30 November 2012

Liberia: Women's 30 Percent Role Doubted

Pushing for concerted efforts to increase women's participation in governance, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed doubts about the achievement of 30% women representation in the National Legislature as assurance of bringing gender equality in the country.

With four women among 30 Senators, and eight among 73 Representatives, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the National Legislature following the 2011 elections, President Sirleaf said "clearly, we've got work to do if we are ever to achieve a minimum 30 percent representation."

Addressing the opening of a two-day strategic training workshop at the Capitol Building, President Sirleaf said the decline in the number of women elected to the 53rd National Legislature could be attributed to several factors.

She figured out that women did not sufficiently work together; they did not identify those who had better chances to compete and win; and they did not come together with financial support.

"These are definitely the areas we need to improve upon as we go into the next political season," she president said amidst cheers amongst the women.

Speaking further, the Liberian leader requested the women, especially the female lawmakers, to use their annual break to lobby with their male counterparts on the importance of the Gender Equity Bill, which she said will help in its passage. "By this, especially when the Gender Equity Bill is re-submitted, all of the formalities would have been done in helping the bill to become a law," the President said.

The President encouraged women legislators to seek knowledge from their counterparts in countries like Mozambique, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and Senegal on how they have gone about passing their Equity Bill into law.

She also encouraged the Women Legislative Caucus, as well as political parties, civil society organizations, professional groups, former female lawmakers, female ministers and superintendents to be innovative and help sustain initiatives that will bring more women into the political arena, leading to the minimum 30 percent representation as proposed in the Gender Equity Bill.

The President challenged the women legislators to support and encourage collaborative efforts by working with individuals and organizations to change policies and laws for greater women's involvement in governance.

In a society where there are challenges of poverty, high illiteracy, high youth unemployment, and more, it is all the more important to harness the potential of its female population - women who can lead, resolve conflict, and move the country from chaos to social and economic development, President Sirleaf said.

"If Liberia is to be a vibrant, inclusive and effective democracy, supporting women's public roles and increasing the number of women in leadership position is critical," she President concluded.

The keynote speaker at the workshop was the Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Cllr. Frances Johnson-Allison. She observed that said that women are marginalized in governance, and that male dominance, especially in the National Legislature, still shows the unwillingness of male partners to break away from the past.

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