medica mondiale Liberia, Fishtown
Civil war raged for almost 15 years in Liberia, from 1989 until 2003. Combating government units and rebels plunged the country into ceaseless turmoil. Women were the primary victims of this war. Not only did they lose their families, but they were also mutilated, sexually abused, sold as forced prostitutes or made soldiers. An estimated two out of three women were raped during that time – this equals just under one million women.
A glimmer of hope is the female president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who was elected in 2006. Her endeavours to grant women rights, however, reach rural areas only slowly. Despite highly severe legislation against sexualised violence, rapes are still among the most frequent crimes and the majority of offenders walk around unpunished.
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.
The life of women after the civil war
Years of fighting have not only ruined Liberia and destroyed its infrastructure, but have also left family relations and social networks wrecked. The status of women has by no means taken a positive development in post-war society. They are still exposed to rape and oppression. They often have to work hard and fight for their existence and that of their children.
The women’s centre in Fishtown
In May 2006, medica mondiale launched an extensive project in the southeast of Liberia focusing on the poorest and least developed areas of Liberia. The first and most important measure was to set up a women’s centre in Fishtown, the capital of the River Gee province. Thanks to the many helpers on site, the women’s centre was inaugurated in November 2007. Within a short period of time, it has developed into an important point of contact for women and girls from the entire environs. Women can meet there and remain undisturbed, thus finding protection from day-to-day violence.
Psychosocial care and training
The main objective of the newly founded women’s centre in Fishtown is to enable women to start from scratch in Liberian society. Counsellors trained in trauma work and psychosocial support help women to overcome their traumatic experiences of war and thus to develop new prospects in life. What is more, they are trained in a trade so that they can make a modest living.
Information and prevention
Violent assaults are a part of women’s everyday life even in the post-war period. It is therefore important to effectively protect women and girls against violence and assaults also in future. Direct support for women and girls is therefore combined with preventive work and information campaigns in the communities. SOS protection groups are also set up in the villages in order to provide women with immediate help if they have been raped or beaten up.
Politics for Liberia’s women
In addition to local project work, medica mondiale Liberia also acts at national level. medica mondiale co-operates with civil organisations and social institutions in the capital Monrovia in order to exert an influence on the Liberian government’s national strategies, guidelines and legislation. medica mondiale uses documentation of violence against women, case studies and background analyses to draw public attention to the precarious situation of Liberian women. This is the only way to raise public awareness, so that women can in future be protected.