By: Oretha Bundo
Liberia current trend of women Political Participation is at 11% with women representation in the Parliament. As 2023 draws closer, lesson learned sessions have highlighted several challenges which pillared most of the underrepresentation on income inequalities but pertainent is the lastest unleashing of traditional devils to scare women’s full Participation in elections.
The 2020 Senatorial election in Gbarpolu County with Senator Gbotoe Kanneh was recently highlighted at a stakeholders engagement on the Angie Brooks International Center (ABIC) flagship Program ‘Women Situation Room’.
ABIC’s week long engagement focused on outlining challenges of women Participation as 2023 draws nearer and how traditional leaders are promoting women leadership at the local level.
In attendance were Liberian women, chiefs and elders from cross Section of the country.
ABIC Coordinator Yvette Chesson Wureh
said the event was important to inquire from women too on Collaborting with their male counterparts in their respective communities in Bong and Montserrado Counties where the project is focused.
According to her, country devil should not be a barrier to women political participation in Liberia, eventhough, she highlighted that there is no way women can do away with men as they heavily need their support in achieving the goal of women upliftment in every aspect of decisions making of the country.
Leveraging on challenges of women during Political processes in Liberia, Gbarpolu County Senator Gbotoe Kanneh story took the entire room.
Sen. Kanneh claimed that she was the sacrificial lamp for the women of Liberia on grounds that as a result of her story, women are now standing tall to fight for their rightful space in every leadership position and sector of the Country amid the tideous fight with country devil.
“In order to escape the devil’s attack, my supporters and I had to climb fifty-two hills in Gbapolu County and there were still gate block set on the road right in the direction we were headed, but through the special grace of God, we were able to passed through it all. Before declaring my intention to run for the position of senator, started working with my people in all aspect of the county knowing fully well I was a dry meat seller at the time, and due to my past working relationship with the people, they stood behind me till I became their senator today,” she added
The Gbarpolu County Senator urged the ABIC to include women of Gbarpolu in most of it’s leadership program due to the absence of women in local government positions in the county based on entrenched cultural values of non women Leadership.
Providing some legal information during the engagement, former Chief Justice former chair of the National Elections commission of Liberia Cllr. Francess Johnson Morris described Sen. Kanneh scenario as a contradiction and violation of the organic law (constitution) of Liberia. “The issue with Botoe cannot happen in any civilized country and that was a state sponsor terrorism with the role the police played in the entire episode,” Cllr. Morris noted.
She frowned that such act of unleashing country devil in an electoral process against a woman. “It is unbelievable that such incident is taking place in Liberia in this 21st century”.
She underscored that the National Elections Commission role should’ve been first the protection of their candidate, noting that she was harassed, intimidated and almost got kill in the process simply because she was a woman.
Justice Johnson-Morris cautioned the local government to guide against what took place in Gbarpolu because it is not in keeping with law, quoting that the constitution says when the customary practices and tradition are in conflict with the organic law, those laws are subordinate.
Two chiefs highlighted some challenges for women leadership at local level. Chief Moses Quakeh says the governing structure is not creating the necessary atmosphere where all political actors can have equal right in political participation in the Country.
Thomas Tweh from West Point recommended that there be a template that will mandate local leaders to always bring women when coming to said program to help them feel encouraged in being part of women activities in every part of the society.
The program organized by ABIC was part of its united nations peace building fund projectfor Women Empowerment. The Women’s Situation Room project is in 20 communities in Bong and Montserrado Counties.