The Liberia Elections Observation Networks (LEON), in collaboration with Cater Center, has begun an aggressive campaign to bring to realization the 30% representation of women in the political and governance process that has lingered in the Legislature for years now.
It can be recalled that the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration submitted the Gender Equity Bill that seeks to establish 30% women representation in elective positions especially at the level of the Legislature.
LEON is a conglomeration of civil society organizations and local non-governmental organizations including the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY), the Crusaders for Peace, National Union of the Disable and the Catholic Justice for Peace Commission (JPC).
During an interactive section with a cross-section of citizens, the second vice president of FLY, Barneka Eliot, said women at all levels must be fully represented in order to make decisions that will positively reflect on women and girls in the country.
Madam Eliot described as complete discrimination against women in the 2017 elections statistics in which (103) women contested with only nine elected in the House of Representatives. According to her, Liberia is under a moral obligation to ensure that women are equally represented both at the level of the Executive and elective positions. “Liberia has signed up to the UN Resolution against all forms of discrimination against women.
FLY President, Amos Williams, also stressed the need for affirmative actions to be taken for women’s participation in the governing process of the country. According to Mr. Williams, while it is true that the constitution provides for equal participation, it is also important to note that there are barriers that limit their chances.
Mr. Williams who earlier on provided the overview of the campaign told young people that as we move gradually to the 2020 senatorial elections, young people have a very important role to play in the conversations. He said decisions and actions that will be taken as a country and people should be able to affect the next generation positively. Williams: “Our actions must be driving by ideas and on the basis of facts not just party loyalty.”
He noted that Fly as one of the collaborating partners in the network believes that the only way the right thing can be done is to work with the youths and students community in providing all of the information that is required in the decisions that we will make, with respect to the ongoing conversation in changing some of the current elections laws.
This reform process, he said has been ongoing for over a year now, with the National Elections Commission (NEC) assessing observers recommendations from the 2017 elections including those of the LEON, and holding around the country to discuss its proposal.
Meanwhile, the debate which was held on January 29,2020, in Monrovia brought together, students from the United Methodist University (UMC), intellectuals from various communities to discuss a few of the higher-profile proposals made by stakeholders as presented to the network (LEON) in November 2019 by the NEC.
Mr. Williams said: “Today we will look at two key issues measure to ensure women’s representation and elections dispute adjudication.
On Election Dispute adjudication
He acknowledged that there has been much talk about the NEC not being able to be the referee and the player at the same time, something he said needs to be examined, whether a court-based system will have more confidence, or how long it will take to get the required expertise and how much will it cost.
Making reference to other countries in the sub-region, he said many countries including Sierra Leone, move to this system are now rethinking it.
He noted that the LEON and other partners including FLY believe that an alternative is to separate the Board of Commissioners of the NEC from the operational role the secretariat and give it an oversight and policy-making function, something he said is the most common approach in other countries.
Mr. Williams: “The Board should have an interest in ensuring the credibility of the elections by investigating a problem without an official complaint.” He also noted that LEON and FLY believe that the issue with the way complaints are adjudicated in Liberia can be solved by structural changes and procedural strengthening in the NEC.
Women makeup just over half of Liberia’s population but only have 11% of seats in the legislature. Current measures are voluntary and have not addressed this imbalance effectively.
LEON and FLY agree with the current NEC proposal that all political parties or coalitions are required to have no less than 30% of either gender on its governing body and candidate list. All Parties shall have at least one woman contestant for the primaries, for each constituency where it nominates a candidate.
He said such move is geared toward fulfilling Liberia’s commitment to reaching equal representation of both genders. LEON and FLY go further and want the provision to be clearly enforceable. The elections law should clearly state the penalty if the party fails to comply by rejecting the entire party list but allowing for resubmission of and amended list within the required period.