Campaigns to increase women’s representation in political representation to 30 percent is picking up steam again in the country with Deputy Speaker J. Fonati Koffa promising to robustly advocate with his colleagues to support the Women Legislative Caucus for its passage.
The Deputy Speaker says they will entertain argument and legislation on the floor of the House of Representatives to amend the inherent discriminatory law and advocate for the legislation of the Gender Equity Bill in order to ensure 30% women participation.
Addressing the Legislative press in the House’s first floor conference room on Wednesday, February 17, the Deputy Speaker said he believes there is a inherent discrimination that must be corrected—as the call for women’s participation in politics is not only being discussed in Liberia but Internationally.
“As you know in the past years there has been a discussion about this gender parity issue which in recent times the call has intensified both locally and internationally” Deputy speaker Koffa stated.
He stated that the 30% women political participation cannot be achieved by just a goal setting, but a firm legal framework that will bring the 30% to reality through legislation and statutory mandate.
Deputy Speaker Cllr. Koffa noted that the government cannot ignore the significance of the 30% discussion, because according to him, the Government of Liberia has signed number of treaties and some instruments with international partners and stakeholders committing to said agreement.
“It now comes to the point where our female population and those involved in politics and our international partners are now calling on us to make a real certain national commitment that will bring this 30% to bed,” Cllr. Koffa noted.
He said this is no international pressure but domestic pressure as numbers of women groups have overly called on the government and international partners to address the 30% women political participation in the body politic of Liberia.
The Grand Kru County District #2 Representative said he will robustly work and lobby with his colleagues to entertain the discussion of women’s participation, using Article 8 of the Liberian Constitution to address the issue of discrimination of women in the body politics of the country.
Article 8 of the Liberian says “The Republic shall direct its policy towards ensuring for all citizens, without discrimination, opportunities for employment and livelihood under just and humane conditions, and towards promoting safety, health and welfare facilities in employment.”
The Deputy Speaker’s statement comes a day after a group of women petitioned the Liberian Legislature to fully legislate the 30% women’s political participation. In 2020, a bill seeking to increase the involvement of women in Liberia’s political process was introduced.
The bill, if passed in its current form, will mandate that women occupy at least 30% of all national elected offices and leadership positions in political parties.
The bill also provides that a special incentive funding system would be created by the government and be made available to political parties that meet the minimum requirements of women’s participation in the party’s leadership posts.
On February 4, 2021, the United Nations in Liberia, ECOWAS, the EU Delegation and the Embassies of EU Member States (France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, and Sweden), the Embassy of Canada, the Embassy of Norway, the Embassy of Switzerland, and the Embassy of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, commended the Government and people of Liberia for recognizing the chronic underrepresentation of women in politics and proposing legislation to improve the gender balance in political participation to reduce barriers in elected positions for women.
According to the press statement, the international partners further welcomed these proposals to form part of a broader set of electoral reforms, which aim to improve the administration of electoral processes in Liberia.
International partners noted that despite years of effort to bring more women to elective office, including the Legislature, their representation remains low. In December 2020, women accounted for just 20 out of 118 eligible candidates in the Special Senatorial Elections and only 1 has been certified so far. The proposed amendments to the Elections Law are the result of a widespread consultative process with the people of Liberia, whose outcome underscored the necessity of establishing gender parity targets. More inclusive institutions can contribute to overcoming current inequities and upholding the tenets of democracy to which Liberia subscribes and advancing national development.
The international partners further expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Legislature in formulating people-centered and progressive gender-responsive legislation. “We urge the 54th Legislature to support the proposed electoral reform bill submitted by the National Elections Commission seeking concurrence on an amendment of Sections 4.5.1 a,b,c,d,e to institute an enforceable 30% gender quota on candidate listings and the leadership of political parties and coalitions.”
“The recommendations for an enforceable, unambiguous gender quota were put forth by your constituencies through inclusive and substantive consultations and we are confident that you will uphold the will of the people of Liberia in introducing gender parity for electoral office,” said the release.
“We note that this bill represents a unique opportunity for Liberia to address the longstanding issue of underrepresentation of women in politics. It echoes the aspirations of the international conventions and treaties to which Liberia is a signatory, in particular the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. The proposals also reflect the recommendations of a number of domestic and international experts, who have observed recent electoral processes in Liberia.”
The statement indicated “We again recall the commitments made by the President, His Excellency George Manneh Weah, to ensure gender balance in political life and the PAPD’s stated objective to increase the political participation of women.”
It added: “International partners will continue to follow closely the electoral law reform process. We are confident of the Legislature’s commitment to ensuring women’s equal access to and full participation in decision-making.”