By: Laymah Kollie
Tubmanburg-Bomi County: Several Women aspirants, traditional leaders, and local stakeholders from Western Liberia are rallying Pres. George Weah to affix his signature to the amended New Elections Laws (NEL) or the gender quota bill.
They made the call recently (December 28, 2022) at a stakeholders’ dialogue aimed at promoting inclusive political participation and elimination of violence against women in politics organized by Medica Liberia and Progress and Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment and Rights (Power Liberia) With Funding from UN Women and Support from UN Peace Building Fund, participants were drawn from Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu Counties.
In September 2022, the Liberian Senate Concurred with the House to pass the Amended NEL. Section 4.5 of the bill mandates Political Parties to submit 30% of either gender to the National Elections Commission (NEC).
During the discussions at the dialogue, women aspirants and local leaders jointly pointed out that it is important for the bill to be signed into handbill in order to affect equal participation for the 2023 elections.
” Political parties have for the past times down played female aspirants during primaries. They usually go for the money and connection they have with their male aspirants so if this act is pass into law, it will make it mandatory for them to give females equal space as the males. This new elections law should not be on the President desk forever, let him sign it now. We want President Weah to sign this act because it’s in favor of everyone” they said.
The Liberian President had recently return to the country following more than a month outside Liberia.
Before the passage of the amendment, the previous law indicates political parties should“endeavor to ensure” no less than 30% of either gender but included no requirement for political parties that would not comply with this 30%. More so, there was no mechanism for the NEC to reject candidates listing that does not meet the threshold.
Now, amendment to Section 4.5 (1b) of the NEL would replace ‘endeavor to ensure’ and ‘endeavor to have’ with ‘shall ensure,’ hence requiring political parties or coalitions to ensure at least 30% of either gender in their party leadership, while Section 1c would require candidate listings to have no less than 30% of candidates from each gender. Section 1e is also a much-needed accountability mechanism, as it gives NEC the explicit power to reject a listing which does not meet the 30% threshold. If a party fail to submit a new list with the 30% they will have to pay a fine of $10,000.00 USD. Failure to pay the fine will cause NEC to reject the party list.
The dialogue in Tubmanburg also highlighted the significance for political parties to uphold the Violence Against Women In Elections (VAWiE) Protocol in order to ensure a safe environment for women during the upcoming 2023 elections and future electoral processes.
Special emphasis was placed on the 2020 senatorial elections which highlighted traditional and societal issues against current Gbarpolu County Senator Botoe Kanneh. Botoe was tortured and stopped by country devil from accessing polling precincts, despite the VAWIE Protocol in place.
But BOPOLU Chiefdom Clan Chief, Dorbor Mawolo representing traditional leaders at the event consented to errors made in the past by traditional leaders but reaffirmed their collaboration in protecting women during future elections. “The issue with Botoe was an error. I’m talking to other colleagues in the districts too on how we can work together to prevent electoral violence against women. It is time we push women at the front and work together” said chief Mawolo.
” We as political parties promote women participation in decision making processes, we fully support women and we call on the president to signed the new elections bill,” Rev. Balah W Bue, chairman of the Liberty Party in Bomi asserted.
On behalf of women aspirants, Grand CapeMount District #2 aspirant Kula B N Fofana lauded Medica Liberia, Power Liberia and partners for the dialogue, referring to it as an opportunity to network with other aspirants and gain knowledge. “Forum like this gives us the opportunity to interact, network with one another. Many thanks to Medica Liberia and partners for the forum it has been a fascinating one”.
The dialogue is part of a one year project implemented by three women rights organizations namely: Medica Liberia and POWER Liberia in collaboration with Coalition of Political Parties Women in Leadership (COPPWIL). It focuses on advocacy to increase women political participation and prevention of Violence Against Women In Elections/Politics in Liberia.
” Let us work side by side, this is the second phase of our dialogue. We have also held advocacy strategy for female political participation” Madam Beatrice Newland – Executive Lead of Power Liberia.