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11. September 2019

Liberia: Feminist campaign #Weareunprotected!

Although women and girls in Liberia face daily violence, government and those responsible often remain inactive. So also in the case of sexualised assaults on female students of a school run by the US American charitable organisation More Than Me. Our partner organisation medica Liberia thereupon organised a publicity campaign, which resulted in the biggest protest march in the history of Liberia.

It all started with an investigative report. In October 2018, the US American Time Magazine, together with the news agency ProPublica, published an article titled “Unprotected”. The report describes how, in a school run by the US American charitable organisation More Than Me, around 30 young girls were subjected to sexualised assaults. As well as covering the assaults, the report also claimed that despite numerous allegations, those in charge failed to take appropriate action, and that government representatives did nothing to help survivors.

When the report was published, members of the Liberian Feminist Forum and other women’s rights organisations, within a few weeks, organized a publicity campaign, using the motto #weareuprotected. One of them: our partner organisation medica Liberia. Through its networks and in the communities in which medica Liberia has been active for many years, the campaign went viral: only one week later, on 18th October 2018, people came together for one of the biggest protest marches in the history of the country. This was followed one month later by the second wave of protests. Within a 16-day period, the Liberian Feminist Forum organised mass sit-ins and a broad-based awareness-raising campaign.

Women and girls in Liberia are affected by violence in all areas of their lives

“What happened in the school was nothing new,” Caroline Bowah says. “It stands for all the violence experienced by women and girls in Liberia, for their lack of protection and for the impunity of the perpetrators.” Women and girls are affected by violence in all areas of their lives: in the workplace, at school, at home and in their community. Moreover, in the months prior to the release of the documentary, there was an increase in the cases of violence against women. The influence of traditional forces is growing. Progress achieved in the past years, for example the legislation against rape and domestic violence, is in danger of being watered down.

These developments in the country have triggered the various protests. The demonstrators are calling on the government to be consistent in their punishment of perpetrators and provide protection and counselling to survivors of sexualised violence. medica Liberia, one of the leading and well-known women’s organisations in Liberia, works on behalf of women and girls in the southeast of the country and in the region around the capital. Alongside its advocacy work, the organisation also provides direct support: its staff, for example, organise “Girls’ Clubs”, in which girls can speak freely to one another. Information on sexuality, contraception and women’s rights are at the heart of these meetings.

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Source of the text: Annual report 2018, p. 16-17

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