Women Rally for Victory on July 8

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The candidates and some women in a group photo after the Women Candidates Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, June 25, 2019

-Call for unity in Feminist Movement

By William Q. Harmon and Gloria T. Tamba

The death of former Montserrado County Senator, Geraldine Doe-Sheriff on February 9, 2019, created a vacancy at the legislature and many women, especially members of the feminist movement; believe this is a seat that belongs to them. As such, they are therefore rallying to ensure that it is occupied by one of their own.

The death of Rep. Adolph Lawrence of Montserrado County District #15 also created a vacuum that women are also craving to fill.

These two seats are up for grabs, and the women of Liberia and taking no chances. They are therefore rallying their support behind their colleagues, who have braved the storm to contest these vacancies. In their words, failure is no option as they must go all out for the ultimate goals.

However, women who gathered in their numbers at the Women Candidates Town Hall meeting, held at the Monrovia City Hall on Tuesday, June 25, knew very well that achieving such feat would not be an easy task. After all, there are so many odds already working against Liberian women, being a patriarchal society where women are still looked down upon when it comes to leadership roles—evidence by the current composition of the Legislature, where women make up only 10 percent.

The Town Hall meeting was organized by Kvinna Till Kvinna (KTK), OXFAM and UN Women. It was intended for prospective women voters to listen on what they have as their platforms and how the issues of women are highlighted on the agenda.

Interestingly, only two of the four female candidates invited were in attendance. These are Independent candidate MacDella Copper and Madam Massa Massaquoi Kaydor. Representative aspirant Telia Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP), was reportedly on her way to the event, but did not reach there in time, while Paulita Wie of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) sent an excuse that she was sick and could not attend.

Women and unity

“Women cannot succeed in their endeavor of getting on par with their male counterparts in the absence of unity…” was the message that resonated at Tuesday meeting, predominately attended by women.

“But amid all of odds against the women, there are few things, when practiced, can make the impossible achievable,” Madam Kaydor, one of two candidates, who graced the town hall meeting said.

She pinpointed love and unity, which she said can alleviate any barrier, as key if women are to succeed in their undertakings in the country.

“We must continue to stand with each other if we are to break barriers and reach our heights. We must continue to cultivate respect, cordiality, integrity and togetherness amongst us,” she added.

Madam Kaydor has her focus on empowering some of the disadvantaged youth, especially girls—an area in which she has been working a little over nine years. She also has women empowerment, education, and healthcare on her agenda.

“It is sad that women make up over 50 percent of the voting population, but less than 11 percent percent of members of the House of Representatives, which comprises 73 members,” a representative from OXFAM-Liberia, who spoke on behalf of the institution, observed.

“We must rally behind our women candidates. We must support them. This is the way for us to make progress on a collective level,” she added.

Better decision makers

MacDella Cooper said women are better decision makers, and therefore, they must be given the chance to lead.

“What makes women better decision makers is that when we are making decisions, we consider everything, including our family, community and country. We must therefore lead,” she declared.

On the economic front, she said that it is better to have foreign direct investments rather than depending on donors to strengthen Liberia’s struggling economy and empower women who are owners of small businesses. She also named unemployment, education, healthcare and lack of investments as some of the many problems that the country faces.

Cooper: “There are more people who are unemployed in Montserrado County than ever before in our history. There are more kids that are out of schools today than ever in our history. We are lacking healthcare, and also investments in Montserrado now than ever before.”

She promised to use her connections, if elected, to find investors and people who have international relations and will not focus on donors.

“I come from a generation that does not believe in donors’ funds. What I am interested in is foreign direct investment,” Cooper said.

Speaking of donors’ funds, Macdella Cooper stated during the Town Hall Meeting that, as a means to financially and economically empower women in Liberia, she introduced Leymah Gbowee, now a Nobel Peace Laureate, to a donor who gave Gbowee US$450,000 on behalf of the Women In Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET).

However, contrary to Ms. Cooper’s comments, Gbowee said “no donor has ever donated any money to me for WIPNET. Since my departure from WIPNET in 2005, I have not solicited any money on behalf of WIPNET.

“However, I would like to clarify that Ms. Cooper did introduce me to a US-based family foundation back in 2012, 7 years after parted ways with WIPNET. After a rigorous process, my foundation, the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa (GPFA) was awarded an unrestricted grant of $225,000 [for] 2012-2017. As a Liberian NGO, GPFA undergoes thorough financial audits each year and financial partners are acknowledged in our annual reports,” Gbowee said.

She added: “Transparency is critically important in politics. Even more so when it comes to money. I believe the above clarification is vital to ensure that the record is correct.”

Where are the women?

Upon her election in 2005, then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf prioritized the appointment of women, many of them occupying senior cabinet positions. But there was no clear path forward when it comes to female leadership, and dealing with issues such as gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and early marriages, as Madam Sirleaf commanded the political space.

The Sirleaf administration acknowledged these challenges and, at one point, worked toward overcoming them. Yet, the issues proved to be too complex for a single administration to tackle fully, according to Naomi Tulay-Solanke, a Liberian Feminist gender activist and an Aspen New Voices Fellow.

In a commentary titled, “WHERE ARE THE WOMEN IN GEORGE WEAH’S LIBERIA?”, Solanke said that the end of Sirleaf tenure seemed to indicate a reversal of this progress. Twenty-one of the 22 presidential candidates were male in 2017, and only three out of the 22 political parties had women as vice-presidential nominees.

The absence of a woman on the presidential ballot for the UP, according to her, appeared that a backlash against the Sirleaf era was beginning to surface.

