Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, ahead of the 2020 mid-term senatorial election in which 15 of the 30 senators are seeking reelection, has challenged her women colleagues to begin preparation now in order to make themselves politically relevant to the constituents if the Legislature can have a good number of them.
VP Taylor, Liberia’s first female Vice President and second to former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to occupy such a senior elected position in government, is an advocate for gender equity in political participation. Prior to her ascendancy to the VP position, she served as Senator of Bong County before the 2017 presidential election and went ahead to carve a resolution calling for 30 political seats exclusively for women.
“As 2020 approaches, women are not making effort to start soon, but sitting until when it is six months to election before coming up to express their interest in the process. You are supposed to start working by now before that time,” VP Taylor said.
She made the statement on the Campus of the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) Graduate School, during its 5th Lecture Series, held on October 14, 2019. She said women remain complacent and make the mistake of not gearing up now to prepare for the time ahead, in spite of the advocacy that is taking place not only in public talk in the media, but also on document for passage at the Legislature.
She assumed that 49% of Liberia’s population constitutes women, stressing that this percentage is huge enough to decide the outcomes of election. She said because women have been seen as domestic servants to do all the work in the home, while the boys and men sit to play checkers, football and other games, women are finding it difficult to participate at a larger scale in government.
“Just imagine seeing a senate of 30 senators, and only one woman is among 29 men; and 73 Representatives are in the House with about eight or nine women. As such, women will not have a voice to air and make decisions about what affects them,” VP Taylor said.
She further told the students that in order for women to realize what they want, they must be determined to decide and work at it. She also called on women to avoid hatred for one another as has always been the case when they converge to prioritize women candidates in the upcoming election so that at least 15 of the new senators coming on board can be women.
VP Taylor, through advocacy for women’s participation in politics and other areas of life for gender balance, could not withhold what could be true about how many women present themselves in the competitive environment.
She acknowledged that many women are afraid to study Biology, Physics, Chemistry and other science courses, because they believe that the subjects are difficult to study. Rather, she said women prefer Sociology and other business courses which, after graduating from university, will not provide them jobs or cause them to be in demand in the job market.
“How many jobs can Sociology provide for the many women graduating from universities? If you study Engineering, Biology, and other science courses that will put you in demand for the job market, you will see yourself going up,” VP Taylor said.
Highlighting some conditions that manifest marginalization of women in the Liberian society, the Vice President said in the home, for instance, girl children are made to work more than boys because the perception is that the woman will marry and will apply such duty in her home.
She also noted that in most of the villages across Liberia, schools are built far from the towns so that the young girl child cannot easily cover the distance, as would the boys. “By the time the girl has reached the age to walk with the boys to the school built far from the village, she has left behind plenty of things she should have covered along with the boys,” she noted.
VP Taylor said that gender encompasses every sphere of life and that, having gender equity in every part of a society will enhance development, leaving no one behind in participation.
She said gender was not about making someone a subordinate or superior, but it is about having partners; mainly a man and a woman, walking side by side in fostering socioeconomic development that will alleviate poverty, referencing the Bible, which says that the woman was taken from the side of a man and not from the foot or from the head.
The lecture series at which VP Taylor spoke is one that invites high profile government and diplomatic officials, as well as private sector actors, to discourse on issues relative to such functionaries.
This monthly lecture series, according to Dr. Augustine Konneh, Dean of the Graduate School, is shifting the thoughts of the students from youthful imagination to a mature state that will put them in position of decision making.
The previous lecture was on Human Trafficking, delivered by guest lecturer, United States Ambassador Christine Elder.