Women’s Non Governmental Organization Secretariat of Liberia inevitably amplify their voice for Unbiased Representation of Women in Politics
By Abdul Rahman Bangura–
NEW AFRICA BUSINESS NEWS (NABN) Freetown, Sierra Leone– However, Liberia’s Women’s Non Governmental Organization (NGO) Secretariat (WONGOSOL), as a steering council member of the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC), previously finished string of discussions, as part of its Electoral Reform Project financed by USAID through the Liberia Accountability Voice Initiative (LAVI).
In this regard, the seminars were carried via Zoom and converged seventy-eight players of which 90%t were females. Panelists involved Representative Hon. Rosana Schaack, past Minister of Gender and representative candidate, Julia Duncan Cassell, Madam Frances Greaves, Facia Harris, Miatta Darwolor Thomas, and 2020 Senatorial aspirants Dorothy K. Tooman (Bong), Edith Gongloe Weh (Nimba), Hawa Corneh Bropleh (Grand Cape Mount), and Siah J. Tandanpolie (Montserrado). Supposedly, the talks were formulated to review policies to improve women’s political representation, which is so low in all three sectors of Government, and especially low in Liberia’s Legislature. Pursuing the cessations of Senator Geraldine Doe Sherriff and Representative Munah Pelham Youngblood, women occupy just 9 of the 103 seats in the Liberian Legislature. That’s, less than 9% female representation where women and girls make up 50% of the population. The underrepresentation of women is one of Liberia’s tremendous representative deficiencies.
In expansion, the symmetrical representation of women and additional historically marginalized organizations, is a course of self-governing deepening, as well as national development: “It is only when institutions are democratic and representative of all groups in society, women as well as men, minorities as well as majorities, the dispossessed as well as the affluent, that societies are stable, and then peace and national prosperity are likely to be achieved.
Going into Senatorial elections – and with electoral reform recommendations before the Legislature – the dialogue was favorable. In August, of 2020, there was a general earshot on the recommended electoral reforms, including 4.5 b, c which state that parties should “endeavor to ensure” no less than 30% of either gender on candidate listings and in party hierarchies. From 2005 to 2015, not a single political party met the 30% threshold, (“National Elections Commission. 2017. Research on Women’s Participation as Candidates in Elections from 2005 – 2015. Republic of Liberia. And seemingly, in 2017 only one party – Liberia Restoration Party fulfilled the 30%. The largest, most visible parties/coalitions on the nationwide arena did not come close – with Unity Party at 17%, CDC at 11.5%, and Liberty Party at 10% (“National Elections Commission”).
As Honorable Rosanna Schaack elucidated during the conference, the language – that political parties should “endeavor to ensure” is not binding, so one of the Elections Law Reform Propositions is to make it so political parties “shall ensure” a minimum of 30% of the underrepresented gender. Yet, she clarified, the proposed reform also contains a new clause, which would give the National Elections Commission the authority to repudiate political parties that do not have the required 30% in their leadership and on their listing. Madam Duncan-Cassell likewise, bolstered this point, pointing out that it will also be vital for the Coalition of Women in Political Parties (COPWIL) and other stakeholder’s working concurrently with them “to ensure that political parties as they are preparing for conventions come 2021-2022, that the hierarchy of the party include women – not just the women wing or women congress – and ensuring that when the party presents their candidates to NEC that NEC do what they are supposed to do in the Elections Law.” Facia Harris further maintained the primacy of legal frameworks, citing that we are not going to survive the gender chasm in political representation and leadership if, we do not ratify laws that are going to allow for equity and equality in political decision-making.
As the discussion progresses, it also talked about the lethal inferences and discriminatory attitudes about women leaders and the necessity to work on voter sensitization, as well as support women candidates to formulate clear, compatible and convincing messaging around unique and relevant policy platforms. There was also discussion around the transactional nature of voting in Liberia, linking women’s political empowerment to women’s economic empowerment given the high expenditure of running campaign in the country.
In light of the foregoing, recommendations ensued that: the Legislatures enact the proposed electoral amendments especially Section 4.5 (paragraphs 1b, 1c, 1d, & 1e) Nomination of Candidates and the prepositions included among the 25 constitutional prepositions that are directly related to women’s representation.
NEC should execute existing electoral laws to put stop to political party candidates engaging in electoral activities outside of the specified date, i.e. engaging in campaigning before the date set by NEC. or trucking electorates.
Political Parties should develop a more inclusive internal system within their parties to support women’s political participation.
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and International Organizations should support more capacity building programs and trainings for women to build their capacity and confidence as their male counterparts.
Monitor campaign finance during elections to create a level playing field for both female and male aspirants/candidates. Most women are not economically endowed as their male counterparts and this establishes a grueling trial for most women aspirants/candidate leading to their exceeding downfall.
The National Legislature passes law to protect candidates, especially women from violence against them in politics i.e. bullied during elections. Such behaviors mostly done by male candidates against women candidates can be demoralizing, inhumane and should be deterred in all forms and manner.
For New Africa Business News (NABN) Abdul Rahman Bangura Reports, Africa Correspondent
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