Monrovia-August 19,2023: Sister Aid Liberia, a non-governmental organization with funding support from UN Women, Irish Aid, the Swedish Embassy, the EU, the Peacebuilding Fund and UNDP has concluded a day long political leadership experience sharing session with women candidates in the pending October elections and Women Parliamentarians of Sierra Leone.
The activity is under the project titled “Strengthening women political participation in elections in Liberia”.
The project aimed at addressing the systematic exclusion of women through educational and training opportunities, issues around violence against women in elections and the negative mass community and culture barrier in politics and elections.
The session was meant for Liberian women politicians to acquire best strategies and method from Sierra Leonean women political leaders in winning the electoral seats in their various districts and counties. The experience sharing forum provided Sierra Leone Women Parliamentarians to share their challenges, methods of approach and success stories in the county’s just ended elections.
Sierra Leone just witnessed a historic election bringing the percentage of women from 12.6% to 30.4%. From 17 members of parliament (MPs) in 2018 to 41 female MPs following their election on June 24, 2023. By adopting gender equality legislation in January 2023, Sierra Leone took a huge leap forward in correcting its history of women’s underrepresentation in the political and economic life of the country. The Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act of 2022 is largely responsible for more than doubling the number of women in their national parliament. With Sierra Leone’s proportional representation electoral system established by Presidential decree in 2022, political parties were compelled to assign a minimum 30% of the seats they won to women members.
Currently, in Liberia, Women in occupy 11 of 103 seats in the Legislature. Women representation at the Legislature has fallen from 16% in 2006 to less than 13% in 2012. The low representation of women in the national seats often range from insufficient funds for women candidates campaign financing to lack of political will.
Speaking at the start of the event, Sister Aid Liberia Executive Director, Madam Miatta Darwolor urged Liberian women’s candidates to pay keen attention to the process as it is beneficial to their political sojourn in the pending campaign and elections.
“We are very happy to have you, I want to welcome you on behalf of our team and I want you to be comfortable because this is your activities. Please don’t be too formal, pay attention in order to get why we are here”
The experience sharing was led by Hon. Rebecca Yei Kamara of Sierra Leonean Parliamentarian with other women and men of Sierra Leone higher seats. Others include: Hon. Princess K Daramy, Hon. Emilia Lolloh E. Tongi, Hon. Adama Bangura, Hon. Kekura Christopher Vandy and Hon. Tamba Simeon Johnny.
Sharing Sierra Leone’s success story in producing 41 female parliamentarians in the country’s just ended elections, Madam Rebecca Kamara placed it to political will and reforms of laws and enactment.
She stressed that if a country doesn’t have a political will in pushing gender issues, it is very difficult to achieve gender equality. “It is political will and laws that got Sierra Leone to have achieved 30.4% of women political participation. We enacted laws, and made it compulsory for every political party to stand by and we were able to get this number of women in Parliament today” Madam Kamara mentioned.
As part of the secret in winning elections in Sierra Leone, She urged Liberian women candidates to have stronger relationship with constituents; recognize the efforts of the community and make themselves visible to the voters.
However, in remarks, UN Women Liberia Country Representative Madam Comfort Lamptey noted that the 2023 General Elections is an opportunity for Liberians to make a change in increasing women political participation, decision- making processes.
“Most of us here are aware that women are woefully underrepresented in politics and all leadership positions in Liberia. In the Legislature, women occupy less than 11% of the seats. This is a situation that needs to change for Liberia’s democracy to be consolidated and for Liberia to meet its developmental objectives and contribute to the sustainable developmental goals. Women’s participation in politics and national decision-making is also essential for the achievement of these goals. As we have entered the campaign period for the 2023 General and Presidential Elections, I would like to congratulate all the women candidates who have stood and been certified for these elections. As UN Women, we understand the unique challenges faced by women candidates in elections.
She stated UN Women is working on women’s participation in politics and public life with focus on three-pronged strategy which includes strengthening legal frameworks, policies and procedures that promote gender balance and women’s participation; expanding the pool of qualified and capable women to run for election and take up leadership positions; and m transforming gender norms so that women are accepted as legitimate and effective leaders.
Madam Lamptey also underscored challenges faced by Liberian women politicians while pledging UN Women’s commitment to the process. The UN boss encouraged women candidates to stand their ground and bring change to the Liberian society.
“UN Women recognizes the myriad of challenges faced by women aspirants, candidates, and political leaders. While we cannot fund or provide material support to women’s electoral campaigns, UN Women contributes to the leadership aspirations in diverse ways. Working in partnership with Governmental and non-governmental partners. I am inspired to see diverse women coming together across party lines and other differences to promote women in leadership and decision-making positions in Liberia. UN Women believes that when women come together across levels and branches of government, when they share their experiences and engage international dialogues, when they build movements, transformational change is possible” madam Lamptey added.
Also speaking, the Program Officer at the Swedish Embassy Madam Dwede Tarpeh, reminded women candidates of the absent moment of foreign military in the country during the pending elections while admonishing Liberians to do her best in maintaining a peaceful elections.
“What could happen in Sierra Leone can happen here? I think we have to be acknowledged about the moment, this is the first elections in Liberia without external military presence, we also have to acknowledge the amount of work that was put into women political participation and also some of the disappointments that we had”.
However, speaking on behalf of Civil Society Organizations, Medica Liberia Country Director Atty. Yah Vallah Parwon indicated that the session is a powerful reminder for politicians to foster their game for positive results. She added that it is an opportunity for CSOs to network as they continue to put forth challenges confronting women and marginalized groups.
“The year 2023, marked by elections in both our countries, offers a great opportunity for us to join forces in addressing the challenges that hinder women and marginalized groups in our region. As parliamentarians and candidates, you occupy, or are on your way to, some of the most influential decision-making positions within our nations. Your roles are integral, and the power of collective action can bring about meaningful change for our societies. Today’s event serves as a powerful reminder of the resilience that stems from collaboration and solidarity. We are interconnected by our shared experiences of conflict, inequities, and the pressing need to break the barriers that confine women within limited political decision-making spaces”.
Meanwhile, Liberian Women Candidates appreciated Sister Aid and Partners, the Sierra Leone Women Parliamentarian for the great share of experiences and strategies in winning their various seats.
Sister Aid Liberia is a women-led National Non-Governmental Organization that promote Rights Advocacy and Empowerment, Research and Policy Engagements, and Leadership and Capacity Building, mainly targeting women and girls.