Women Ready to Capture More Seats -New Leadership for Women Legislative Caucus Provides Roadmap

Realizing that advocating for women’s rights and good governance requires more women in leadership, and in support of gender equality as exemplified by the equal representation of women in governance and political offices, the Women Legislative Caucus (WLC) under the leadership of Chairperson Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence has vowed to retain all women legislators and increase the seats of women in the Legislature during the ensuing 2023 presidential and general elections.

Making the affirmation Thursday, June 9, 2022 upon her induction as Chairperson of the Women Legislative Caucus at the Rotunda of the Capitol Building on Capitol Hill at an elaborate ceremony marked by fanfare and jubilation, Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence noted the sad reality, for the women of Liberian who make up the second highest number of the country’s population, to occupy only 11 seats in the 103-member National Legislature.

“Today, The Senate Women Caucus of two women, Botoe and I, have taken over the leadership as the Chair and Vice Chair of the WLC with other positions occupied by the House of Representatives, which consists of nine members, making a total of only eleven women in the 103-member National Legislature. This is a very sad reality for the women of Liberia who make up the second highest number of our population,” Senator Lawrence lamented.

To provide remedy to the anomaly of poor women representation in the legislature, the newly inducted WLC leader said her organization has already held several meetings as a caucus and consultative meetings with international and local partners to develop a plan for the WLC that will ensure the retention of all of female incumbents in the House of Representatives.

“They must get re-elected with the support of women and our international partners. We are concluding a very aggressive retention plan, that will tackle the weaknesses and challenges of our incumbents and want all the women in their districts to work with us on this plan as we seek support from our international partners and local women support groups. The more women leaders we have the more assured we will be about prioritizing the issues of women and children,” Senator Lawrence intoned.

She further averred that the WLC will encourage, mentor and guide all female aspirants for the representative and senatorial seats across the country, and ask its partners to assist the organization assess and identify all potential aspirants, after which, the WLC will work with political parties to ensure that the vetted candidates are selected and included as candidates. This process will also include independent candidates. We look forward to a retreat with those aspirants ASAP.

“Also, next on our agenda is a retreat of all international and local partners to identify the most relevant programs that will suit our processes and get commitments for support. We will ensure that all partners and local NGOs supporting women participation in politics collaborate with the WLC which is the umbrella group to avoid duplication of functions, guarantee success, and get the involvement of all stakeholders for greater results.

“We have been following the proposal for women conferences by different organizations. We look forward to unifying the plan to bring our women together under one umbrella and ensure that such a conference is not only held in Monrovia. Accordingly, we have suggested regional conferences to also listen to the plights of our women in all the counties, especially in rural Liberia.

“We will craft a legislative agenda for the WLC and start to speak out the loudest on women, children and governance issues. When you elect us, we must fight for the right reasons. And we are prepared to do so. Our women must speak up with one voice through the length and breadth of the country, and advocate for the support of those basic necessities for the survival of our people.

“We will collaborate with women to champion the awareness for peace building focusing on preventing electoral violence as we get closer to 2023. Women issues are national issues of priority. Good healthcare is women issue; education is women issue; bad roads network is women issue; bad economy is women issue; insecurity is women issue; and domestic violence is women issue. Women are affected the most by rape. No job is women issue (especially when they have become breadwinners under extremely difficult circumstances).

“The most important of all is to ensure that the electoral reform law passed by the senate. We have started our consultation with our distinguished colleagues and look forward to several public hearings that will inform the Senate on the right decision in regards to the law. In the meantime, we will engage political parties to encourage the inclusion of 30% inclusion of women as political candidates for their parties.

“The presence of the women of Liberia here today goes beyond our induction into office. For us, it is a statement of solidarity and willingness to promote the agenda of our women collectively. Many times, our challenges seem so overwhelming that we don’t think we can find solutions. Yes, we can find solutions, and it must start with us! To do this we must begin to demonstrate our ability to work together in oneness; put our political differences aside and focus on the women of Liberia for the sake of Liberia; and unify our Agenda as one, supervised under the relevant umbrella with no discrimination and with unfaltering determination for success.

“Today, we have many distinguished women personalities here who are from different political backgrounds. But your presence today demonstrates that as women, can and should all stand together. We really belong to one party – the party of being let down and being shut out! Today, I say to all of you, NO MORE! We will stand up and be heard. We will hold up each other for our own sake. And we will be counted, as we should be. Yes, we can!” the new WLC chair stated fervently.

Earlier, Cllr. Gloria Musa Scott, former Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia, while inducting the new leadership reminded the women that they come from different political parties but are in minority and they should not forget their common denominator – that they all are women who have given birth.

Cllr. Scott the revival that Liberia needs will be achieved through the women of Liberia, especially the women leadership at the Legislature, as they represent the Republic of Liberia.

Delivering the keynote of the program, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor described the event as a good beginning.

She said the new leadership has a great assignment to foster cooperation in the interest of all regardless of political parties, mentioning that they must find out where the issues are, taking serious consideration with gender base violence and tackling Female Genital Mutilation, while paying close attention women empowerment.

Madam Taylor urged the women to speak out especially when women issues are involved, saying that the new leadership is taking over at a critical time where the Ministry of Gender cannot do all as the leadership has to ensure that the women  of Liberia are lifted. “We have to forget where we come from to make sure the women of Liberia are lifted.”

The first Liberian Vice president asked the Women Legislative Caucus to move into the communities and find out what is happening and add their voices to the issues of SGBV, education, poverty, stressing that there is enough that everybody could talk about as a particular subject matter.

“Our women voices must come together in a huge and collective way to help our women. You need to work up in the communities and speak to the women, so when you get to 2023 they will not feel you just want to use them,” VP Taylor said.

She further reminded the newly inducted officials of the WLC to use their positions to lift the women of Liberia need.

“To all the women of Liberia here I want to ask that you do one thing, forget the past, whether who did what or who didn’t do what, come together and make that change”, she stated.

The VP paid homage to the Coalition for Democratic Change for the 40% women quota representation in 2023, but lamented over the lack of women representation from the Southeast, and as such she called for the election of  more women in the National Legislature through the effort of the Women Legislative Caucus/

Those inducted into office along with Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence included Senator Botoe Kanneh, Co-chair/National Affairs; Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, advisor; Representative Moima Briggs Mensah, Co-Chair/International Affairs; and Representative Rustonlyn Dennis, Secretary.

Others included Representative Julie Wiah, Financial Secretary; Representative Ellen Attoh Wreh, Treasurer; Representative Mary Karwor, Chaplain; Dr. Rosana Shaack, member; Representative Haja Siryon, member; Representative Mariama Fofana, member; and Representative Finda G. Lansanah, member.

Senator Darius Dillion, Senator Conmany Wesseh, Senator Stephen Zargo, among others, graced the occasion.

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