Violence against women in Liberia: A dialogue with students

Friday, November 25, 2011 - 13:09

As part of events planned for the launch of our new multi-country report, Women and the City: Examining the gender impact of violence and urbanization, ActionAid Liberia, in partnership with Paramount Young Women Initiative, conducted two dialogues with university students to highlight findings from the report.

The main goal of the dialogue was to validate the research results but also to develop the messages of the campaign. The dialogues which were held on the campuses of the University of Liberia and Cuttington University brought together about 75 students and faculty members on the 21 and 22 November.

During the discussions, female students admitted to experiencing different forms of violence including sexual harassment, intimidations, verbal and physical assaults while travelling to and from campus. 

In addition, we found that the students said that female students have limited knowledge and understanding on women’s rights and that university guidelines are generic and not women-focused.

On campus, students at the dialogue reiterated the report finding that transactional sex or “sex for grades” is a major problem across all three universities, with many female students having encountered some form of harassment from their male tutor. 

Such complaints are often ignored or covered up and women complainants feel “branded” on campus. Consistent with research globally, most perpetrators were known to the victims, including old boyfriends, teachers and others within the school authorities.

Among a range of recommendations, students called for university teachers to form part of the Safe Cities Initiative. The students called for professors who violate women’s rights to be “named” and “shamed” and banned from teaching.

The students recommended that more awareness programmes on women should be organized and implemented at the university level and also that training opportunities which empower young women and girls to know their self worth should be provided. It was recommended that the Ministry of Education should set-up a task force that will monitor violence against women at the university as well as penalise perpetrators, be it teachers, male students or other faculty.