Target: Liberian Government and Policy Makers
Goal: Protect women seeking an education from sexual exploitation
An Inter Press Service report detailing the experience of a young Liberian woman named Patricia Kollie, paints a very grim picture of the current education system in her home country. Kollie was recently expelled for becoming pregnant, after being told, “Since you feel you’re big, go home. I can’t keep you in my school,” by school administrators.
Upon digging deeper, it becomes clear that Kollie’s situation is a microcosm for the education system as a whole—especially for young women. It is against school policy for schools to keep pregnant women in attendance, but many times the school fees drive women to seek out pregnancy and thus, financial support from the father. However, when these women become pregnant, they are expelled and many of them drop out before having the chance to return and complete their education.
As discussed by the IPS article, women and girls from rural regions have even more obstacles to overcome. In more traditional social groups, girls are taken from school and forced to participate in traditional initiation at a different school. At this more traditional school, young girls are circumcised and “prepared for marriage life”—true education for these women is rarely realized.
Sadly, a study by Save the Children showed that “transactional sex”—also called “sex for grades”—is a widespread problem throughout Liberia at the major universities. A growing number of female students resort to sex with wealthy men in order to pay their school fees, and there are no policies in place to regulate situations like this.
“While there is a law on girl’s education, there is no proper mechanism for effective implementation and monitoring. Also, the national budget does not respond directly to the learning needs or Liberian students from a gender-based approach, leaving girls’ education policy issues on the margin,” explains Founder of the Liberia Women Media Action Committee, Tovian Estella Nelson. “Sadly, many girls, like Patricia, will continue to engage in premature and unsafe sex to survive and remain in school, until policy makers recognize and take appropriate actions to address the interaction between poverty and girls’ education,” Nelson continues.
There is a discrepancy between the empowerment that comes with the education of women and girls, and the lack of understanding that many of these female students are resorting to sex and getting pregnant in order to pay for this education. Policymakers in Liberia need to recognize the devastating effects of this problem. The education of Liberian women should be a priority. It is in the best interest of Liberia to make effective policy changes to protect women seeking an education from exploitation and compromising situations. Sign below to urge Liberia to take appropriate action.
Dear Liberian Policy Makers,
Education is a mechanism through which students can attain knowledge and achieve empowerment and liberation. It should never negatively impact the students so desperate to learn. In Liberia, this is the unfortunate situation.
Women and girls seeking an education are disproportionately affected by poverty. In many cases, they have sex with wealthy men and become pregnant in exchange for money to pay for school. The cost of schooling cannot be so great that such a large portion of the female student population must sell their bodies to pay for it. This is an unimaginable injustice, and it must be remedied.
Although Liberia has education laws, there are none that are gender-specific. Therefore, the plights of many female students go on ignored. Additionally, the current laws fail to address the situation if a female student becomes pregnant. Currently, it is the normal policy to expel them. They fall behind, and many never return to school.
Creating this kind of educational environment is not only severely damaging to Liberian women, it is detrimental to Liberia as a whole. Please take this into consideration, and enact policy to protect female students from exploitation.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Peter Casier via Flickr