Liberia: Women Group Brainstorms on Advocacy Strategy for Increased Political Participation

POWER-Liberia, medica Liberia call for increased women political participation

Ahead of the 2023 general and presidential elections, the Progress and Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (POWER)-Liberia and medica Liberia in collaboration with the Coalition of Political Parties Women in Liberia (COPPWIL), some civil society advocacy groups and some female aspirants with support from UN Women through the UN PeaceBuilding Fund have begun the development of an advocacy strategy that will be used to influence political parties to increase women’s political participation.

The initiative is aimed at influencing political parties to comply with section 4.5 of the New Elections Law (Amended 2022), to meet the 30% gender quota on candidate tickets, and to adhere to their commitments to the violence against women in elections and politics Protocol. 

The National Elections Commission (NEC) and political parties’ executives signed the violence against women in elections and politics and this signing commits political parties to fully implement and popularize the Protocol throughout the country. 

The two-day event, which kicked off Wednesday, October 12, at the D’ Calabash in Congo Town, brought together relevant stakeholders to identify the issues affecting women’s political participation and ways forward to influencing change.

The event, which is held under the theme: “Promoting Inclusive Political Participation and Elimination of Violence against Women in Politics” brought together Bong County's only female candidate in the sanatorial by-election, Dorothy K. Toomann, Montserrado County 2023 senatorial aspirant Victoria T. Koiquah, Montserrado County District 13 aspirant, Williette P. Cooper, Nimba County District 2 aspirant, Sondah G. Wilson and others.   

The Executive Lead of POWER-Liberia, Beatrice Newland, said there’s a need to lobby and advocate with internal party platforms to influence the implementation of these legal frameworks that support women’s increased political participation.

Newland said women need to influence these political parties to fulfill their gender quotas to enable women to participate more meaningfully.

“We will have to identify the root causes of the problem that limits women’s participation in politics and leadership and outline things that women can do to support the implementation of legal frameworks,” she told participants.

She said the two-day event also seeks to outline specific actions, time-frame, costs, and responsible persons for the advocacy strategy that will subsequently support increased women’s political participation, stating “participants’ commitments needed to implement the advocacy plan.”

“The development and adoption of a full advocacy strategy as an official working tool as we move to 2023 is cardinal for us here today and women out there,” she said.

The Head of Program at Medica Liberia, Emily Frank, said women in politics continue to experience violence during elections, a situation that current Gbarpolu County Senator, Botoe Kanneh experienced during the senatorial by-election in 2020.

“This is an initiative aimed at supporting women’s political participation and how to handle or manage violence during elections. We should all put our ideas to work and get the best for women of Liberia,” Madam Frank said.  

Bong County's only female candidate in the 2020 senatorial by-election, Dorothy K. Toomann, who shared her experience with participants, urged women not to shy away from political space as it is a governance space as well as their civil rights. Adding that if women are given the space they can do better.

“Women thinking of getting into politics should take into consideration resources because it is important. You cannot run a campaign without resources and so my advice is we should be prepared before going into politics,” she said.     

Madam Toomann said the governance space needs things that matter, including health, education and infrastructure, and women are capable of ensuring that those services are available.

“How can God choose to send two persons in this world (male and female) and today we say in Liberia that one person (female) is for domestic work only and the other (male) for public work or governance,” she wondered.