President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's presence has not translated into women rising from the grassroots to be equally represented in decision-making forums in the country, writes Muneinazvo Kujeke, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.
However, in Liberia, women are yet to take their rightful and equal place in society, and Johnson Sirleaf's presence has not translated into Liberian women rising from the grassroots to be equally represented in decision-making forums. In October 2017, a new government will be elected and Johnson Sirleaf's term will come to an end.
During Liberia's civil war, women emerged as the flag bearers of peace through the 'Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace' initiative at the climax of the 14-year conflict. Through their collective action, women were instrumental in ensuring that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2003) was signed, which was crucial to paving the way to sustainable peace.
However, despite this prominent role in driving peace, greater empowerment for women on the ground is yet to happen. The Liberian National Gender Policy in 2009 noted that women were lagging behind in development, and that gender disparities and imbalances were evident in everyday life.
During Liberia's civil war, women emerged as the flag bearers of peace.
Although women account for 54% of the labour force, they remain severely marginalised, and lack the means to ensure a sustainable livelihood because they are underpaid and work within the informal sector. In terms of illiteracy rates, women account for 60%, and the maternal mortality rate in the country is very high when compared to global figures. Furthermore, 48% of Liberian girls fall pregnant before the age 18, which contributes to high levels of unemployment among young women.
Sexual and gender-based violence and exploitation is also very high in the country, especially among young girls. Sexual violence was rampant during the war, and 13 years later, rape and sexual violence remain a major problem.
In 2009, the Liberian government developed a four-year National Action Plan to respond to the recommendations of the United Nations resolution 1325, which pertains to women in peace and security. Yet four years on, little has been implemented.