Liberia: ANC Women Partner With ANC Women in Liberia for Civics Education, Gearing Up for Elections

Monrovia — Four ANC women, Dr. Francien Chenoweth Richardson, Amanda Wright, Ysyndi Martin Kpeyei, and Elouise Page, are in Liberia for the next few weeks to partner with ANC women to conduct civics education in various communities in Liberia. For the first time, women of a political party have engaged in such exercise. Although the women are looking to target all Liberians, they are targeting Liberian women. Liberian women make up more than 50% of the population.

The ANC women will discuss how Liberians' participation in civic life is essential to sustaining democracy. Approximately 2.1 million Liberians registered to vote in October 2017 presidential and legislative elections. Almost half of those registered were women. The Diaspora ANC women want to maintain the high percentage of women who registered to vote thru civics and voter education, as well as engage first-time young voters.

Emphasis will be put on how the absence of civic education, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people is not sustainable. Of increasing concern to the Diaspora, ANC women are the declining levels of civic engagement across the country. Due to poverty and other factors, many Liberians vote without realizing the impact of their vote on leadership and laws implementation. Limited civic knowledge of Liberians increases the likelihood of Liberian voting based on a candidate's issuance of a T- shirt or a bag of price. Consequently, when these candidates are elected, they do not make laws or represent Liberians in a way that shows accountability or reflects a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The civics and voter education initiative undertaken by the ANC Diaspora Women want to prevent the practice of voting for a cup of rice, T-shirt, or busing voters from one district to another to vote.

Most voters, especially women, who do not vote for multiple reasons, including the lack of understanding of civic education, inadvertently contribute to the victimization of women and girls by elected officials not passing effective laws to prevent sexual and gender-based violence. Liberia has a culture of impunity for rape; However, rape is a felony and non-bailable crime, processed by a special court, court E. Court E was established to address sexual and gender-based violence. Court E is currently backlogged, and training for lawyers, judges, and court employees is scarce or unavailable. Additionally, women are most likely not to report sexual and gender-based violence. In Liberia, the culture of impunity directly related to power and control make it difficult to get a survivor of Intimate personal violence to file a civil case.

In many cases, the abuser has authority over the survivor; He may be the one with the job that makes more money and contributes to the daily needs of the survivor. For example, he may be paying her rent, sponsoring her education, and buying food. In some situations, he may be responsible for using his network to get her a job. A survivor who mostly depends on a man for her livelihood is less likely to file a civil case. Many survivors refuse to ask the court for physical/and financial protection from their abuser because, at times, although the court might eventually award economic damage for the abuse, the financial support received from the abuser outweighs support from a court judgment. In other words, the money from the court is minimal compared to the ongoing monetary award from the abuser. In a poverty-stricken country such as Liberia, an abuser is often left to decide whether to continue receiving financial support from the abuser in exchange for accepting the abuse. Secondly, there is a sense that due to the abuser's power and status in Liberia's society, there is a lack of trust in the court system's ability to protect survivors from abuse. In many civil cases in Liberia, the abuser does not pay the financial penalty, nor does he go to jail due to lack of evidence.

The ANC Diaspora Women, in partnership with the ANC in Liberia, will travel to various markets and communities and visit many communicate radio stations to educate Liberians, primarily women, thru dialogues expressed in local languages on a myriad of topics, including how the power of their vote determines the future, the negative impact of being bus to voting locations, understanding how the pros and cons of candidates running for office and important dates such as voter registration deadline.

The diaspora ANC women, in collaboration with the ANC women in Liberia, aim to discuss with Liberians a) How to register to vote - most democracies require citizens to first register as a prerequisite to voting in elections, b) how to complete ballot papers - filling out ballots incorrectly can mean an individual's vote is misrepresented in the final count or counted as invalid. Therefore, demonstrating how ballots are to be correctly filled out is essential and c) explaining the electoral system, it is important that citizens know how their votes will contribute to the final result in an election.

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