Liberia: Activist Encourages Women to Rise for Elective Posts

For future elections, one of which is expected to be held in October this year, the Executive Director of Paramount Young Women Initiative, Facia B. Harris, is encouraging young women of Liberia to make use of every opportunity available to them to pursue political seats at the National Legislature.

Madam Harris, like other feminists, believes that with males dominate key decision-making areas in government, women are being marginalized in the Liberian Government. Therefore, she believes, the dynamic must change; even though a female President led Liberia for 12 years under whose regime saw a great number of women in ministerial and other high-level positions.

Unlike the Executive Branch, where cabinet-level appointees serve at the the will and pleasure of the President, the Legislature is occupied by elected officials whom voters choose based on values and interest they see in a person, and the Liberian Constitution has no provision giving any gender an exclusive preference for any elective position.

Serving as a motivational speaker at the re-launch of the National Young Women Political Council of Liberia Advocacy Campaign, Ms. Harris said women should stand up to the challenge because Liberia needs leadership to make a significant impact on society. "All of you, the young women in here today, should not consider yourselves as emerging young leaders but already a leader," she said.

The program attended by over 25 young women ambitious of political positions under the theme, "The Legislature is not for Men Alone".

She encouraged the young women to rise and take advantage of the 2020 senatorial elections to change the statistics of women in elected positions.

During the 53rd Legislature, there were six women among 67 men in the House of Representatives; while the Senate had four women among 30 male Senators. Joyce Musu Freeman Sumo was booted out in the 2014 special senatorial election with popular votes in favor of CDC political leader George Weah, now President of Liberia. Clarice Jah was also booted out in 2014, while in 2017, Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor ascended to the rank of President of the Senate and Vice President of the Republic of Liberia. In 2019, popular female politician Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, who would have sought re-election in the upcoming contest, met her demise last year.

In the Senate's 54th legislative sitting, only Grand Bassa County Nyonblee Kangar Lawrence is there with the presence of Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor (President of the Senate) who appears very frustrated over governance issues. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, is currently occupied by 10 women among 63 men.

The event, held on January 31, 2020, was a part of NAYMOTE's civic and political engagement activities in partnership with the UN Women with support from the Government of Canada and other partners. The event brought together more than 25 young women across the 15counties.

NAYMOTE Program Coordinator, Peace T. Mahteh Boyee, told the young women that the program aims to train and empower young women who have an interest in politics and hoping to contest for political seats. According to Boyee, the program also embraces women wishing to occupy leadership positions in different areas other than elective positions.

She said NAYMOTE recruited women across the 15 political sub-divisions of Liberia, with the need of 75 female participants. The first training in Gbarnga, Bong County, brought together 25 women.

Mrs. Boyee said the young women were trained in leadership, campaign planning, message development, and public speaking; how to conduct civic engagement in their communities.

"It also happens in the three western region areas, Northern as well as the Southeastern region. After the training, all of the 75 mentees went back to their various communities and started to carry out their civic engagement campaign, while we were preparing for the mentorship component of the project," she added.

Bong County District #6 Representative, Moima Briggs Mensah, who spoke briefly to the young women during the event, stressed the need for women who want to become good leaders to have the value of integrity, something which she said must be the primary concern as they take on the challenge.

"A woman who wants to be a leader must lead by example, respecting your fellow women no matter what her status may be in society," said Representative Mensah.

She said they must be able to muster the courage, adding that if women must change the statistics at the Legislature, they should learn to support another in their political struggle.

UN Women Program Specialist, Mahmoud Kroma, who also witnessed the event, thanked NAYMOTE and its partners for the initiative.

He pledged the UN Women's continued to support women's participation in the decision-making process of the country.

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