As we close the door on 2013, we must pause to reflect on stories that were discussed this past year on the Women and Family Page. Even as the President of Liberia has made it her top priority to combat violence and abuse against women, men still find it difficult to accept that women remain important to every society.
In our different topics, we looked at different activities of women around Liberia and how their actions benefit them. We also took our time to retrospect on how important women empowerment can better the nation in all aspects.
Readers, here is a look back at the topics covered in the Women and Family columns since I took over as columnist.
Girl Child Soldiers
Many times when people hear or talk about child soldiers, they most times only consider male child soldiers, often neglecting the girl child soldiers, too, who also actively fought alongside the boy soldiers.
Most people tend to forget that girls were also recruited against their will to be child soldiers, at the same time serving as sex-slaves for the commanders or bigger boys and men.
Girls were the worst victims of the brutal civil conflict. Some still carry the scars of unwanted children because of rape by their commanders and their male counterparts.
In 2013 we interviewed some of these women and got their side of the story.
We found out the difficulties these young women face reintegrating into post-war society, and re-building their self esteem. After being bullied, abused, raped, and brainwashed into acts of horrible violence, they often feel like strangers in their own nation. We salute these young women and thank them for being brave and sharing their stories with us.
Teenage Pregnancy and Abortions
Since the civil crisis in Liberia, teenage pregnancies and abortions have become one of Liberia’s greatest social ills over the years. Our column tackled the issue and questioned why it is often seen as a social taboo to discuss.
Young girls who get pregnant these days range from as young as 12 to 19 years of age, making them vulnerable to the possibility of death due to complications from birth and illegal abortions. Many times these pregnancies are at the hands of adults who know better, but just don’t care. They use manipulation, lies, and often out and out rape to impregnate these girls.
Many of our daughters, sisters, wives and mothers carry the burden of early child birth or abortion alone. In 2013 we decided to help them ease that burden by lessening it through education.
Market Women in the Spotlight
Despite the challenges they face on a daily basis, women have continued to play a vital role in every sector of the country. Women have contributed in different ways, at different times in relation to developmental issues in the country.
The Liberian Daily Observer’s W&F desk visited the Rally-time Market and spoke to women about the market and how they survive on the income generated by their businesses. We gathered information on the challenges and rewards of being a woman in small business in Liberia.
As a way of encouraging Liberian Market Women, the Liberian Observer’s Women & Family Page hopes to continue shining a light on these intrepid entrepreneurs and their contributions to the nation in the year ahead.
Why 60% of People with HIV/AIDS in Liberia are Women
According to the UNAIDS, the prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Liberia is 1.5 percent.
This figure is based on the 2007 Liberia Demography and Health Survey (LDHS).
This means at least 33,671 persons are living with the HIV virus that leads to AIDS, and sixty percent of this number is female.
The lack of education among women and the refusal among many men to use protection are two of the greatest contributing factors. These factors along with feminine biology put females at risk. The shape and constitution of the mucus membrane in a woman’s vagina, there is also a greater possibility of small cuts in the area coming into contact with sexual fluids. This causes inflammation (swelling), which makes being infiltrated by different types of bacteria easier. A side effect of this is a condition known as bacterial vaginosis (BV). This condition increases a woman’s likelihood of contracting the HIV virus. That is why condoms are an absolute must in the life of any woman who chooses to be sexually active in these modern times. The best bet for modern young women is not to give in to peer pressure and wait until you are armed with the facts and find a man you trust.
WOLPNET: ‘FGM, Early Marriage Unacceptable’
The Women of Liberia Peace Network (WOLPNET) described the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Liberia, as an unacceptable practice that should be abolished.
“These practices contravene international laws like the African Union (AU) Protocol and CEDAW, to which Liberia is a signatory,” the organization said through a press release.
“While we bitterly frown on FGM, we also recognize some positive things that come out of the traditional school, such as training in household care, respect for elders, dancing, singing and other traditional morals,” said WOLPNET’s Acting Executive Director, Marian Gonyor.
The release quoted her as saying, “The key unacceptable issue is the unhealthy condition under which the girls and women stay in while admitted in the bush.”
The group said it had begun rolling out plans to partner with relevant civil society organizations and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to develop an implementable plan-of-action tool to abolish FGM and early marriage.
Women continue to be the backbone of Liberian society. We are no longer “hiding in plain sight” taking secondary roles behind our men. We are equals embracing every role society has for us; from the traditional roles of wife and mother, to more modern roles like leadership. The Daily Observer’s Women and Family desk hopes to continue sharing issues that empower women, and enlighten the general public. In 2014 we plan to tackle issues such as: Women and the economy, the modernization of the African Woman, Sensitizing men to the perils of abuse, and the freeing power of education. We wish you a happy and prosperous New Year and look forward to seeing you in 2014.