A Civil Society Group of women led by women’s rights groups and networks has released a communique calling for reform in the New Elections Law Section 4.5 (b) and (c).
Given that political parties are dominated by men, the reform seeks to have inclusion of at least 30% women in political parties and coalitions’ candidate listings and party leadership.
The Liberian Constitution provides the right for every qualified Liberian without gender discrimination to participate in national politics by contesting for a public position; nevertheless, women have been inactive perhaps on grounds that the patriarchal culture does not attach much significance on women leadership. This culture has existed for centuries until the glass-ceiling was broken when former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ascended to the highest seat of the land in 2006 setting the first history. This has also been followed by the ascendancy of Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.
As indicated in the Liberian Constitution, every Liberia has the right to contest in an election for public positions and success comes only if an individual can convince his or her constituents or voters to vote him or her.
Those women CSOs that endorsed the communique for the reform include organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH), Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI), Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON), Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI), Young Women Organization for Improvement, Girls for Change Organization, Helping Our People Excel (HOPE) and Her Voice Liberia (HVL).
Others include, Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), Network of Peace and Security Women in ECOWAS Countries (NOPSWECO), Sisteraid Liberia, Women Solidarity Inc. (WOSI), RESPECT Liberia and Youth Coalition for Education in Liberia (YOCEL).
The CSOs women’s communiqué, read by Facia B. Harris, Program Coordinator of Paramount Women Initiative, was delivered to journalists at the headquarters of the National Elections Commission in Monrovia.
Harris said 2020 marks 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action, which lays out 12 Critical Areas of Concern to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality, came into force. She stressed that the Beijing Platform called on Governments to “take measures to ensure women’s equal access to, and full participation in power structures and decision-making”.
She argued that in the Beijing Platform, governments were to Commit themselves to establish the goal of gender balance across all branches and levels of government, setting targets and taking action towards achieving equal representation of women and men through positive action; and encourage political parties to integrate women in elected and appointed public positions in the same proportion and at the same levels as men.
According to Ms. Harris, the percentage of women in parliaments globally should have doubled since 1995, but women still only make up 25% of national parliamentarians. In West Africa, she noted, the percentage falls to 14.3 and, in Liberia, below10%.
Harris said even through half of Liberia’s population is female; nearly all of Liberia’s lawmakers are men, adding that there are just 10 women among 93 men.
She said this is happening because women face many barriers to enter politics than men, noting that they have a greater responsibility for childcare and household chores.
Harris said women have less money, lack the networks and connections to raise the necessary funds while many Liberians still believe that politics is men’s business.
“Although political parties are responsible for promoting women, the inclusion of women in leadership and decision-making, they often do not, because women are led by men and dominated by masculine culture. Late-night meetings, ‘cash violence’, and sexual harassment are too common in political processes,” she said.
Harris said too often violence against women is used to keep them out of politics, and to keep them in lower positions.
She said those women who struggle to get to the ballot are seen as incapable leaders and therefore people are less likely to vote them.