19 April 2017

Liberia: Political Parties - Barriers to Women's Participation

The country representative of United Nations Women, Lisa Kinderbavei has alleged that political parties are the biggest barriers of women's political participation in the country.

Kinderbavei made the observation recently during her interaction with female journalists at the auditorium of the YMCA in Monrovia. According to her, women play a vibrant and meaningful role in the political system of any nation.

The UN Women country representative indicated that political parties do not go in direct contact or engagement with women desiring to contest on party's ticket, thus leaving them prey to the situation.

She further noted that too often women in political parties are stigmatized and discouraged by top officials of the parties because their demands are high. The UN Women representative maintained that unlike other countries, political parties in Liberia only care about how much they will receive from female aspirants rather than flagging the plights or agendas of the women which is also unfortunate.

Kinderbavei lamented that running a campaign is very expensive but with effort from political parties, said plights or agendas can be achieved, noting "women in politics do not have the resources and they need the help of these political parties to stand".

She mentioned that due to political parties' refusal to buttress political women efforts, something which has led many women to take the back seat, or they are not fit in society.

Madam Kinderbavei linked the alleged behavior or action of political parties to the lack of value for gender, adding "transformation cannot be achieved until women and men understand gender".

In relation to the statement made by the UN Women Representative, the secretary general of Unity Party, who is also Minister of Information, Lenn Eugene Nagbe placed the blame is on the structure of political parties; something he observed as a wider problem in the political system of Liberia.

He noted that his party is doing everything possible to meet up with Section: 4.5 of new elections law of the National Elections Commission that stresses the endeavor to ensure.

"Whether we have a law that is implementable as the elections law which mandates every party to go to primary, but what if these parties go to the primary and do not put up the 30% of gender that NEC talked about", he cautioned.

In addition, the Minister of Gender Children Social Protection, Julia Duncan Cassell confirmed the allegation and stressed the need for NEC to be very instrumental in the implementation of the law.

According to her, many women take back seats because they are yet to be embraced by political parties. Also commenting on the issue, Wilmont Paye of the Unity Party argued that the group only wants to justify to their donors.

"It was not UN Women that brought about the fourteen percent of women representation in the House neither were they the ones that brought President Sirleaf on the Unity Party ticket", Paye asked in a telephone conversation.

Section 4.5 of the new elections law says "a political party or coalition in its submission to the commission of its lists of candidates for an election should endeavor to ensure that its lists of candidates has no less than 30% of its members from each gender.

However, many believed that this section of the law is not workable as many political leaders are seeking their own interest. There is a need for a roundtable discussion on women political participation and empowerment that will include stakeholders, international partners, CSOs, political parties on the NEC endeavor to ensure.

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