By Bill W. Cooper
As women around the world including Liberian women commemorate International Women Days (IWD), a group of civil society organizations, led by women’s rights groups and networks are calling for reform on New Elections Law 4.5 b and c. as the country gears towards the 2020 Senatorial By-election.
The civil society organizations and women’s rights groups include, Organization for Women and Children (ORWOCH), Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI), Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON), Girls for Change Organization, and Her Voice Liberia (HVL) among others.
Reading the press communiqué on behalf of the various organizations, PAYOWI Executive Coordinator, Facia B. Harris said that without positive action to reduce the barriers to women’s representation, the country will likely not reach gender balance in the legislature, stressing that the Legislature should act now on the new election law 4.5b, in order to remove the word “endeavor” and include a mechanism for enforcement.
According to the former UNMIL Radio announcer, in 2005, the guidelines relating to the registration of political parties and independent candidates stated that each party “shall ensure” that 30 percent of its candidates be women, noting that it is no coincidence that the elections of 2005 saw the highest percentage of women elected to the Legislature, almost 17% in the Senate and 13% in the House of Representatives.
Madam Harris indicated that in the last 15 years, the percentage of women in the Senate had fallen to 3%, as the overall percentage has steadily declined since 2006, falling to 14% in 2011, 12% in 2014, and 11% in 2017, adding that now in 2020; women make up less than 10% of the entire Legislature.
She added that those who represent the Liberian citizens should be as diverse as the Liberian population, and men and women should lead together, emphasizing that the different perspectives of men and women be important for better decision-making.
The PAYOWIED stressed that where there are more female lawmakers, women’s interests will be concluded in policies and laws that affect their lives, revealing “research over the last 25 years has confirmed the claim that: “without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.”
Madam Harris alluded that having more women in politics has been proven to contribute to lasting peace, stability, and greater prosperity, averring that governments with greater gender balance see greater investments on health, education and social services, and are also characterized by greater transparency and accountability.
Meanwhile, Facia Harris has said that Section 4.5 of the New Elections Law includes subsections 1b and 1c which states that a political party or coalition “should endeavor to ensure” it has no less than 30% of either gender on its candidate lists and within its leadership, stating “the language “endeavor” is unclear and there is no mechanism for the National Elections Commission to enforce the law or hold parties accountable.
To Ensure Participation In Politics: Women Demand Electoral Reform
By Bill W. Cooper