In 2005, Liberia, the oldest democracy in Africa, elected its first female President and recorded yet another first achievement by becoming the first country in Africa to elect a female President. Despite this major achievement, a huge gap remains in the participation of women in politics. Liberian women are underrepresented in politics and as the country prepares for its presidential and legislative elections in 2017, very few women have indicated their interest.
Over the years, we have seen such blatant violations of women’s rights in the political arena and instead of being concerned about the meaningful involvement of women, particularly young women in politics; people have sadly begun to accept these violations as normal. Anecdotal reports raises the question on whether Liberians are interested or concerned in statistics on gender representation in government.
In the 73-member House of Representative, female representation has dropped to seven per cent, from 12.5 percent. The number of female senators also decreased from five to four from the fifteen contested Senate seats. Currently, there is no political party headed by a woman. Power is wielded by older generations and mainly by the privileged men who control the social economic circles such as the armies, economies, political parties, mainstream media and families.
The key impetus for promoting women’s participation and leadership in matters of peace and security has of course been UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) that reaffirms ‘the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building, stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision making…’ (UNSCR 1325: Preamble)
One of the Global Citizenship Commission’s recommendations, which are long overdue, is that every country has a Youth Parliament that can meet to debate and campaign for young people and the services they need. By extension, we need to commence action on getting more women involved in politics.
Collective political dialogue is the only true pathway to begin addressing this gap in a sustainable and holistic manner.
According to the priority actions from the statement of mutual commitments on peacebuilding in Liberia, more targeted outreach is required to empower civil society organizations, with a focus on women to assume their critical role in the country’s peacebuilding and recovery efforts.
As we prepare for the next elections and advocate for the active participation of women, there is need first and foremost to recognize underpinning issues of widening political divisions, which underscores a need for national healing, reconciliation and responsible involvement of women in Liberian politics.
At Messengers of Peace (MOP)-Liberia, we recognize the need for appropriation of posts and appointments to the cabinet and other government posts and we commend ongoing government programs and efforts to place women in these posts.
Now that we have established the need for more involvement of women in Liberian politics and publicly publish data on the number of women in politics, everyone will be watching; it is up to our current and future government to do a better job at meeting its commitments to women empowerment and leadership.
Until next week, when we continue our dialogue among Peace Messengers-The Health Status of the Liberian Women, it is Peace First, Peace above all else. May Peace prevail on earth!