By David A. Yates
Women aspirants in the upcoming October Presidential and Representative Elections, pushed strongly for elected posts at a one day strategic dialogue on women’s political leadership held on Wednesday, January 18.
The forum, which was held at the Monrovia City Hall, brought together women from various political backgrounds, including independent candidates, to ensure that they participate equally with the men at all levels of national government including elected positions.
It was organized by the UN Women, through the Gender Ministry, Embassy of Sweden, Coalition of Political Parties Women in Liberia (CPPW), Women Legislative Caucus of Liberia (WLCL), among others.
Topics discussed at the forum included: role parties can play in the political empowerment of women for 2017; issues to be considered in increasing women’s representation in the 2017 elections; and practical actions that political parties can take to ensure that women are placed in winnable seats.
During the dialogue, many women complained about the challenges they face in order to get the 30 percent female participation in the Legislature, but two-time Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor cautioned them to be ready for the process.
“Sometimes we hear women keep saying we got nothing and the truth of the matter is we must have something to begin this process. Let’s stop playing, no one will give you a hundred percent of what you need; you need to go out there and lobby for your own money and get ready for the process,” she said.
According to her, “the men are making their T-shirts and they are doing all their things small, small and putting them down and we are still arguing and waiting for some godfather somewhere to bring the money and give it to us; that will not happen.”
Senator Taylor said: “There will be some support, but the work that you need to do is to ensure women are elected. You will have to do it in order to make sure that we have equal asset and equal opportunity.”
Although the 30 percent women representation in political leadership is not definite, the co-chairperson of the National Elections Commission, Sarah Jegede-Toe, said the NEC has called on political parties in the country to make sure 30 percent of their nominations are women.
“Definitely, if political parties do not come with 30 percent women, we will not take their nomination,” Madam Toe said.
The NEC co-Chair also warned that any candidate who will contest and lose their party’s primaries will not be eligible to go on another party’s ticket to contest the October’s Legislative and Presidential elections.
Ms. Ruth Gibson-Caesar, National Coordinator of Liberia Women’s National Political Forum (LWNPF), told the women that the forum was mainly intended to create awareness and sensitization among themselves.
She said each person vying for a political seat is a contractor and as such, they need to promote themselves in leadership and cannot go less this time.
In remarks, UN Women Deputy Representative and Officer-in-Charge Peterson Magoola congratulated the women for changing the gender language in Liberian politics, adding that it should be gender responsive.
Mr. Magoola said that the forum should guarantee more representation of women in all elected, selected or appointed positions in government as well as political parties.
“We are really grateful for the number of political parties who are here to engage these women, and hear from them and see the value addition they bring to their parties,” he said.
Emmanuel Tulay, head of interparty committee, also called on women to see them as a popular force contrary to what their male counterparts usually say about them.
Citing a case study, he said President Sirleaf has championed the cause for women’s participation in politics not only in Africa but the world at large.
Also in attendance was the Chairman of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), Nathaniel McGill. He said the CDC is committed to ensure the participation of women.