By: Laymah Kollie
Sinkor -June 7,2023- WTVNEES: Less than five months to the General Presidential and Representatives Elections in Liberia, a conglomeration of women rights groups in Liberia are demanding the full passage of the 30% gender quota bill, President George Weah Affirmation of support to the bill, among others.
The Gender Quota bill which mandates Political parties to ensure not less than 30% of either gender on their candidates listing and equal women’s political participation in governance process still faces limitations and hindrance for full passage into law. The bill is currently before the Legislature following a vetoe of certain provisions of the New Elections Law (a bill which the 30% falls in). Also final hearings into the Public Health Law that focuses on penalties of Abortion are currently ongoing at the Liberian Senate.
The Women advocates and civil society actors fear the gender quota bill if not finalized in the soonest possible time before October polls might restrict the promotion of women political participation. In a press statement issued on Tuesday, June 6,2023, the group of women stressed the inability of the Liberia’s legal framework to ensure women political participation and representation is creating hindrances and bottlenecks.
Reading the statement, Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) Program Manager Madam Willet L Salue and Medical Liberia Advocacy Officer representing the Women Groups Madam Christiana T. Wayon rallied the Legislature efforts for finalization of the bill and printed into handbill before October 10 Elections.
The Women Groups also call on the president to publicly declare his approval of the portions of the bill as to be timely printed into handbill.
“Liberia’s legal framework falls short in ensuring women’s political participation and representation. Despite being nearly half of the population, women’s representation in elected offices remains alarmingly low. Proposed amendments aim to enhance gender representation, but face challenges. We urge the Approval and finalization of the bill related to section 4.5 of the National Elections Law, Public declaration of approval by the president and timely printing into law, Dissemination of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and support for the amendment by political institutions and Notification to ECOWAS of the intent to pass the amended version of the Elections Law”.
“We firmly believe that implementing these recommendations will contribute to a more inclusive and representative political landscape in Liberia, empowering women and promoting democratic values. Passing gender quotas is a necessary step to address the historical underrepresentation of women in politics and promote equal participation. Since 2010, every attempt at legislating gender equity measures has failed apart from the 2014 amendment which produced a weak legal provision, representative of a political compromise which paid lip service to gender equality and had no effect on the number of women on candidate listing”.
They named the low representation of women in the legislature as key as issue they want to see addressed in the October elections. “we want to see an increased number of women in the legislature in the upcoming election in October 2023”.
The representation of women in the legislature has witnessed a decline over the years, with a decrease from 16% in 2006 to less than 13% in 2012 and further down to 11% in 2014. In 2018, the percentage of women remained stagnant at 11% and dropped below 10% in 2021. However, following a by-election in November 2021, there was a slight increase to just under 11%. Currently, the percentage stands at 10. 7% .
The women groups pushing for speedy intervention by the president include: Medica Liberia, Progress and Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment and Rights – Liberia (POWER-Liberia, Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) and African Women Leaders Network Liberia Chapter. Others are: Sister Aid Liberia, Her Voice Liberia, Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH), Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI) Women Solidarity, Women in Peace building Network (WIPNET) GFC, WASD, Liberia Feminist Forum and My Voice, My Safety among others.
The proposed amendments introduced provisions for fines and sanctions on political parties or coalitions that fail to meet the minimum 30% gender representation requirement. For the upcoming 2023 elections, parties that do not comply with this requirement must submit a new candidate list to the National Elections Commission (NEC) or face a fine of Ten Thousand United States Dollars (US$10,000.00). Failure to pay the fine will result in the rejection of the party’s candidate list. Defaulting parties must also submit a plan of action within six months to meet the gender quota for future elections.