By: Jeremiah Sackie Cooper
Liberia-October 12, 2023: The European Union Election Observation Mission (EUOM) in Liberia has released its preliminary report on the recently concluded presidential and legislative elections held on October 10, shedding light on a disturbing rise in gender-based violence against women candidates.
During a news conference on Thursday, October 12, 2023, the EUOM expressed deep concerns over the escalating level of gender-based violence, which has left women seeking public office living in constant fear and has resulted in a disproportionately low number of women candidates.
The report underscored that these acts of violence persistently undermine the involvement of women in the electoral process.
“The prevalence of gender-based violence in Liberia and the pervasive fear of violence constitute significant barriers to women’s participation in politics,” the report emphasized.
The Women’s NGO Secretariat of Liberia (Wongosol) recorded four incidents of electoral violence against women candidates during the campaign period.
Additionally, the European Union Election Observation Mission in Liberia outlined several challenges faced by women candidates contesting elections in Liberia.
According to the EUOM’s preliminary findings, female candidates seeking public office struggle to finance their campaign activities due to exorbitant fees imposed by election stakeholders in the country.
The EUOM stressed, “The high level of monetization of campaigns and the exorbitant registration costs present significant challenges, particularly for candidates without substantial private wealth. This is particularly concerning for women and youth.”
Furthermore, the report noted, “The lack of adequate financing emerged as the primary obstacle to their political participation, as voiced by all stakeholders. Women candidates lacked sufficient funding for basic campaign activities such as transportation, posters, and media outreach.”
The EU Election Observation Mission in Liberia also criticized the implementation of the 30 percent gender quota, as set by the National Election Commission (NEC) and political parties to promote women’s participation, labeling it as ineffective.
“Out of 1,025 candidates, only 159 (15 percent) were women, a lower percentage than the 2017 elections, where two women contested for the presidency,” the EUOM added.
While a mandatory 30 percent quota for women’s participation in elections was passed by the legislature in 2022, it was not signed into law. However, in May 2023, political parties and the National Election Commission of Liberia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) committing to a voluntary 30 percent quota for candidate lists and promoting women’s participation.
Despite these efforts, the participation of women in the October 10 election remained dismally low, at just 15 percent.