Feature story

Liberia launches national agenda to improve the health of women and girls

18 October 2010

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, HRH Princess Mathilde of Belgium, and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé in Monrovia 18 October, 2010. Credit: UNAIDS

Following a 14-year civil war, Liberia has faced a host of post-conflict challenges that have increased the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV infection, including gender-related violence, poverty, population displacement and limited access to education and health services.

Women and girls represent 58% of the estimated 36 000 people living with HIV in Liberia. HIV prevalence among young women aged 15-24 is about three times higher than that of young men.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—Africa’s first democratically-elected female head of state—today unveiled a national roadmap for improving the health and well-being of women and girls. Launched in collaboration with HRH Princess Mathilde of Belgium, a Goodwill Ambassador for UNAIDS and UNICEF, Liberia’s new Agenda for accelerating country actions for women, girls, gender equality and HIV aims to:

  • Strengthen data collection and analysis to better understand the impact of the HIV epidemic on women and girls in Liberia
  • Accelerate access to integrated reproductive and HIV services for women and girls
  • Contribute to broader efforts to stop violence against women and girls

Liberia’s national Agenda is based on a global plan developed by UNAIDS and partners to address the gender inequalities and human rights violations that put women and girls at a greater risk of HIV. Speaking at a launch event in Monrovia, President Sirleaf said she was proud that Liberia had been selected as the first country to roll out this national Agenda.

I congratulate President Sirleaf for embracing this Agenda—for recognizing and supporting your most valuable natural resource: women and girls

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, who is on an official visit to Liberia with Princess Mathilde and UNICEF, praised Liberian authorities for placing AIDS and sexual and gender-based violence at the heart of the country’s post-war recovery efforts.

“I congratulate President Sirleaf for embracing this Agenda—for recognizing and supporting your most valuable natural resource: women and girls,” said Mr Sidibé. “Women are the solid centre of human life—of families, communities and care.”

Princess Mathilde focused her remarks on the critical importance of education in solving the nation’s ills. “Education is linked to the well-being of children,” she said. “It gives women the possibility to become economically self sufficient. It gives them the opportunity to decide on matters that concern their own lives. It gives them a voice with which to defend their own interests.”

The three-day joint mission to Liberia, which kicked off today, includes meetings with senior government authorities, associations of people living with HIV, and health and medical providers.