She is no longer running for office but President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has assured the Liberia Women’s Policy Platform (LWPP) that she will be on her feet everywhere to campaign for women listed and certified by the National Elections Commission (NEC) to participate in the forthcoming elections.
President Sirleaf said her desire is to reciprocate the support of Liberian women, which led to her successive victories in the 2005 and 2011 polls. She recalled that women across Liberia “stood under the sun and the rain,” and told the Liberian people, “We, the women of Liberia, this is our time.”
President Sirleaf made the statement last Tuesday in the Capitol rotunda where LWPP launched its initiative to close the “widening gap between women and men contesting for elective posts” in the October polls, according to an Executive Mansion press release.
The President urged all women candidates of past elections, and those currently running, to unify around the ultimate goal of closing the gap in the number of men and women in the Legislature, by getting more women elected before she leaves office next January.
She called to action the women’s grassroots movement that carried her twice to victory, to “go into the various communities, from house-to-house, from door-to-door, examining their backgrounds, [and] what [these women candidates] have been doing in their respective communities that we can rely on to sell to the voters.”
This strategy, President Sirleaf suggested, would get more women elected and promote unity among women to achieve that objective. “The women will now be fending for themselves, to see how they can help others to get elected to the legislature, on the tickets of the various political parties,” she said, adding that she is no longer running for president and therefore has ample time to campaign for women.
There are currently three women in the Senate and nine in the House of Representatives. Madam Sirleaf is pushing for greater political agency among women in general to increase those numbers, and thereby solidify her legacy as Africa’s first female president.
However, her focus on the Legislature in this election cycle is a notable development, when considering the two registered female candidates contesting to succeed her at the helm of the Executive Branch – MacDella Cooper for president and Jewel Howard Taylor for vice president.
The President has been largely silent on the matter of the two female candidates in the presidential race, limiting her statements to a general expression of support for women’s political ambition. Furthermore, any desire she may have to leave her post to another woman is clouded by complications regarding party loyalty and the qualifications and personal history of the candidates themselves.