Liberia: Feminists, Others Want Weah Sign Gender Quota into Law



The Coalition of Political Party Women of Liberia (COPWILL) and other women's rights advocates are calling on President George Weah to legitimize Section 4.5 of the Elections Law on gender quotas in order to give more women the leverage to aspire to and access to political offices in the country.

Section 4.5 of the election law on gender quotas was recently passed by the Legislature and should be signed into law by the President in order to take effect.

Local and international stakeholders, especially medica Liberia and POWER Liberia, believe that the passage of gender quotas will address the chronic underrepresentation of women in politics and push to improve the gender balance in political participation and reduce barriers to women being elected based on the law. Emphasis was also placed on the need for political parties to rally against Violence against Women in Elections and Politics (VAWiE/P). 

Speaking at a roundtable dialogue on the promotion of inclusive political participation and the elimination of violence against women in politics held in Monrovia last week, medica Liberia Country Director, Atty. Yah V. Parwon, said there is a need for the President to urgently sign the law, which will then mandate political institutions (political parties) to enforce a 30% gender quota on candidate listings and the leadership of political parties and coalitions.

“The elections are nextyear, and our women need to understand these laws and be able to claim their rights and also push advocacy within their political parties, local leadership, and with the national government,” she said. “The time is short, and we hope the president can act now.

“Our role here is to support ongoing advocacy work that has been going on for many years to ensure that women's political participation is a priority and resources are spent on things that matter. Ahead of the 2023 elections, the need to do more advocacy cannot be overemphasized,”  Parwon said.

The acute underrepresentation of women in politics has been a cause for concern in recent years, with feminists and other women's rights advocates in the country calling for the situation to be addressed in order to place females on the same side of the decision making table as their male counterparts.

There is, however, no better time than now to engender or stimulate the calls for more women to be in the forefront for better decision making as the country gears up for the much anticipated 2023 general and presidential elections.

Against this backdrop, and as two leading organizations that have been in the forefront in the fight for adequate women political participation, medica Liberia and POWER Liberia, with support from UN Women through the UN PeaceBuilding Fund, have begun preparing female candidates for the tense and rigorous electoral processes next year through supporting coordinated advocacy efforts.

Atty. Parwon said the program is aimed at empowering and collaborating with all the stakeholders to ensure that more women are placed on the tickets of political parties for the 2023 elections.

“Today , we decided to come together to know what is in the recently passed Section 4.5 of the law on gender quotas, passed by the Legislature and awaiting to be signed into law by President Weah, and the VAWiE/P  Protocol that talks about ending violence against women,”  Parwon said.

Atty. Facia Harris, the lead facilitator of the dialogue, emphasized the importance of the law, noting that it helps address the underrepresentation of women in politics, especially in elected offices, and it also addresses the issue of gender quota systems and women's representation around the world.

“The House of Representatives and Senatehave passed this law, which means it’s no longer with the Legislature but with the President. We are here to design our own strategies as women aspirants, political parties, civil society organizations, and key stakeholders for the implementation of this law,” Harris told the gathering.

Harris noted that the law will form part of the best electoral practices in the country. “But without the passage of this law by thPresident,nt it will not takeffect,ct especially during the upcoming 2023 elections in Liberia. This will not be good for us,” she said.

Most of the participants disclosed that a lot of female aspirants do not understand lots of things about elections and the processes leading to them and call for these kinds of initiatives.

Participants said they are frequently bullied on social media because of their desire to contest in their various districts.

“These are things that affect people emotionally and make women feel that they are in a process that does not support them. We need to build relationships with our people because if you have a strong relationship with our people, you don’t have to run on the party's ticket,” one participant said.

Participants said that though the physical part of the violence exists, the emotional part is the most painful as it keeps female politicians out of the public space and limits their ability to face the challenge and campaign.

“The new election law section 4.5 is tricky, and we are saying we will use this instrument to have women on the ballot box or party’s ticket, but I want us to know that the US$10,000 fine is small because there are so many big political parties in Liberia that US$10,000 means nothing,” another participant said.