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Ms Chantal Victoria Bright
Liberia and Senegal
Study Abroad Studentship

Water security, peace and fragility in Liberia: an African ecofeminist approach

Exploring the interdependencies between water security, women and peace using a feminist lens, Chantal Victoria Bright argues that gendered peacebuilding and gender equality are vital in sustaining and furthering stability achievements in Liberia

Women pumping and collecting water from a village well, Liberia, West Africa.
Villagers pump water from a neighbourhood well in Kakata, Liberia, West Africa.

While it is rare for conflict to develop entirely based on the lack of water resources, for post-conflict countries with weaker institutions, water insecurity can be a destabilising risk factor when compounded with existing and underlining problems. The factors affecting water availability in conflict and conflict-affected situations have a more significant impact on women because of social, economic and political gender imbalances. Still, women are largely excluded from peace and security efforts. Split between Liberia and Senegal, my Study Abroad Studentship will support field research to gain a critical understanding of the relationship between women, water security and peace. 

Liberia is a conflict-affected West African country still facing immense water challenges from the ruins of the 14-year intermittent civil wars, which was heightened by the 2014 Ebola epidemic. In collaboration with ActionAid Liberia, my research will focus on two regions: one coastal (Margibi County) and one in-land (Bong County), to provide a comparative analysis of how water access, women’s land rights and peace are perceived and experienced. Conducting semi-structured interviews with relevant experts from academia, government and non-government sectors and walking interviews with women in communities as they go about water collection activities will provide a holistic view of how women’s experiences intersect with peace and security in Liberia.

Senegal is one of the most stable countries in West Africa and an ideal second location to contribute to my research. While there, I will carry out research in collections from the West African Research Center (WARC), Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), and various museums and cultural sites to understand the Francophone dimension of the Liberian war – particularly Senegal’s role in peacekeeping. 

Water research is profoundly multifaceted. By exploring the interdependencies between water security, women and peace using a feminist lens, this project provides a critical understanding of experiences of water access. It examines more equitable land rights protection for women and water access in conflict-affected Liberia. Women were instrumental in helping end Liberia’s 14-year civil war yet have since been largely excluded from peace and security efforts. Liberia’s water insecurity and land disputes are destabilising risk factors and disproportionately impact women. I will provide a holistic view of communities suffering from water insecurity by ensuring the perspective of this most vulnerable group is included.

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