“When I was eight, I was confused about being called ‘bossy’ because I wanted to direct the plays that we would put on for our parents. But the boys were not. When at 14, I started to be sexualized by certain elements of the media. When at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of their beloved sports teams because they didn’t want to appear ‘muscle-y.’ When at 18, my males friends were unable to express their feelings; I decided that I was a feminist.”
- "I'm nervous about my physics exam."
- "Are you afraid they're going to ask you to think critically?"
- "I went through the American school system, I have no idea how to do that."
Statement on Ebola and Conflict in West Africa
Dakar/New York/Brussels | 23 Sep 2014
The Ebola health crisis threatens to become a political crisis that could unravel years of effort to stabilise West Africa. The hardest-hit countries now face widespread chaos and, potentially, collapse. Adding social breakdown to the epidemic would create disaster perhaps impossible to manage. To avoid such a scenario, the international community must provide more personnel, resources and engagement not only to the immediate medical response but also to the longer-term problems of strengthening governance and rebuilding health-care systems. The international community alone cannot carry the burden; strong decisions are needed from West Africa’s governments, chiefly on the reopening of borders.
In the three most affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the Ebola epidemic has exposed citizens’ lack of trust in their governments and the grave potential for deep unrest in these already fragile societies. In all three countries, past civil conflicts fuelled by local and regional antagonisms could resurface. In Guinea, the government’s poor response has stoked historical tensions between the state and local communities in the forested areas of the south east, where the epidemic started. In Liberia, the hardest-hit with approximately half of the total deaths, and Sierra Leone, the governments have substituted a largely misguided military response for robust focus on medical needs. This should not come as a surprise. Security has been the main pillar of post-conflict reconstruction and governments are reacting with what is at their disposal: soldiers, not doctors. Before the epidemic, Liberia had just around 45 doctors for a population of 4.5 million; as the virus has spread, half of all health centres have been closed due to lack of medical staff.
Citizens are understandably terrified and increasingly desperate. In Liberia, protesters have blocked highways, looted clinics and attacked security forces. Eleven years after its civil war, Liberia faces the risk of a popular revolt against a fragile state that has been very slow to build key institutions, especially beyond the capital city of Monrovia. Frustration with the governments’ poor management of the crisis could trigger other grievances that political opponents could easily exploit.