Today's edition of Lawmakers and Electorates, we are zooming in on women representation, women participations in politics and what can they do to change the current narratives by endeavoring to increase the number of seats they occupy at the Liberian legislature.
Looking at their records in Liberia, women groups have carried out protestations, presented petitions, held conferences all these geared towards ensuring that they increase their seats at the first branch of the Liberian government, (the Liberian legislature).
The fight to procure those seats can be traced as far back as the days when Liberian women started engaging into politics.
Back in those days, the African tradition and the constitution did not give them the chance to participate in politics thus limiting them in kitchen, meaning that they were to cook, cater to children's wellbeing and be 'good house wives'.
Parents used to rather prefer that their boy children attain an education while the girl children follow their parents to the farm, markets and do some work that society has defined them to.
According to history, most African parents would say to their boys children "go to school because you are the man who will take over from me when I am not around." while the girls children would be told "learn how to cook and take care of home".
Time has fled and things are changing as the African tradition is fleeting gradually and limitations are slowly breaking. In current day, women, girls are standing up and publicly speaking against what they see as threats against their persons, they are to taking up the challenges now and venturing into what was considered as 'men's game', (politics).
As a manifestation of the changes, in September of 2016, the Liberian House of Representatives passed the Equal Representation and Participation Act of 2016, establishing seven 'Special Constituencies,' among which five seats reserved for women.
To make matters worse, an amendment was made to lower the number of seats for women from 15 to seven.
This historical passage of the gender quota electoral law did not just pass in a day or two, a month or two nor did it happen in two or three years' time, but it took about 10 years for Liberia to finally witness the passage of the 'Affirmative Action Bill' in 2016 although Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Liberia President headed the country after she defeated a male star candidate to become the first female President of Liberia to lead an African continent in 2005.
The existing literature (Affirmative Action Bill) points out that election of a female President has not necessarily translated into better representation of women in the Liberian legislature. Liberia still ranks among the lowest in the world with 12 percent of women in the Legislature.
According to Gender Inequality index, when it comes to women representation, Liberia ranks 90 out of 193.
This means that Liberia still needs to do more to increase on her gains.
In case you did not know, the current composition of the Liberian Legislature is 103 seats and out of this number, 73 are members of the House of Representatives representing the 73 political subdivisions of Liberia while the remaining 30 stand for the Liberian senate accounting for the 15 counties of Liberia with two coming from each county.
Out of the 103 seats at the Liberian Legislature, women occupied 10.
The news is sad that out of their already small number, two persons have voyaged forever (died) thus dropping the total of women representations to eight in number; seven from the House of Representatives and a lone female from the Liberian senate.
About late Senator Doe-Sherriff and Representative Pelham:
Senator Doe-Sherriff passed off early this year (Feb 10, 2020) Followed by Representative Munah Pelham Youngblood who recently died in the Ghana after a prolong period of illness which suffered her gravely.
For those who known the late Youngblood upon hearing the news of their death, they could not hold back their tears when she was pronounced dead.
Residents of her district trooped at her home, while social media got flooded with images of the late female lawmaker. Some Liberians home and in the diasporas upon hearing the news of her passing changed their profile photos to her image should regrets for her death and sympathizing with her family.
The two late lawmakers were lawmakers who could push their points without being intimidated by their male counterparts. They had the ability to efficiently and effectively make their message go across the floor even if they were being battled and disrupted by their.
The late Senator Doe-Sherriff had many names she was called during her days on earth, but among those names, she was readily known as 'General' or 'Lady Zeeko' because of her strong stance on political issues in the Liberian Republic. For her part, Representative Youngblood was called "Striker" or "number 9" because she represented Montserrado County District Nine and her ability to make things happen in her interest politically. She vigorously campaigned for this current administration and she appointed as Chairperson on House's Committee on Executive because of her close proximity to the executive (the President).
These two were on the political stage, they played their roles and have left, but their leaving has left tears in the eyes of their supporters and even the people they had political differences with have also lamented their deaths and are yet to overcome the loses.
Madam Daintowon Pay-bayee is one person who has been in the fight for increase number of women in the Liberian legislature and she has many times raised red flags and sought the means for women to stand up for what is right.
She contested against Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph during the 2017 general and presidential elections in District #13 hoping to represent women, persons living with disability and Liberian youth, this quest was not granted her by citizens of area.
Speaking to the death of the two women lawmakers, she said they stood for women within and out of their political parties.
She said "Munah was a sister; she was more Liberian then a politician, she impacted many young women lives to venture into politics."
She said "to get to the Liberian Legislature is a war and for a lady to reach that far and just die is a setback to women" she said.
Section 4.5 of the elections law called for 30% of women representation on a political party listing.
She used the interview to called on women to vote women, something she said when
"If you have good number of women at the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive, all these domestic violence and rape cases around there are not going to be on the increase" she said.
She joined the Chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Prince C Johnson to pledge her support death penalty for those who rape mainly kids.
According to her, with good legislations which Liberia does not lack and an increased number of women in top positions (Legislative, judiciary and executive branches of government), some of the maltreatment perpetrated against women, girls and kids are defiantly going to reduce at some levels.
In keeping with the intent of this column which seeks to educate, inform and provide of the House of Representatives, portions of the rules government the lawmakers and today our focus is on session two of the rules.
Admission to Floor-Defined.
Rule 2. (1) No person shall be admitted on the floor of the House for a period of 30 minutes immediately preceding the time set for any call to order during any session of the House through adjournment, except as follows: (a) Representatives and Senators;
(b) Former Legislators, unless otherwise restricted;
(c) Sergeants at arms, pages, Clerk's staff, and legislative staff who are specifically designated and approved by the Majority Floor Leader to be working on the House floor during session; (d) Directors of Michigan Departments and the Governor's legislative liaisons may be admitted to the Thatcher or Document room and may have floor access with the permission of the Majority Floor Leader;
(e) Immediate family of Representatives who have obtained and are wearing in plain sight appropriate identification passes, issued under guidelines developed by the Majority Floor Leader;
(f) Media correspondents accredited by the Clerk of the House who are wearing in plain sight appropriate identification passes, issued under guidelines developed by the Clerk. Media correspondents shall not use the center aisle or be at the Members' desks without the permission of the Majority Floor Leader; and (g) such other persons as may be invited by the Speaker or Majority Floor Leader. (2) No group or individual shall be allowed access to the floor when the House is not in session unless permission is granted by the Majority Floor Leader or Clerk. The Majority Floor Leader and Clerk shall issue guidelines to ensure that guests using the floor are responsible for costs incurred by the House. If permission is given to a Member to bring guests on the floor when the House is not in session, the Member shall accompany the guests.
Alphonso has been in the profession for over twenty years. He has worked for many international media outlets including: West Africa Magazine, Africa Week Magazine, African Observer and did occasional reporting for CNN, BBC World Service, Sunday Times, NPR, Radio Deutchewells, Radio Netherlands. He is the current correspondent for Reuters. Mr. Toweh holds first MA with honors in International Relations and a candidate for second master in International Peace studies and Conflict Resolution.