— As Her Voice Liberia launches political opportunities program for women, girls
Ahead of the legislative and presidential elections in Liberia, the president of the United Methodist University (UMU), Dr. Yar Donlah Gonway-Gono, has urged Liberian women and girls to support each other in politics if they want to succeed. Gonway-Gono said women's marginalization in politics is dated to Liberia’s political environment history,which has denied women's participation for years.
“We should not allow people to divide us. We need to continue to persuade women to follow their dreams, and those already doing so should continue. We have the numbers to support our women in politics during elections. However, we will continue to talk about women who are marginalized,” Gonway-Gono said.
She made the remarks at Her Voice Liberia official launch of “Political Opportunities for Women Empowerment and Resilience (POWER) at Sinkor Palace in Congo Town on March 24, noting: “Liberia has a lot of work to do to change the narratives of women and girls.”
Gonway-Gono who served as the keynote speaker, said Liberian women have not been called to actively participate in politics, while attributing the situation to the country’s political environment and history, which marginalized women in terms of participation until the late 1940s.
“200 years ago and still running, Liberia has always been like this in terms of women's struggle for political space. Women are not bad or weak. We have to prepare ourselves, and step forward. We have to train women to be resilient and continue to motivate them. I know that the time will come when only young women will be educated, and this is evidenced by UMU having 64% females and 36% males,” she said.
The POWER project, which is being implemented by Her Voice Liberia with funding from USAID, targets Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, Montserrado, Rivercess, Margibi, and Grand Bassa counties. According to Her Voice Liberia, the goal is to promote political and electoral leadership and opportunities for women, young women, women with disabilities, and other marginalized groups to obtain equality and equity in Liberia’s political processes in conditions of freedom, security, and dignity.
Democracy International Program Officer on Inclusive Leadership and Liberia Elections and Democracy Activity, Eliza Dahn, said the Elections and Democracy Activity (EDA) is a five-year USAID-funded project designed to help Liberia overcome challenges facing its developing democracy by fostering inclusive, sustainable democratic political development.
“EDA is cultivating a new team of accountable, diverse, and inclusive leaders in Liberia who govern in the interest of their citizens who demand accountability, and EDA works with the government and civil society organizations,” she said.
According to her, this is intended to increase the leadership of marginalized groups in political processes, improve civil knowledge and a sense of civic duty, and advance the self-reliance of the National Elections Commission (NEC) and civil society organizations to independently manage and observe all stages of the electoral cycle.
She said the advancement of women’s political leadership in Liberia faces significant barriers, and democracy has not necessarily resulted in greater participation of women in the legislature or political processes.
“There are a multitude of factors, such as cultural, social-economic, and political structures dominated by men and weak governance, that influence women’s participation and acceptance in the political process. Women in rural areas face higher levels of marginalization and experience increased constraints due to gender-based power dynamics and have limited access to resources and opportunities,” she added.
The Executive Director of the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), Matthias M. Yeanay, said his institution will work with Her Voice Liberia to build women’s capacity and increase women’s participation in politics and leadership. He said they are already working with 180 women in different counties to empower them for the elections and beyond.
“We want to appreciate Her Voice Liberia for the memorandum of understanding between us, which speaks to the inclusiveness of people with disabilities. People will make proposals and state that they are working with people with disabilities, but you don’t see the actual impacts. There’s an international motto that says nothing about us without us,” Daintowon Domah Pay-Bayee, Chairperson and Chief Executive of the National Commission on Disabilities, said.
The Head of Program and Project Coordinator of Her Voice Liberia, Rufus Jackson Loop, said the project will empower over 55,000 women in the seven counties.