-Women Groups Grace ‘Mock Legislature’
The United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), Swedish Embassy and Local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have requested the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives to approve the Anti-Domestic and Affirmative Bills.
The international organizations made the call yesterday in the Joint Chambers of the Legislature during a program marking the ‘Mock Session of Parliament’ of the Women Legislative Caucus of Liberia. The Program was supported by UN Women.
The UN Resident Coordinator and Representative of the United Nations Development Program in Liberia Yacoub El Hillo urged the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives to continue to lead in the global scene by making history and approve the Anti-Domestic and Affirmative Bills.
Mr. Hillo said as of 1970, Liberia made the first history, with Madam Angie E. Brooks being the first and only African female President of the United Nations General Assembly. He said in 2005, Liberia made another history with the election of the first elected female President in Africa.
“We believe Liberia can also make history again and pass this Anti-Domestic Violence and Affirmative Bills,” Mr. Hillo said.
He added that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were created and piloted by Liberia, is being emulated by many other countries.
UN Women Representative Madam Goreth Nizigama said the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill and Affirmative Action Bill will bring diversity and other comparative advantages that are required in leadership and governance.
Madam Nizigama said evidence shows gender inequalities remain intertwined to poverty and impoverishment.
“For example, according to the 2016 Human Development Report, of 188 countries assessed, Liberia ranks 177 on the Gender Inequality Index; Rwanda ranks 84, while Senegal ranks 120,” Madam Nizigama said.
“It’s no gainsaying, we are trailing these sister countries on development and it will be good for all of us if we match up and I daresay pass them,” she added.
For his part, AU Political Officer Prosper Addo said the Affirmative Action Bill will be a “good thing” for Liberia to enable the women, people living with disability and the youth to have shared in governance and it should not be a hindrance in legalizing laws against domestic violence.
Swedish Ambassador to Liberia Madam Ingrid Wittersqvist said the Swedish Government will remain supportive of programs that would promote the equality of women and was proud to form part of a forum to encourage the lawmakers to approve the Domestic Violence Bill and the Affirmative Action Bills.
Women in Peace Building Network and other advocacy groups of the youth, women, and people living with disabilities were in attendance.
During the Mock Session of the Parliament of the Women Legislative Caucus of Liberia, Rep. Samuel Kogar served as the Mock Speaker, while 10 Representatives and Senators served as the Mock Parliament. They were the pro and con during discussions of the Anti-Domestic Violence and Affirmative Action Bills.
The lawmakers included Rep. Rosana Schaack, the President of Women Legislative Caucus of Liberia, Sen. Peter Coleman, Rep. Moima Briggs-Mensah, Rep. Ellen Attoh, Rep. Rustonlyn Dennis, Rep. Matthew Zarzar, Rep. Francis Doepoh, Rep. Julie Wiah, Rep. Tibelrosa Tarponweh and Rep. Gunpue Kargon.
Those for the con said the Affirmative Action Bill contravenes the Constitution and does not seek to represent the interest of a vast majority of Liberians, while others said the Bill, if approved, will help to empower women, youths and people living with disabilities in the House of Representatives.
The Affirmative Action Bill has undergone five attempts to get gender equality legislation at the different levels of the political process.
In 2005 there was an attempt to revise the Electoral Law; in 2009, it was under the caption of a Fairness Bill; in 2010 it was the Gender Parity Bill; in 2013, it was an Act to amend the elections law of Liberia; in 2014, it was included in the Constitution Review Process and known as the “Women’s minimum agenda for constitutional review; and in the latest attempt it is called the Equal Participation and Representation Bill of 2016 which is part of the Affirmative Action Bill.
The Bill, among others, seeks to set aside 21 Legislative seats for women, youths and people with disabilities in addition to the existing 73 seats.
On the Domestic Violence Bill, it has also been a long haul. Currently, Executive Order 92, which has been issued by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on the eve of her departure, President George M. Weah is committed to passing into law as proclaimed during the European Development Days in Brussels.