By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Perhaps because of my upbringing, I have certain feelings towards issues concerning women. I was raised by two caring and loving grandmothers in Saye Town and Nyuapanton (New Kru Town). Even though they are dead, I still admired them because of the way and manner in which they took care of me. I stand to be accused of chauvinism.
Besides, similar care and love were exhibited when I moved to live with my late aunt, retired police officer Elizabeth Welleh Blaye in New Kru Town. It was there I was until adulthood. As a result, I have developed certain feelings towards women and so I am always intrinsically concerned about issues concerning womanhood, like their participation in national leadership.
Today, I have decided to raise this issue of women participation in leadership, especially the National Legislature. I take interest in this because of the result of the primaries for the pending special senatorial election on December 8 this year. Noticeably, the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) headed by “Chief feminist-In-Chief, President George Manneh Weah, has completed their primaries, without females.
Likewise, others are doing theirs without much mention of possible female candidates. Today in the House of Representatives of 73 persons, only eight females, while in the Liberian Senate of 15 persons, only one female, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa County.
This low presence of females in the Legislature, has claimed the attention of the few women, under the banner of the “Women Legislative Caucus,” who in their tribute to their fallen colleague, Montserrado County District 9 Representative, Munah Pelham-Youngblood, highlighted this low representation.
In their moving tribute, the caucus said, “You have left us at a critical time when the number of elected women is decreasing. There is only one woman in the Senate, and we are now eight women in the House of Representatives. As we try to accept the fact that you have left us to continue the fight for Women’s Political Participation and Governance, we have to work even harder and get more young women onboard that will follow your example.”
The Caucus went on:” a strong voice sounding out from District #9, Montserrado County, is silent. If she had her way, she would be here with us right now because she had a dream to fulfill. Hon Munah Pelham-Youngblood envisioned a Liberia where young people were empowered and actively participating in the development of Liberia.”
I am aware of the power of women, But they cannot be complacent on this matter. I recall how the Liberian women led by award winner Leymah Gbowee, during the prolonged-peace talks in Accra, Ghana, mounted pressure that culminated in the signing of what is known as the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in August 2003.
Madam Leymah Gbowee
Prior to the women’s peaceful protest action, by barricading the main entrance of the hall, until an agreement was derived, representatives of the parties, including the then warring factions were involved in feet-dragging, thus causing delay in reaching an amicable solution, which started in June of that year. Interestingly, the action of the women yielded the desired results, thus bringing about the signing of the CPA by the parties.
It can be recalled that few months ago, some women and some female groups were politically mobilized to stage a protest at the Capitol Building on claims that a lawmaker was accused of rape.
While I have no qualms about such protest because they have the constitutional rights to do so; equally so, I want to see similar peaceful mobilization of women on this low representation, especially when the parties are making selections for possible nomination to the Nationals Elections Commission (NEC).
Unquestionably, today, the peace this country enjoys can also be attributed to the role women played to get us here today. I recall the days of the Liberia Women Initiative, a group led by the late Mother Mary B. Brownell and others that advocated fearlessly and uncompromisingly for peace during the days of violence.
I recount some of these events to show the power of women when they want something to be accomplished.
As the nation moves to the senatorial elections, women need to be more united and focused to change the narratives or ugly picture of low representation. This would not be on Silver platter, but through concerted efforts and oneness of purpose.
As the National Anthem says, “In union strong success Is sure”, therefore, it is only through this, I believe, this issue of low representation would change, beginning now with the Liberian Senate. These special senatorial elections should be seen as prelude for 2023 House of Representatives Elections.
To the women of Liberia, not with violence, but positive, peaceful and persuasive action. As their popular slogan goes, I say, DON’T SIT THERE, DO SOMETHING.’ The sooner the better, as delays are dangerous.
I Rest My Case.