Commentary Human Rights

Passing the Children’s Act In Liberia: A Story from the Adolescent Girls’ Advocacy and Leadership Initiative

Mary Pittman

For hundreds of years, to be a girl in Liberia was to be relatively powerless. To address that, advocates helped the Liberian Senate sign the Children's Rights Act into national law in 2011.

For hundreds of years, to be a girl in Liberia was to be relatively powerless. You had no say over whether you were married off in childhood or even whether you attended school. That all changed when two fellows of the Adolescent Girls’ Advocacy and Leadership Initiative (AGALI) from Liberia, Aisha Cooper Bruce and Rosana Schaack, led an advocacy campaign to pass the Children’s Act. The Liberian Senate signed this landmark legislation into national law in 2011. AGALI works to improve adolescent girls’ health, education and livelihoods by providing Latin American and African leaders with the skills and resources they need to successfully advocate for policies, programs, and funding benefiting adolescent girls.

The Fellows, trained and funded by the Public Health Institute’s AGALI program, spearheaded a national advocacy campaign – partnering with children’s rights activists and empowering members of the Liberian Children’s Parliament to advocate on their own behalf. “We noticed that since the NGOs have tried and failed [to pass the law], it was the time for the children of Liberia to take their stand,” said Ma Hawa Ngaima, former Deputy Speaker of the Liberian Children’s Parliament, in the video below.

Today, Liberian girls can say no to physical and emotional abuse and yes to education and health care—and have the backing of national law to uphold these rights. For instance, if parents try to force girls to submit to the traditional practice of genital cutting, the law protects girls’ right to say no.

“Because [the Act] was a girl-centered issue, the girls owned the process, they spoke up more… the girls took the Children’s Law as ‘if this law can be passed, my life will be changed,’” explained AGALI Fellow Cooper Bruce.

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To learn more about the Children’s Law, see this informational policy brief created by AGALI.

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