hospital, the police or court. The community counsellors also mediate between survivors and their family members. Where appropriate, they involve the village elders in the conflict resolution efforts. In serious cases, the volunteers facilitate contact between the rape survivors and the medica mondiale Liberia team in the county capitals. The women then receive the appropriate psychosocial, legal or medical counselling – seriously injured survivors are accompanied to hospital. In medica mondiale’s women’s centre in Fish Town, rape survivors can find temporary refuge in its shelter.

Awareness raising and education about violence against women

In order to encourage village populations to accept responsibility for protecting women, medica mondiale Liberia organises events in market places, schools and hospital wards to raise awareness of human rights, women’s rights and the issue of sexualised violence. Other awareness campaigns, theatre performances and radio programmes also serve as means to get this information to women and men in the villages. In addition, medica mondiale offers training sessions to the authorities, such as the police, courts, prisons, schools and hospitals. The goal is to raise awareness regarding the issue of violence against women, ensure they know how to use trauma-sensitive working methods, and make it clear that rape is a serious breach of human rights.

medica mondiale draws public attention to the precarious situation of Liberian women. Copyright: Sabine Fründt
medica mondiale draws public attention to the precarious situation of Liberian women.

Political commitment in Monrovia

In order to bring about far-reaching improvements in Liberia, medica mondiale is also active at the political level. In the capital, Monrovia, medica mondiale works together with other organisations and the Gender and Justice Ministries on fundamental policy issues regarding the situation of women in the country. medica mondiale Liberia is a member of the National Task Force against Sexual and Gender Based Violence and contributed to the development of the domestic violence law and the Liberian National Plan of Action to implement the UN Resolution 1325, designed to integrate women into the peace process.

The fight against Ebola

Since the beginning of Ebola crisis in summer 2014 the team of medica mondiale Liberia is helping to deal with the epidemic. For example our counsellors are carrying out awareness work to inform women in the medica mondiale solidarity groups about Ebola and preventive measures. These solidarity groups then pass on the information to village elders and religious leaders about how a further proliferation of the epidemic can be stopped. Additionally, the staff at medica mondiale Liberia works together with healthcare professionals to distribute gloves, protective goggles, masks and disinfectant as well as information material.