The issue of the quest for exclusive political rights for women in the Legislature and Executive Branches of the Liberian Government has again resurfaced.
The issue had been introduced just a few years ago by a group of Liberian women for legislation, but to no avail.
And On Monday, January 4, 2016, a female Liberian politician took to a local radio air-wave to re-start the campaign – this time emphasizing the urgent need to have an ‘affirmative action bill’ to help secure seats exclusively for women in the Legislature.
Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor of Bong County also expressed ‘fears of insecurity’ of women’s participation across the government. According to Senator Taylor, the ‘affirmative action bill’ would help to secure seats for women, especially when women continue to lose seats in the Legislature going into the 2017 general and Presidential elections.
Women’s participation across government was reducing, despite the ascendency of the first female President of Liberia, she claimed, indicating that out of twenty-six public corporations, women headed only five, while only two female county superintendents in the fifteen counties as of last year.
“And it tells you that we’re losing grip even with a female president; and every time a woman gets removed from office, there’s a man that’s appointed,” she claimed, further emphasizing: “So, we’re trying to make an equal participation clause in our constitution real by finding additional seats for women; securing those seats that will be all women seats. So, at least this way we will have more women in the Legislature.”
The campaign, as publicly announced and justified by Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor on Monday, January 4 may have sounded genuine, but equally in violation of democratic governance practices, especially to legislate “seats” exclusively for women in the Legislature.
It is a knowledgeable fact that in consonance with international legal framework, ‘ the right to directly and indirectly participate in political and public life is important in empowering individuals and groups, and is one of the core elements of human rights-based approaches aimed at eliminating marginalization and discrimination’.
But in the case of the Bong County Senator as per the issue raised, mere sentiments rather than competence and capacity, appears to be a the core of her advocacy – a campaign many well-meaning women may not seem to buy.
Gender Equity or whatever it may be called entails an opportunity, through completion at all levels of a nation’s existence, to participate in political and public life, as in the cases of the very ‘Jewel Howard-Taylor’, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull, as well as Representative-Elect Julie Futuma Wiah of Lofa County, among others.
In earnest, the advocacy of Senator Taylor and her likes must be the enabling environment with capacity-building opportunities as we have now under the current Ellen Sirleaf Administration, upon which women – young and old, can always utilize to prepare themselves for political and public life. Other than pursuing the enactment of a law for ‘seats’ exclusively for women in the Legislature, a law to better the conditions of street children, prostitutes, as well as the elderly, among others, would truly reflect the issue of gender.
As President Sirleaf mentioned sometimes last year in her remarks at a gathering of Liberian women on a local beach on the Robertsfield Highway in Margibi County, one of the key factors responsible for the poor representation of women in the Legislature is the DISUNITY among Liberian women, especially during elections – something about which the Bong County Senator and a few others are well knowledgeable. If and only if Senator Taylor and her likes could thrive on the path of rallying behind women candidates in all of our elections, there would be no need for an “affirmative action bill” as being pursued by the Senator.
The political danger for such legislation is that it would further give rise to the allotment of Legislative seats to other groups in the Liberian society such people living with disabilities, including the visually impaired and physically challenged, as well as youth, among others.
And so, the best option for the Bong County Senator is to pursue legislations in the interest of impoverished young girls and children in the streets, building the capacities of women through skills training and formal education, as well as mobilizing support and rallying behind women candidates during elections in Liberia, among others, other than a fruitless political venture such as an “affirmative action bill” for seats exclusively for women in the Legislature.