In Liberia, violence against women is very common, not only among families but also in spaces that otherwise should socially, economically and politically bring people together for the growth, prosperity and wellbeing of towns and cities
The lack of adequate public services in Liberia greatly contributes to women and girls vulnerability to sexual violence against women in public places. The fragile educational system, poor urban planning to address issues relating to lighting, transportation and water and sanitation; weak zoning system, poor implementation of zoning laws and high level of corruption among government officers are some factors that hinder the mobility and safety for women and girls.
Over the past three years, Action Aid Liberia has worked with Female University Students with a focus on the Safe Cities Programme as the number of women receiving higher education in Liberia is gradually increasing. These students are from diverse backgrounds, including poor and rural communities. We are now expanding the programme to work with, youth, high school student, poor urban women who involved in market trading, as they are very vulnerable walking in the public spaces all day. We will also target the local and national authorities to ensure they work to improve the safety in the cities.
During background research for this programme and based, female students revealed that they experience many forms of violence on their way to and on university campuses, including sexual harassment. There is lack of adequate transportation services, poor washroom services, as well as a lack of women-friendly services. Furthermore, the report on Women and City 2, suggests that students are some of the most mobile of young women, leaving them especially vulnerable to violence and harassment on their way to and from campus, as well as on public transportation in the surrounding urban areas.
Our Safe Cities programme is implemented in four urban cities in Liberia: Monrovia, Gbarnga, Buchanan and Zwedru. Monrovia is the capital of Liberia, and also hosts the largest percentage of the population. About 32% of the whole Liberian population resides in Montserrado county, in which Monrovia lies. In all cities electricity is limited, which means there is also limited access to street lights during evening time. This makes moving around in public spaces during night extra dangerous for people in the city, but especially for women and girls.
Some of the activities in the programme are:
- Establishing and strengthening women forums in universities and communities.
- Support advocacy meetings with relevant government line ministries and other stakeholders
- Strengthen existing national taskforce against SGBV to address issues relating to sexual violence against women in public spaces
- Local and national awareness campaigns on Safe Cities
- Safe Cities campaign