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Empowering Girls and Women After Ebola
By admin April 20, 2017

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Women farming in Liberia | UNMIL Photo

It has been three years since the outbreak of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa. Between 2014 and 2015, a total of 28,616 Ebola cases have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, with 11,310 deaths. Aside from the devastating health effects and loss of life, the Ebola crisis had a pronounced impact on the economies of the three most affected countries in west Africa, i.e. Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where it slowed growth significantly. Today, they are still dealing with the socio-economic challenges in the aftermath of Ebola.

This month, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection of Liberia launched the Girls Ebola Recovery Livelihood Support (GERLS) project in the country. Funded by the World Bank, the project will benefit 2,000 adolescent girls and young women in three counties by providing free-of-charge life and business skills training, as well as cash grants to support business expansion. In her speech at the launch of the project, Foreign Affairs Minister Marjon Kamara said the project will provide income support to adolescent girls whose livelihoods were destroyed by the Ebola virus outbreak. “All who form part of this coalition for girl’s empowerment must be commended as it is the beginning of a process that will also in time touch the lives of young women in other counties, a seed that will eventually sprout in all fifteen counties of our country,” said the Minister.

Girls and women are particularly vulnerable and disproportionately affected during the Ebola outbreak. Even before Ebola, women were in a disadvantaged position in various aspects of life, from economic opportunities to decision making. The Ebola outbreak put women and girls in an even worse situation. The burden of taking care of the infected often fell on women’s shoulders and put them at a much higher risk. Across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, women accounted for up to 60 percent of those who have died. In Liberia alone, health officials reported that 75 percent of Ebola cases are women. As thousands of children have lost one or both parents to Ebola, teenage girls in the family stepped into parental role for their younger siblings.

As Liberia recovering from the crisis and tackling with economic stagnation, empowering girls and women are essential. “Enhancing the productive capacities of girls and young women has multiple impacts; it boosts their self-esteem, the prospects of gainful employment, and the courage to resist injustices and assert their equality with male counterparts,” said the Minister.

There have also been efforts to empower women politically. According to a new law passed last year, Liberian women will be given five guaranteed seats in the Lower House of Parliament. Despite having a woman president, Liberia ranks among the lowest in terms of women’s participation in governance with less than 10 percent women in legislature.  With the general election taking place in October this year, the Liberian President has expressed optimism that the elections will witness more women participation.

 

Read more:

Ebola’s Devastating Impact on Girls and Women

Gender Ministry Launches Girls Ebola Recovery Support Project

Liberia: Empower Women, Transform a Nation

A celebratory rise in women’s political participation


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