...President Sirleaf tells women, political aspirants
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, has said women across the world stand a good chance of political leadership if they prepare themselves for the competition with their male counterparts and come together to support each other during political processes.
Madam Johnson Sirleaf made the statement on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, at the 14th cycle of the ‘Raise the Bar Women Political Leadership’ organized by the Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH) with funding from the European Union through Oxfam and the Foundation for Community Initiative (FCI) to promote transformational leadership to increase women’s active participation for sustainable peace and development come 2023.
The event is a three-day intensive training program aimed at building the capacity of women aspirants ahead of the 2023 elections. She cautioned women to come together and form a strong sisterhood if they must have the equal representation they seek.
Madam Johnson Sirleaf said it is important for women to stand up and demand change for equality because they have a right to equal representation.“We have problems as women leaders; we are not perfect. We have shortcomings, but there is always an opportunity to watch out for, to keep finding new means, measures, approaches towards achieving one’s goal,” she told the gathering.
Madam Johnson Sirleaf said, “It is never easy when one wants to compete in a position of elective office because there will be too many things against you that will attempt to degrade and marginalize you. But you have to stand up and be brave, committed, determined, for tomorrow belongs to you.”
She said training and giving women the opportunity to exchange views and build on each other, as well as reaching out to help bring other women along is important to achieving their goal. Together, she stressed, they are strong; alone, their task is made hard. According to Madam Johnson Sirleaf, the initiative by ORWOCH to prepare women to compete, take a stand, and challenge men is something they have been longing for in an institutionalized way.
Madam Johnson Sirleaf said the presence of women at the event does not only demonstrate women’s readiness, but also shows that women want to stand up and be able to take leadership along with men, where they can establish goals, promote and implement in the positions that they would hold in the legislature.
Madam Aine Hanrahan, speaking on behalf of UN Women-Liberia, said to see the needed change in government, where women can be equally represented at the decision-making, come the 2023 general and presidential elections, such training that promotes transformational leadership for sustainable peace and development is essential.
“We want to see gender equally, equal opportunities and to see women leaders lead,” she said.
Hanrahan reaffirmed UN Women’s commitment to supporting the government of Liberia, women’s rights organizations and women candidates in Liberia, not only in putting forth robust gender-responsive legal provisions, but also with more programs with the conviction that, with more women in leadership and public offices, Liberia’s development will be more inclusive and the benefits will accrue to all citizens.
According to her, in order to support Liberia’s efforts in having more women in leadership and politics in adherence to representative democracy, it is imperative to develop robust legal provisions which are gender-responsive to enable a critical mass of women who run for elections and be in public offices.
In an overview, Atty. Mmonbeydo Joah, ORWOCH executive director, said the training is largely informed by the data from the 2017 elections and the 2020 special senatorial election, which show a numerical disproportion of men and women in politics and decision-making in Liberia. Atty. Joah named negative stereotypes as a major impediment to women’s success in political decision-making and it is important they engaged community and women at all levels to change the narrative, which includes capacity building and resource mobilization.
“And the rise of the bar of women political leadership training is to train women and community leaders how to run campaigns, do campaign plans and budgets, including reviewing elections law and cases and, on the overall, it seeks to demystify the political process,” she said.
Atty. Joah said, “Liberia will conduct its presidential and Representative elections in 2023. Now it is time to prepare females through capacity building, fundraising, networking and building a movement to increase women’s presence in the legislature and at the national and local decision-making levels.”
Godo Kolubah, Senior Governance Program Manager, Embassy of Ireland, said the event is a clear indication of advancing women’s political leadership in Liberia. "We must all do our part to break the ceiling of women leadership and men are necessary to achieve this cause,” Kolubah said.