By: Dr. Denise Dunning, Program Director, Public Health Institute
Girls and women in Liberia are successfully advocating for their rights in the face of pervasive gender-based violence. During Liberia’s 14-year civil war, 75% of girls and women were victims of rape and 90% experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. To combat this devastating legacy in post-conflict Liberia, the Adolescent Girls’ Advocacy & Leadership Initiative (AGALI) is improving girls’ rights, health, education, and livelihoods. Since 2009, AGALI has engaged adolescent girls in developing their own solutions to the challenges they face, and built a global movement of leaders successfully advocating for girl-centered laws, policies, budgets, and programs in Africa and Latin America.
AGALI competitively selects visionary leaders from civil society, government, and media to participate in a year-long Fellowship program that incorporates intensive capacity building, grant-making, and technical assistance. AGALI Fellows learn about the social and economic challenges facing girls, analyze political and legal opportunities to advance girls’ rights, and develop their own targeted advocacy strategies to improve girls’ lives in Liberia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Recognizing the enormous social, economic, and health challenges facing girls in Liberia, AGALI selected the first cohort of Liberian Fellows in 2010. In a country plagued by violence and poverty, AGALI’s Liberian Fellows sought to achieve an audacious goal – to transform the lives of Liberian girls by advocating for a national law to guarantee their right to education, health, inheritance, and protection from violence, female genital cutting, and child marriage.
AGALI awarded funding and provided technical support to two Liberian leaders to jointly advocate for passage of a national Children’s Law. AGALI Fellows Rosana Schaack, Executive Director of THINK, and Aisha Cooper Bruce, Program Director of HOPE, launched a strategy that included advocacy with Liberian Senators, partnership with government ministries and the UN, media advocacy, and empowerment of adolescent girls to become leaders and advocates.
In addition to high-level political advocacy with policymakers, the AGALI Fellows empowered girls to play a leadership role in the advocacy campaign. With support from AGALI, Aisha and Rosana built the capacity of girl leaders and members of the Children’s Parliament, the highest representative body for children in Liberia. More than 70 representatives of the Children’s Parliament and local girls’ clubs learned to advocate for their own needs and formed an integral part of the national advocacy campaign. A short video documenting this advocacy campaign is available here and the published case study describing the full strategy is available here.
Thanks to the vision, leadership, and tireless advocacy of AGALI’s Liberian Fellows and their adolescent girl partners, the Liberian Senate passed the Children’s Law on the last day of the 2011 Senate session. Liberia’s new national Children’s Law specifically promotes the rights of adolescent girls and is one of the most comprehensive pieces of children’s rights legislation in Africa. After celebrating this national victory, AGALI is supporting Rosana and Aisha to continue engaging girl leaders to ensure the law’s full funding and implementation.
Through AGALI’s partnership with Liberian advocates, more than 600,000 adolescent girls will have access to education, health, and protection, and the rights of Liberian girls will no longer be denied. To learn more about AGALI, please click here.
Photograph via author shows Ma Hawa Ngaima (Former Deputy Speaker of Liberia’s Children’s Parliament) leading the International Day of the Girl March in Monrovia, Liberia.