Women from across Liberia in collaboration with Elections Observation Network (LEON) have petitioned the Female Legislative Caucus seeking legislation that will enable female political participation at the level of the Legislature to enable them to have access to decision making.
The petition ceremony saw dozens of Liberian Women from diverse backgrounds expressing serious dismay over what they referred to as “Alteration in the proposed new elections law of Liberia affecting women’s representation.”
McDella Cooper, the political leader of the Movement Of One Liberia (MOL) presenting the statement to the Women Legislative Caucus at the Capitol Building on behalf of her colleagues, emphasized that there were extensive national consultations held by the National Election Commission (NEC), Civil Society groups and observers throughout the last two years that stressed the importance of strengthening the Elections Law to give women a chance to sit at the same table with men to discuss and pass legislation affecting all.
“Following these consultations, the NEC proposed, amongst other things, strengthening Section 4.5 of the new Election Law by making it compulsory for political parties to include at least 30% of either on their national executive and candidate lists for election, and giving the NEC the power to reject any party list that does not comply,” Cooper told the women Legislative Caucus.
She furthered explained that “It is with profound dismay that we have learned that the Houses’ Committee on Elections and Referendum met to discuss the draft amendment to the new Elections Law of 1986, and decided to remove the proposed amendment to Section 4.5 before the draft came to plenary.”
Cooper said the action of the House’s Committee is a complete violation and disrespect to all international and regional laws and protocols that Liberia signed and ratified, adding that “Section 4.5 1b does not give women seats on a silver platter, but rather gives them a space to freely compete and campaign as the men do and win.”
In 2014, the Legislature amended Section 4.5 of the new Elections Law (NEL) that provides that, “A political party or coalition in its submission to the Commission of its list of candidates for an election should endeavor to ensure that the governing body and its list of candidates has no less than 30% of its members from each gender.”
The women, therefore, called on members of the House of Representatives to reinstate the text that was reportedly removed from the proposed new Elections Law.
Additionally, Cooper urged the lawmakers to further demonstrate their support to women’s political participation by ensuring a vote for the amendments to be reinserted.
Madam Julia Duncan-Cassell, former Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP) encouraged all women groups to remain committed in the effort intended to give women a political voice in the country.
She said women inclusion at the decision making table is very important and as such, it cannot be downplayed.
Duncan-Cassell said, “Women being on par with men does not in any way show that they are taking men’s position, but to make their voices heard and enable them make decision that will affect their lives.”
Receiving the communication on behalf of the Women Legislative Caucus, Rosana Schaack, Representative of Rivercess County District #1, promised to continue the advocacy for the passage of significant laws positively affecting women.
Meanwhile, the women of Liberia are expected to hold a sit-in action today, Tuesday, on the grounds of the Capitol Building in continuation of efforts to draw the lawmaker’s attention to reinstate the removed portion of Section 4.5 of the new Elections Law.
The gathering will be attended by several women groups including the Women NGO Secretariat (WONGOSOL), African Women Leadership Network (AWLN), Movement for One Liberia, National Civil Society Council of Liberia, Women’s Rights and Gender Justice, Coalition of Political Party Women in Liberia, and Liberia Women Advocacy Network (LIWANET) with representation from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MGCSP) amongst others.