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Key findings
  • In Liberia, women are less likely than men to have secondary or post-secondary education (42% vs. 61%).
  • Women trail men in ownership of key assets, including a mobile phone (72% vs. 86%), a bank account (15% vs. 23%), a motor vehicle (10% vs. 18%), and a computer (6% vs. 11%). o But decision making on how household money is spent is fairly equal between women and men.
  • Majorities of Liberians say women should have the same rights as men to own and inherit land (85%) and to get paying jobs (59%). But men are less likely than women to support gender equality in land rights and hiring. o Large majorities say women in fact enjoy equal rights when it comes to jobs (79%) and land ownership/inheritance (82%).
  • More than three-quarters (78%) of Liberians say women should have the same chance as men of being elected to public office. o But while more than eight in 10 (86%) think a woman’s family will gain standing in the community if she runs for office, 65% consider it likely that she will be criticised or harassed by others in the community, and 54% think she will probably face problems with her family.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of Liberians say the government should do more to promote equal rights and opportunities for women.
  • Gender-based violence ranks as the most important women’s-rights issue that citizens say their government and society must address.

Despite the groundbreaking election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the country’s first female  president in 2006, bridging the gender gap in post-civil war Liberia remains a challenge. The  Sirleaf government formulated a National Gender Policy in 2009 that aimed at integrating  gender policies into national development agendas and ensuring that gender-responsive  frameworks enable women and men to benefit equally from development initiatives (Ministry  of Gender and Development, 2009). 

Yet significant gender disparities persist, glaringly evident in women’s under-representation in  political leadership: According to the World Economic Forum’s (2022) Global Gender Gap  Index, which ranks Liberia 78th out of 146 countries, women hold only 11% of parliamentary  seats and 22% of ministerial positions. Entrenched socio-cultural norms reinforce male  dominance, and gender-based violence remains a national crisis: Liberia’s 2020  Demographic and Health Survey found that 60% of women aged 15-49 had experienced  physical violence (UN Women, 2021; Al Jazeera, 2020; Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo Information Services, 2021). 

This dispatch reports on a special module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9  (2021/2023) questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and perceptions of gender  equality in control over assets, hiring, land ownership, and political leadership. 

In Liberia, survey findings show that women trail men in educational attainment and  ownership of key assets, though they are equally likely to have a say in household financial  decisions. A majority of citizens support gender equality in hiring, land ownership/inheritance,  and politics. But many also say that women who run for public office are likely to face  negative reactions from their communities and families. 

Most Liberians say the government needs to do more to promote equal rights and  opportunities for women. Gender-based violence ranks as the most important women’s rights issue that citizens say their government and society must address. (For survey findings  on gender-based violence, see Twum and Coker, 2023). 

Maame Akua Amoah Twum

Maame is the communications coordinator for North and Anglophone West Africa at Afrobarometer

Georgina Candy Coker

Georgina Candy Coker is a program officer for the Center for Democratic Governance, the Afrobarometer national partner in Liberia