P4DP, Partners Train Women Political Aspirants -“We need True Feminist In Chief”-Macdella Cooper

MONROVIA: With more concerns being expressed about the challenges of women aspirants in the ensuing general election, the Platform for Dialogue and Peace(P4DP) under its project, Platform for Women Empowerment and Next Level, with funding from Women Peace and Humanitarian Fund, has commenced a three day training seminar, May 16-18, 2023,  bringing together Female aspirants, especially those who are vying for political office for the first time to help deepen their political’ knowledge and skills in electoral processes, including networking, coordination, and gender advocacy. The training also provides TOT, to enable those who participated, to in turn build the capacity of those unable to attend the sessions due to limited funds just as the political leader of the Movement for One Liberia(MOL), Madam MacDella Cooper made a call for the emergence of a “true Feminist in Chief who understands gender issues in the country.

Debunking the myth that women don’t support women, the political leader of the Movement for One Liberia (MOL), Madam MacDella Cooper said “ I am here to inspire and support all these beautiful women aspirants and this initiative without the usual remuneration I get when invited to speak at international gatherings. I am doing this to basically support women and complement the efforts of genuine male feminists like James” She made a call for the emergence of a “true Feminist in Chief who understands gender issues in the country”

Speaking on the topic, “The importance of women’s involvement in decision-making processes and political participation in Liberia’s fledgling democracy” Madam Cooper made a passionate plead for women to be encouraged just as their male counterparts to seek leadership roles in the country, asserting that the women must not be intimidated to submit to all antics that will frustrate their political aspiration.

“We need to continue to push for what is right for the women in the country when it comes to empowering them to seek leadership roles in the country. For it to work, we will need a true feminist-in-chief who understands what it means to have gender equality, where both men and women have equal opportunities to be in leadership.

“We are looking at what Paul Kagame has done in Rwanda. His action was intentional and that is why you have something like 68% women participation in politics and leadership in Rwanda. We want that to be seen and done practically in Liberia and not someone not being serious about women’s emancipation and empowerment outside talking about it”, she said.

She said to put the women in the rightful place to make their case, they will have to read and understand the Constitution because it is the only instrument that speaks about the rights of the citizens. She however called for the constitution to be changed and rewritten in words that directly speak about the rights of women in terms of political participation, occupying key leadership roles in the country, women empowerment, and social justice for women, among others and not using the generic terms about collective rights of citizens “that only benefit the men”.

While being emphatic that women bring new perspectives to governance and politics, she said they are faced with many challenges, mainly finance to pursue political aspiration for any position and called on Liberia’s development partners and other stakeholders to key into the cause of women with massive financial support to challenge all odds against them.

Mr. Emmanuel Ballah, research assistant at the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection who made a presentation on the topic, “Women’s participation and representation in decision making-National and International instruments that support women’s political participation”, said there was still much work to be done on the issue of gender equality and he provided some evidence-based analysis on how there has been a decline in women leadership and participation in politics.

He said if the trend must be reversed, concrete efforts must be exerted by political parties and women groups so that more women will be brought to the mainstream of leadership in this country beginning from the 2023 general elections.

Earlier in her opening remarks at the program held at the Corina Hotel, Monrovia, the Superintendent of Montserrado County, Madam Florence Brandy thanked the organizers for being thoughtful in organizing what she called “a very important occasion to highlight some of the challenges women face in politics and the need to encourage and promote women participation in the country as a way of enhancing with is written in the constitution in terms of gender equality”. She noted that “women are underrepresented in the House and even in the Senate, despite their proven abilities as leaders and agents of change, and their right to participate equally in democratic governance”.

Acknowledging that women face several obstacles in participating in political life, she admonished women aspirants to learn from her experience as someone who have had the privilege to work with two different administrations: the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the administration of President Dr. George Manneh Weah. “It is a great journey working with different administrations and I must say, it takes patience, commitment, and farsightedness to reach this far. And for the current administration, I am proud to work for our President who is ‘a feminist in chief’”-

Also in his introductory remarks, the Executive Director of the Platform for Dialogue and Peace(P4DP), Mr. James S. Shilue said the training workshop is about exchanging thoughts, sharing experiences, learning, and reflecting on a range of issues, including the objectives of the PLAWOENEL project, the importance of Women’s involvement in Decision Making Processes and Political Participation  –; the importance of partnership and Networking; Legislative processes, Campaign Processes, and Strategies; ‘Electoral Quota’ or gender parity 30% women Inclusion in Politics, etc,

He said Africa’s Agenda 2063 commits to improving women’s political participation in terms of Good Governance, Democracy, Respect for Human Rights, Justice, and the Rule of law. He stated that as good as these aspirations may sound, however, “we continue to see that these commitments are often hindered by social norms, negative cultural practices, failure to

enforce and implement policies, etc”.

“In the context of Liberia, there is low representation of women in politics and national decision-making processes, making Liberia staggeringly low with the upper house recording a 6.7-point drop since President Sirleaf’s administration, bringing women’s representation to just 3.3 per cent or a single female senator, now two with the recent election of Madam Botoe

Kanneh of Gbapolu County.

“This marks a 22-year low for Liberia, revealing that it is the lowest performing country in the region for women in the upper house of parliament and the world’s 3rd lowest upper chamber. For the House of Representative, there are only 8 women legislatures from the 73 seats

constituting 11%.

“By 2018, on the national level, only three of 19 (15.8 percent) cabinet-level positions were held by women. However, the percentages of women’s representation when combined, women hold 25.4 percent of the deputy and assistant minister positions. This remains less than the 30% minimum benchmark set by the Beijing platform for action 25 years ago”, he said.

Presenting the overview of the PLAWOENEL project, the Manager Madam Deimah Kpar-Kyne McCrownsey, Manager said while it is true that the 1986 constitution of Liberia was drafted with some of the most gender-friendly languages and has a bill of rights with strong equality and non-discrimination provisions to protect women from all forms of social, economic and political exclusion, women in Liberia have continued to endure marginalization and exclusion, adding that even when a woman, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was at the helm of state, women filled only 30% of various cabinet positions.

She said even the current figures in Parliament show an even more disturbing trend in women’s political representation, dropping from 14.8% in the first post-war legislature to 11% in the current legislature.

Speaking further she said from the results of the implementation of Activity 2.1.2 of the project. It shows that women aspirants are faced with many challenges, especially among new female political aspirants including limited knowledge of electoral processes, necessary documentation needed for registration and timelines for aspirant registration.

Deimah said key objectives of the program include but are not limited to developing women leaders to be equipped with leadership, organizing and advocacy skills to improve women’s rights and political participation for the ‘Next level agenda’ and that participants are drawn from Bomi, Margibi and Montserrado County.  She encouraged the aspirants to utilize what she called ‘ Peace Mother Clubs’ community-based women solidarity socio-economic initiatives that her organization has established in different counties to support local women and female political aspirants.

She said when women are elected to leadership positions such as the national legislature, women issues such as mental health, women empowerment, girl education, gender- based violence, among others and as such women need to get actively involved in politics to vote for their colleagues in order to have their own agenda realized.

A total of ten women aspirants for various elective positions including Madam Cooper who is contesting for the second time for the presidency on the ticket of the Movement for One Liberia(MOL), Mrs. Victoria Torlo Koiquah, a senatorial aspirant for Montserrado County on the ticket of the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP), former Miss Liberia, Wokie Dolo a representative aspirant for District #6, Montserrado County who is in the race as an independent, among others. Most of the female aspirants spoke passionately about funding gaps and asked P4DP to speak to their partners to support women financially.

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