Human trafficking in Liberia has long been a pernicious form of violence affecting women and children, especially those most economically vulnerable. It has been flagged as a critical issue by the United Nations, and has put a damper on business development and private sector investment in Liberia. In the U.S. Department of State’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, Liberia’s status declined from its ranking the previous year, raising concerns. The government of Liberia has taken recent strides to address trafficking by forming an interagency commission on the matter. To bolster these efforts, WCW, with academic, NGO, and private sector partners, received funding from the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia to hold two workshops addressing the problem of human trafficking in Liberia.
“It takes a village to end trafficking, and it all begins with educating diverse stakeholders about the scale of the problem and how they can make a difference,” said Executive Director Layli Maparyan, Ph.D. “With everyone working together—academia, the NGO sector, the private sector, government, and community-based organizations—we can turn the tide in Liberia.”
In concert with its partners in the United States and Liberia, WCW will provide a valuable educational resource to students, professionals, and those who work in the markets in Liberia who have the power to deepen their awareness and take concrete actions that address trafficking. The program will be designed, developed, and delivered by WCW and the University Consortium for Liberia (UCL)—a nonprofit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, that is dedicated to coordinating diverse academic efforts between Liberia and the global community.
Partners on the project include the University of Liberia and its new Gender Studies Program; the Sustainable Market Women’s Fund, a nonprofit organization in Liberia that focuses on improving the livelihoods of women who work in markets; as well as Brussels Airlines, the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and the Liberia Airport Authority. All are committed to reducing gender-based violence in Liberia.
“On behalf of the UCL Board, we are excited to collaborate with WCW and the leadership of Dr. Layli Maparyan, who is also a founding partner of the UCL,” stated Hon. Cynthia Lynn Blandford, founder and president of the UCL.
The first two-day workshop, held virtually in early November 2021, focused on human trafficking in the travel and transportation sectors. It educated workers at all levels to recognize the signs of trafficking, know how to respond and report, and understand how everyone can help end trafficking.
The second two-day workshop, slated for mid-spring 2022 in Liberia, will focus on human trafficking affecting women who work in the markets and their families. A component of this workshop will be the development of a community-based service-learning project on gender-based violence, which will link University of Liberia students and faculty with market women. Because trafficking occurs in a complex social and cultural context and cannot be sustainably redressed in isolation, this project will help identify key factors and potential sites of intervention on which future anti-trafficking efforts can be built in local communities, aided by UCL partnerships.