By Shardrick Tarwily
The Center for Media Studies in Liberia (CMSL) brought “good news” to the people of Grand Kru County.
The civil society organization on August 15, 2019 began placing billboards in the capital city as part of ongoing nationwide efforts to promote election reform.
According to Project Officer Dixon Williams, his organization is invested in CLEAR (Citizens of Liberia Engaged to Advance Electoral Reform) public outreach activities. Billboards are some of the best ways to translate the messages of electoral reform. They visually portray a public agenda in a way that is easily accessible and understandable by more people. As he describes it, the billboards erected in Grand Kru and other parts of Liberia are an effective method to reach the country, spread the news on the campaign for electoral reform, and get people talking.
The billboards feature key reform messages such as “Stay out of the rain!”, “Vote in dry Season”, a reflection of one reform proposal to amend the constitution such that elections are rescheduled from October to a new date in dry season. This and other proposed constitutional amendments would mean a vote of the people, or a referendum. Additional reform agenda items to be feature include reducing the tenure or time in office of elected officials, and a special, independent court for election grievances or complaints.
The first billboard was constructed in the county administrative seat of Barclayville, at an intersection leading to City Hall and the administration building. The board is well placed, at a location opposite a motorcyclists parking station and a commercial center, where it is sure to capture attention. According to Williams, additional billboards will be erected in three cities of Grand Kru.
Barclayville Mayor Benetor Blamo expressed confidence that this public outreach will be instrumental in connecting with “the average Liberian” regarding the ongoing electoral reform campaign, and likely upcoming vote on changes to Liberia’s constitutional electoral laws.
She described the regional dialogue conducted by the National Election Commission as another effective way to ensure the involvement of all sectors of society in the discussions of the elections law. That event concluded July 11, with nearly one hundred representatives from the southeastern counties — civil society, local and county authorities, youth and women leaders, people with special needs or disabilities, and the media — coming together to have a closer look at electoral reform.
Mayor Blamo said the regional consult afforded regional leaders greater insight into provisions of the laws, reform recommendations, and proposed next steps. The NEC used the opportunity to interpret relevant legal statutes and regulations, and presented a comprehensive report.
As Mayor of a key southeastern city, she also made the most of the opportunity, and her platform. “I think the dialogue was fruitful. I personally had the opportunity to raise some strategic issues about women. Especially when it comes to women being more involved in election activities in our city.”
“You are aware not too many women around here are encouraged to take part in election processes. So I recommended that, moving forward, there must be targeted lawmaking and activities to encourage more women in the electoral processes of Liberia.”
Mayor Blamo is the first woman to become Mayor of Barclayville City since Grand Kru gained county status in 1984.