Only nine women were elected to fill the 73 House of Representative seats at the polls in 2017, with the only silver lining for the cause of female leadership, perhaps, being the election of Jewel Howard Taylor, a senator then, herself.

At a women event prior his January 22 inauguration, president-elect George Weah promised that his administration would work side by side with women — a promise that appears elusive as there are only two out of over 22 cabinet ministers he has appointed.

“We believe that women can compete, and we believe that the Liberian women can also perform. When they were requesting for 30 percent, I was proposing 50 percent women participation,” the President said at the time.

A disappointed Madam Solanke does not see this happening. “Many of us believed at the time that his statement was an indication of his commitment to secure equal participation for women in the leadership of his government,” she said.

The Women Candidates Town Hall meeting was graced by some eminent Liberian women, including former Education Minister, Dr. Evelyn Kandakai, as well as former Maryland County Senator and former Chief Justice, Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, who urged the contestants to put together a strong team that will properly monitor events on the day of the election.

9 COMMENTS

  1. You know what they say: “there’s a special place in he’ll for women who don’t support other women.” But, if I may add they have to have substance though. #Imhustsaying

    Hi to the brothers in the race. Dah it there oh, the women are ready. Lol.

  2. Well look, I respect good women. Good women have a right to enter politics. In fact, it’s okay for women to pursue their interests across the board from A to Z. But I usually respectfully disagree with women when their political and social agenda focuses on one particular issue.
    The Issue:
    We are being told that because they are women, the senatorial position that a late female legislator once held must be held once again by a female. That’s not a good political argument. We need qualified male and female legislators. We don’t need legislators whose agenda is based on gender only.

    Second Point:
    Not only do women want to occupy the seat of the late Senator Doe, but they also want the seat of the late lawmaker, Mr. Adolph Lawrence. If we’re going to do business like that, I would like to say that the late Lawrence was a guy, not a female. Will it be possible for a guy to run for Lawrence’s seat since he was a guy? Come on ladies. Y’all want everything for y’all selves?

    I do not have a gripe against MacDella Cooper. Neither have I met her before. On the upside, Cooper sounds like an activist who possesses a 21st century agenda. That’s positive! But when Cooper states that “women are better decision makers”, than men, I dont agree with her assessment 100%. Miss Cooper is entitled to her opinions. But, I think it’s fair to say that “some women” make better decisions than men. For sure, women do not always and always make better decisions than men.

    Finally, I will support a competent female in the upcoming by-elections. However, if the chosen female’s her talking point focuses on gender and not on the important issues of our country, I will chnge my mind.

    • I agree with most of what you are saying. There should be no male or female seat. Let the voters decide.
      There should only be a qualify and dedicated public servants seat.

  3. Correction….
    Last sentence should read like this:
    “If the chosen female’s talking point focuses on gender and not on the important issues of our country, I will change my mind”,

  4. Macdella cooper Talking about women’s rights when she sleeps with Richmond for money and children so that she can get support from them including George weah! This woman has slept around with a rich man for money so how she should be a judge as to what women need to do to be respected when she wasn’t respectful that’s up by sleeping with old men for money.

  5. Macdella cooper is a money whore for sleeping and having babies for rich men (weah) SHE IS A ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WHORE

  6. There had been thoughts running through my mind when it comes to women in leadership. And that was ( HONESTY). But after E.J. SIRLEAF administration, I have a second thought. Woefully I didn’t believe that even women had one percent corruption in the fiber their being. EJS said to me oh no you got that wrong! We are in disgard! No one will detect our move till it’s all done. Don’t take them for granted, watchful EYES. (NOT A SERMON, JUST A THOUGHT)

  7. Bro Hney, you just rightfully said that women should enter the political arena, but you dont want them to run in late Lawrence area. I know you did not mean that, or did I not understand fully what you wrote? I do think that women make good leaders and they should be given the chance to go to the mountaintop, if they can. Too often, they have been marginalized in our society and i think it about time that we give them all the encouragement they need and deserved.

    i do believe that women in leadership will be able to advocate for more women’s right. Look at the senseless rape and abuse of our young sisters and daughters that is taking place on a daily basis and nothing, if anything, is being done about it. I sincerely think that a nation is judged by the way it treats its females and in that aspect, Liberia has failed miserably.

    So, women of Liberia, please, climb, if you will, to the mountaintop, I for one, am rooting for you.

  8. Well Joe, it”s my sincere pleasure to let you know that I am pro-women….good women! So in a way, I think you misunderstood me on the particular issue of Adolph Lawrence’s seat. Female activism sometimes goes a little too far. We seem to be trending in that direction with our female politicians.

    The point is this. Female politicians in Liberia tell us that the late Senator Doe’s seat must be replaced by a female. I don’t have a problem with that. If a female is voted in, that’ll be fantastic! Secondly, the luckiest female who wins the seat must be qualified.

    Joe, elections are competitive. There cannot be a free and fair election that grants autonomy to women only. There will be men as well. However, during the campaign process, it depends on the message and the talking points. If a female plugs the right strings during the campaign process, she’ll win. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose.

    Female politicians want Lawrence’s seat. Their argument is that in order for their numbers to be increased in both Houses, it is compulsory for a female politician to occupy Lawrence’s seat. As you know Joe, political seats are very competitive. A free and fair election cannot be held without a guy. We need competent women. Female politicians should not say because they are females, the seat should be granted. By making such an argument, the significance of female politicians is being minimized. Frankly, there are competent Liberian women out there. Miss Kou Gontee is one of them. Additionally, Joan George is out there. She is insightful! I will vote for a female politician in a heartbeat who articulates her message professionally.

    Remember this Joe. I am pro-women. I mean good women.

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