Female circumcision in Liberia Introduction The Republic of Liberia, which covers an area of 43,000 square miles, is situated on the West Coast of Africa and is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north, the Ivory Coast on the East, and the Atlantic Ocean on the south. The total population of Liberia is approximately two million with an estimated 30 percent living in urban areas (1974). In 1982 approximately 30 percent of the population was estimated to be literate.
Liberia, unlike most other African countries, was never formally annexed by a colonizing power but was founded by repatriated black Americans in the early part of the nineteenth century. The population is comprised of 16 major tribal groups each having their own traditional practices, although some similarities exist. An important institution common to almost all Liberian tribal groups, with the exception of two, is the traditional or "bush" school and a section for girls called the Sande School. The purpose of these schools of initiation is to give protection against witchcraft, prepare and train the child for his or her role as an adult by teaching the rules, values, norms and practices of the
society. Despite the erosion of traditional Liberian societies by western and other influences, and the subsequent changes in traditional values, rules, norms and practices, the Poro and Sande still have a strong social influence.
The data Unfortunately, information on traditional practices in Liberia that affect the health of women and children has not been documented. Consequently, in preparation for the Dakar Seminar, a minisurvey was conducted to collect information related to childbirth and delivery practices, dietary taboos, forced feeding of children and female circumcision. For the purpose of this survey, a questionnaire was administered to randomly selected health care personnel at 6 major institutions and other professionals working in the area of health in Monrovia, the capital city. The questionnaire includes specific questions on each of the traditional practices being investigated but no questions on the origins or rationale for the practices. The 23 questionnaires administered, only 12 were returned. Four of the respondents were midwives, one a physician, one a nurse, one a secretary and one a sociologist. The remaining four respondents did not indicate their professions.