Female president gives hope to Liberian women
In recent years, belief in the future has returned to Liberia, a country that has suffered greatly from a 14-year civil war. However, the situation remains difficult for many people, particularly women.
In 2005, Liberia inaugurated Africa’s first democratically elected female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Two years previously a peace agreement had been signed, bringing an end to the 14-year civil war. Since then, the situation in the country has slowly improved. One of the government’s first actions was to provide electricity and water to parts of the capital, Monrovia.
However, six out of 10 Liberians are still living in poverty and a large proportion of the population do not participate in the political life. A large majority depends on subsistence farming and fishing.
Because few have had the chance of higher education, the state apparatus functions poorly. There are instead many informal power networks that function alongside the formal structures. Corruption is common, which means that confidence in the judicial system is low.
Women and girls have a particularly difficult situation in Liberia. According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as three-quarters of all women have been raped and as many as 90 percent have been subjected to violence and/or sexually-related violence. A new law against rape was introduced in 2006 and the government has campaigned to reduce sexual violence. Some of the dialogue between Sweden and Liberia will therefore concern how the UN’s Security Council Resolution 1325, on women, peace and security, will be implemented.
Almost half of Liberia’s population is under 15. The economy will largely determine whether the fragile peace will be maintained. If growth is good and many Liberians share in the benefits, it will reduce the risk of new conflicts.
The government is therefore planning to renegotiate trade agreements with the World Trade Organization (WTO), with the EU and through its membership in the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS). It also wants to try to increase foreign investments in the country in the areas of minerals, forestry and rubber.
There is also a dream that this beautiful country, with its long coastline, will one day attract tourists.
The situation in Liberia is directly dependent on the situation in the neighbouring countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. The political situation remains unsettled in many areas in the region. Close to 1 million Liberians live outside Liberia.
The name Liberia comes from the Latin word “liber”, which means free. The country was created in the mid-19th century as a free state for former slaves from the United States.
Sweden’s priorities in Liberia include working for democratic governance and better human rights and promoting the development of agriculture, and trade and industry, including regional and international trade.