By: Laymah Kollie
Monrovia -July 4,2023: The National Elections Commission(NEC) in collaboration with ECONEC, through the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture and Operations (EPSAO) Project co-financed by the European Union and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation implemented by GIZ is currently conducting a three day strategic dialogue with Political Parties on the Implementation of the minimum 30% Gender Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
The dialogue is meant to review prospects on efforts of political parties in the Implementation of the MOU; while collectively engaging and formulating action plans in achieving its objectives. The activity currently being held at Cape Hotel in Monrovia is gathering fourty-six (46) political parties, Alliances and Coalition for Implementation strategy on the document.
The MOU which seeks to increase women political participation in the General 2023 elections was signed on May 11,2023 by twenty five (25) registered Parties, including Alliances and Coliation. The MOU was crafted by National Elections Commission to promote women political participation and equal representation at the National Legislature based on Government of Liberia failure to fully pass into law the 30% Gender Quota Bill before the heat of the pending October 10 elections.
Section 4.5 of the new elections law was amended by the National Legislature to increase women political participation in the pending October elections and other election.
Section 4.5 (1b) of the New Elections Law printed on 15 December 2014 states that a political party or coalition in its submission to the commission of its list of candidates for an election should endeavor to ensure that the governing body and its list of candidates has no less than 30 percent of its members from each gender.
Further, Section 4.5 (1c) states that a list of candidates submitted to the Commission for an election should endeavor to have no less than 30 percent of the candidates on the list from each gender.
This portion of the law was amended from “endeavor to ensure” to “should ensure” making it compulsory for political parties to have an equal gender lens on political parties candidacy. The law also provided a first fined of USD $10,000.00 for parties that failed to provide balance listing and USD $15,000.00 and rejection of candidates listing as second fined for repeated action for these political parties.
The amended law was passed by the National Legislature in 2022 and sent to the desk of President George Weah for final signature as to be printed into handbill and be made a law.
On March 16,2023, President George Weah vetoed this provision of fined in the amended law on grounds that there are other national and international instruments that obligates the government to the promotion of females political participation and governance.
Since the President’s vetoe, the status of the bill is unknown as it has gone silence with just few months to elections.
At the start of the dialogue, NEC Oversight Commissioner for Gender, Madam Josephine Kou Gaye, stated that the MOU is not only meant to include women on political parties tickets but to nurture and support female aspirants to the fullest as a way of fostering winnable candidates.
She continues that the forum will consist of experience sharing and ways in which women can occupy leadership positions in their parties.
“We don’t just want women on political parties tickets as aspirants, we want campaign finance, what are political parties doing for women? We will use today to share our experiences. Let’s stop thinking about what happened before the MOU, let’s start thinking about what happened since the signing of the MOU and put women at the table. I hope the women that are here today will go back to their political parties and tell them what we are saying”, Madam Gaye said.
Also remarking at the occasion, Deputy Head of Delegation at the German Embassy Liberia, Mr. Peter Speyrer, appreciated political parties for steps taken and stressed that the MOU will provide the opportunity for equal participation and representation. “I want to extend my appreciation to the political parties who have signed to this Memorandum of Understanding objectives. Gender by extension is the citizens of Liberia. MOU will serve as an instrument for equal participation, representation” Mr. Speyrer, Deputy Head of Delegation German Embassy Liberia noted.
Speaking on behalf of women aspirants , Nimba District#2 Aspirant Madam Sondah Geepea Wilson urged politicians, civil society actors, policy makers to build a stronger foundation for women if the younger generation of females must have a solid ground to flourish.
“If we want our girls to be at the table tomorrow it is on us to the right thing today. Not just to have women on the table but as top officials. We must build this foundation well”, Aspirant Wilson lamented.
Furthermore, the Vice Chair for NEC Affairs at the Moment for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR), Mr. Michael TV Deddeh, emphasized that it is about time political parties and policy makers focus on practical aspect of law than theory.
He believes when people are working effectively to implement laws and regulations, it will yield more results than just talking about them.
“It is necessary to go beyond the theory aspect and be practical. It is not just about having women on our political parties. Leader system of this country must be revised. We must be able to engage our lawmakers to enact Gender Quota Bill”, Deddeh said.
Meanwhile, participants appreciated NEC and partners for the efforts applied in providing women an equal. Participants are being drawn from Nimba, Lofa, Bong , Montserrado amongst others.