APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
The IRC addresses the most immediate needs of West African women and girls by ensuring that they have access to the basic services they need to survive and thrive. To promote quality education for girls, the IRC will train teachers, develop curriculum, and strengthen vocational training institutes. To ensure that women and adolescent girls can earn a safe, dignified living, they will connect them to livelihoods and business opportunities. To help them stay healthy, the IRC will partner with hospitals and health facilities to train health staff, improve primary and reproductive health services, and ensure essential drugs are available. To help survivors of sexual violence recover quickly, they will provide counseling, medical, legal, and social support; we also help communities address the root causes of gender based violence and stop abuse before it starts.
In addition to providing direct services for women and girls, the IRC advocates for lasting systemic changes that will improve their lives, working with government ministries to influence national laws and policy. Current advocacy initiatives focus on reforming education and vocational training; codifying laws that promote gender equality and better protect women and girls against violence; and ensuring that basic health services, including reproductive health, are widely available.
Partnerships and Capacity Building
The IRC partners with community groups, civil society organizations, local government officials, and/or national ministries, building our partners' capacity so that they can provide care and services long after IRC support phases out.
Monitoring and Evaluation
The IRC regularly assesses all programs' progress against objectives. They are also conducting more in-depth evaluation of several key aspects of our work with West African women and girls, in partnership with well-known research institutes, in order to better measure the impact of our programs, identify new best practices, and increase the effectiveness of our work.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
By July 2011, the IRC will train 200 teachers and ensure that 17,800 students have access to quality education.
By December 2012, the IRC will ensure that 1,500 women and girls have access to vocational training.
By December 2012, the IRC will roll out a revised junior secondary school curriculum and distance education teacher training across Sierra Leone.
By August 2011, the IRC will ensure that 1,520 West African women and girls receive business skills training and start up materials and are able to open businesses and micro-franchises.
By December 2011, the IRC will ensure that 200,000 West African women and girls - including girls under the age of five - have access to primary health care services, and that 25,000 mothers, babies, and young girls receive reproductive health services and post-natal care.
Prevention of Gender Based Violence
By December 2012, the IRC will ensure that 15,000 survivors of gender based violence in West Africa receive counseling and medical, legal and psychosocial support services.
In addition, the IRC will train 4,500 service providers, government officials, local partners, and community leaders about the causes and impacts of gender based violence, and how to support survivors.
Finally, the IRC will reach 500,000 people with awareness-raising and education to address the root causes of gender based violence.
RECOVERING FROM YEARS OF WAR AND DESTRUCTION
During the 1990s, interrelated civil wars raged across West Africa. Marked by ethnic violence and widespread violations of human rights, frequently targeting women and children, these conflicts caused extensive internal displacement and triggered a flood of refugees throughout the region. In Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, war left tens of thousands dead, hundreds of thousands displaced, and decimated affected countries' political, economic, and social capital.
WOMEN AND GIRLS FACE A LEGACY OF POVERTY AND INEQUALITY
Though active conflict has ended, the wars left behind a legacy of underdevelopment, inequity, and violence. The years of chaos and government neglect crippled critical public services, especially education and health. Violence destroyed social cohesion, fractured civil society, and accentuated divisive inequities between urban and rural populations, rich and poor individuals, men and women, and adults and adolescents. And while women and girls constitute 50% of the populations in Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, they suffer disproportionately as the violence and discrimination that plagued them before and during the conflicts continues. Social and cultural constructions around sex and sexuality, systems of traditional authority, cultures of silence, and harmful cultural practices remain, undermining women's and girls' ability to live healthy, productive lives.
FEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Today, West Africa is deeply poor and grossly inequitable. Across the region, a growing youth bulge contributes to fears of stalled development or a resurgence of conflict. An entire generation of children, raised in the shadow of conflict, remains marginalized. Interrupted education, inadequate opportunities for training and economic development and limited public services - particularly for women and girls - further entrench poverty and vulnerability while undermining the potential for continued peace and stability.
THE IRC IN WEST AFRICA: A FOCUS ON WOMEN AND GIRLS
For over 77 years, the IRC has been a leading provider of relief, rehabilitation, protection, resettlement services, and advocacy for those uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression. When the emergency phase subsides, the IRC remains committed to survivors, investing an average of 10 years in recovery. Nowhere is that commitment more prominent than in West Africa, where the IRC works with individuals, communities, partner organizations, and governments in Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to support efforts to rebuild and recover following years of devastating conflict.
This commitment grows out of the IRC's increasing emphasis on addressing the many challenges facing women and girls through comprehensive and integrated programming. Women and girls in West Africa face an extremely challenging and deeply rooted set of barriers to safety and success. On its own, health care for survivors of sexual violence is not enough to help them surmount these challenges. Nor is girls' education. Nor is advocacy or women's civil society groups or access to economic opportunity. But implemented as a comprehensive whole, these programs can build on one another to create real and lasting change in the lives of women and girls.
For example: The daughters of mothers who survive child birth are healthier and safer. Readily available healthcare for children ensures that those daughters stay healthy throughout the first years of their lives. When the mother survives and is able to earn a safe and dignified living, she can afford to send her daughters to school. If high-quality education is available in schools that are safe for those girls, they will stay in class, marry later, and delay the birth of their first child. As they become young women, if they have opportunities to learn a safe and dignified livelihood, participate in local and national civil society, and remain safe from gender-based violence, they will prosper. And so will their daughters and granddaughters.