Women Groups Petition NEC to Enforce 30% Gender Quota MOU with Political Parties, Others

By: Laymah Kollie

Monrovia -July 11,2023:
Over fifty (50) Women Human Rights Organizations on July 10,2023 petitioned National Elections Commission (NEC) to ensure Political Parties, Alliances and Coalitions increase the number women aspirants on their nomination listing and offer them financial support to carry out their electioneering activities.

The women groups call comes toward the climax of the candidates nomination and registration process with NEC statistics pointing to lower number of women who have registered.

Candidates Nomination commenced on the 14th of June and it is expected to climax July 14,2023.

Reading the petition on behalf of the group, Madam Hawa Jemell from the Organization of Women and Children (ORWOCH) and madam Beatrice Newland Power Liberia stated that the Political Parties have over the years continually failed to “endeavor to ensure” that not less than 30% are on their list.

They mentioned that between 2005 and 2015, not a single party met the 30%. Also, in 2017, just one of 24 parties despite the legal mandate for the National Elections Commission (NEC) to require political parties to demonstrate an “endeavor to ensure” gender representation.

They stressed that NEC has been unsuccessful in holding political parties accountable or compelling them to provide evidence of compliance or programs aimed at fulfilling this requirement.

“This will be the third time in Liberia’s democratic dispensation that reforms for equal participation do not get to be signed into law ahead of elections. Liberian women have expressed interest in legal and policy reform to advance women’s political participation for more than 20 years and have been continually let down by elected officials and political parties, who do not serve their interests”.

“This is unacceptable within a democracy, especially considering that women comprise half of the population. Ahead of 2023 Election, it is crucial that we break away from business as usual and take significant steps towards promoting women’s political participation”, the petition noted.

The women indicated that Political parties have continually demonstrated that no any interest in strengthening their internal democracy and promoting equal political participation. “Additionally, the persistent trend of a declining proportion of women being included in the candidate rosters of political parties signals a lack of progress in this area.”

The women further stated that the situation has the power to further restrict women engagement in politics which might compel female candidates to go for less possible options.

“This circumstance has the potential to restrict women’s engagement in politics and may compel female candidates to opt for less favorable options. Moreover, this dire circumstance serves as an early indication that the extent of women’s involvement in the Legislative body may potentially decrease to a level below 11% subsequent to the October 2023 elections, unless immediate action is taken”.

They however recommended to NEC that all political parties that have signed the MOU and set voluntary quotas must uphold those commitments before the end of the candidate registration process.

“That the political parties adopt social protection policies for women desirous of running on their ticket and reduce the financial obligations associated with candidate nomination; and that the NEC develops monitoring tools to ensure political parties’ compliance with the existing laws in the absence of a mandatory law holding political parties accountable”.

Meanwhile, receiving the petition, NEC Co-Chairperson of Commissioner Teplah Reeves promised to deliver it to the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission. She appreciated the women group for efforts applied in making sure the MOU is implemented.
“Thank you for the steps taken, I have received this and will deliver it to the Board of Commissioners and we will get back to you.“

The gender quota Memorandum of Understanding (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 Coalition. 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. 25 political parties including coalitions signed the MOU committing to have not less than 30% women on their candidate lists. In addition, some political parties set voluntary candidate quotas of 40%.

According to an official updates released by the National Elections Commission, as of July 10, 2023, appallingly, only 85 (15.9%) of the 533 aspirants who have registered to contest in the October 2023 legislative elections are women.

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