MONROVIA: Against the backdrop of several calls for increase in women’s political participation especially in the wake of the decline in the number of women taking part in the various elections in the country, the National Elections Commission and 22 of the 25 registered political parties in the country over the weekend signed a memorandum of understanding to commit parties to increase the quota of women in the democratic process in the country beginning with the ensuing 2023 general elections.
Giving background of the MOU, the document made reference to the numerical strength of the population of women in Liberia which it put at approximately half of the entire population of the country using the 2008 census report, portions of the 1986 constitution that dwelled on affirmative actions and some international instruments Liberia subscribed to by way of being signatories to them.
“Whereas, women’s political participation in the governance structure of Liberia has been low, though they constitute approximately half of Liberia’s population (2008 census)
“Whereas Section 4.5, subsection 1b and 1e of the new election law of 1986 relating to candidates nomination( as amended in2014) for political parties to take affirmative actions towards gender balance in the candidate listings submitted to the NEC,
“Whereas, Liberia is signatory to the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW); the Bejing declaration and platform of action(BPFA), the Protocol to the African Charter on human and people’s rights and the Rights of Women in Africa(ACHPRRWA), a National Gender Policy of Liberia and the NEC’s Gender Policy, all aimed at promoting gender equity and equality in the social economic and political spheres”, part of the preamble to the MOU said.
According to the MOU, copy of which is in possession of The Analyst, among other things clled for each political party to produce and adopt a gender policy reflective of the relevant legal instruments supporting gender balance and increased women participation in representative politics towards the 2023 general elections, as highlighted in consultative engagement amongst the parties to this MOU.
The MOU also stated that in keeping to what was agreed on by the parties, they must “ensure to have not less than 30% of either gender (male and female) on the list of the candidates submitted to the NEC during the candidate nomination period for the 2023 general election”.
“Create the enabling environment for active and increased political participation of female contestants in political activities for the 2023 general elections, such as, political parties working collaboratively with female contestants in the mobilization of needed resources for campaigning and other political purposes.
“Collaborate with partners, to organize regular trainings for women on campaign strategies, building leadership skills, effective and increased participation in politics
Organize and promote regular community outreach activities targeted at raising women’s political consciousness”, some of the points of the MOU read.
“Build strong gender solidarity in the rank and file of men and women within political parties, their leadership structure and general memberships, and
“Exercise any other lawful rights and privileges aimed at enhancing gender balance and promoting increased women political participation and involvement in politics in Liberia.
“The parties to this memorandum of understanding further agreed that the terms and conditions stipulated and contained herein shall be binding on their successors representatives and members as if they had signed this MOU (Memorandum of Understanding)”, the eight- point agreement concluded.
It is not yet clear whether the MOU can be enforceable by law or by the electoral body if there is a non-compliance on the part of any of the political parties who are signatories to the document.
The other sticky issue around the MOU is how will the parties implement policy as there was no clear roadmap how parties should go about achieving the 30 percent threshold especially in some counties where women participation in politics is being seen as a taboo, giving the male folks an absolute right to dominate the electoral process over the several electoral cycles.
Several women groups who are in the vanguard of pushing the case for increase in female representation in the national legislature lamented that out of the 103 lawmakers in the country, not more than 10 of them are women while the rest are males.
A political pundit who has been following the conversation around gender equity and equality in the country told The Analyst last night that the best option to make the policy work is for the government to declare certain number of seats exclusively for women to occupy in the national legislature, which according to him will see only female candidates contesting for thereby increasing the chances of women participation in politics and leadership in the country.