As Liberians gear up for the 2023 general and presidential elections, the Women NGOs Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL), under the UN Women’s supported project, Supporting Community Engagement on Women’s Political Participation Project/LESP, with funds from the Irish Aid, Swedish International Development Agency and UNDP, is working with six CSOs and twelve UN Women’s established Women Peace Huts in Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh, and Gbarpolu counties and with 1 CSO in Sinoe County to strengthen the capacity of these targeted groups on transformative leadership and peace-building by hosting dialogue sessions to promote women’s participation in politics at the grassroots levels.
The aim of the engagements is to awaking the momentum of community women to get involved in decision-making processes, building strategic partnerships, alliances and seeking commitments from relevant stakeholders and actors to increase women’s political participation at the local and national levels.
Working with local government and traditional leaders in these counties is having fruitful results, as these local heads have pledged their support to get women involved in decision-making processes at all levels in the counties.
Traditional barriers, lack of funding support, amongst others, were highlighted during the engagements as key challenges that hinder women’s political participation. In an interview, Marvin Sirleaf, Town Chief, Sappimah Town, Bundi Clan, Bopolu District, Gbarpolu County, pledged “to support our women to get involved in politics”.
For his part, Anthony Yorkor, a local leader, pledged to work closely with the women CSOs and Women Peace Committee, highlighting that his political party, the CDC, has recognized the importance of women’s inclusion in politics and has amended its party framework document to have not less than 40% women in leadership.
He also cautioned the women in various political parties, including CDC, to push for key leadership positions in political parties and not only serve as “women wings” but also serve as Clan Chiefs, Paramount Chiefs, Commissioners, and etc.
“Only women can be chairladies,” he said. The women in all of the sessions in the counties have expressed interest in contesting for leadership positions.
“Thanks to the UN Women for sending WONGOSOL to awaken us. I am going to be the next General Town Chief for Gbama District,” Janet Richardson assured. “I will not be silent anymore on issues that affect the community.” Garmai Kokulo followed.
Darbah Marshall called on the women of Gbama District to hold together. She informed the session that if the women hold together they will not strive for leadership positions.
The women also cautioned the members of the National Legislature to see reason to amend the new election law, with high emphasis on Section 4.5 of the law. If this is done sooner, it will provide the opportunity for more women to contest in the 2023 elections.
High during the dialogue sessions was the issue of drugs. The women are calling on the Government of Liberia (GOL), through the National Legislature, to make the drug law strong.
They informed the team that they’re afraid of what will happen during the 2023 elections, with the huge intake of illegal substances by the young people.
“We need everyone on board in order for our mama Liberia to be developed, from the local and national levels. Everyone has a saying: women, men, young people and other minority groups should be given the space to participate in Liberia’s governance processes,” WONGOSOL Executive Director, Esther Davis-Yango, said.