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Is President Weah a Feminist?

By Bettie Johnson-Mbayo

President George Weah has consistently bragged ABOUT BEING the ‘Chief Feminist’ and made several bold and loud commitments to gender equality, but the numbers of women in his government contradict HIS PRONOUCEMENTS.As Liberia’s Feminist-in-Chief, I remain committed to making gender main-streaming a matter of priority in the formulation of policies and programs that will drive the development of Liberia in the future,” WEAH SAID AT THE 2019/2020 Annual address.He said when the National Election Commission (NEC) required each political party a minimum of 30 PERCENT of women candidature in parliamentary election, he raised the bar for women TO 50 PERCENT.

“I am proud to inform you that all of those women who had the courage to run were all successful,” HE SAID.But contrary to Weah’s statement, only Montserrado County District nine lawmaker Munah Pelham Youngblood won. Eight of the FEMALES candidates who contested on the President’s party ticket did not win.

During the Sheroes conference, President Weah said when he was elected standard-bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), he demonstrated his commitment to the cause of advancement of women’s participation in leadership, and to practice what he preached.
“I, therefore, selected a female as my running-mate,” he said.But in early January 2020, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor expressed regret over the refusal to disperse monies to her office, something that made her appear discontent during 2020 annual address.

He has boosted of appointing many women in his cabinets including the first female Deputy Chief of staff of Armed Forces of Liberia.He classified those actions as manifestations of his desire and advocacy for gender equality and of increasing women’s participation in governance in the country.

Despite these efforts aimed at giving women a desirable platform in national leadership, the President acknowledged that women still face a range of issues in Liberia that hold them back in society and make social equality a significant challenge.

He named social norms and traditions as some of the issues.
The 2008 national census puts women at 49% of the total population of about 4million.
Statistics compiled by UN Women states that only 3 female cabinet ministers out of 19 ministries, that amount of 12.12 percent while the males are 16 that amount to 87.88 percent.
The total number of Females is 10 (20.83) out of 48 Deputy ministers and 41 out of 61 assistant ministers.

Three female director generals, 25 are males out of 28 and assistant director-general amount to 36 of which 29 (80.56) are males, and 7 (19.44 percent) are females. Of the total numbers of five commissioners, 1 (20 percent) is a female, four are males (80 percent) and deputy commissioners,4 are females (40.00) and 6 (60 percent) are males.
There are 7 superintendents, 3 are females (42.86) and 4 are males (57.14), assistant superintendent.

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In the senate out of 30 seats one woman and 28 men, while in the representatives out of 73 seats 9 are occupied by women after 156 contested the 2017 elections.9 women contested as Vice President candidates with one winning. For the judiciary there are two women out of five justices, six females out of 43 specialized court judges.

Four females as circuit judges out of 21 courts while eight are females; with 90 Stipendiary Magistrates six are females in Montserrado County.The US 2018 Human rights report states that no laws limit the participation of women, members of minorities, or both in the political process, and women participate. WOMEN.

“Some observers believed traditional and cultural factors limited women’s participation in politics as compared with the participation of men. Women participated at significantly lower levels than men as party leaders and as elected officials,” The UN human report states.
2017 statistics from UNDP states that 54 percent women and 46 percent men participated in the 2017 elections.

Section 4.5 of Liberia’s New Election Law, which calls for no less than 30 per cent representation of each gender on the lists of candidates submitted by political parties.
While this provision has no enforcement mechanism, there was a 16 percent uptick in the number of female candidates listed for the legislative race of the 2017 election cycle.
In 2017, the Senate passed the Affirmative Action Bill, but it still lingered in the House of Representative.

The bill seeks to give exclusive 15 seats to women in the Senate.
Liberia ranks 155 rank out of 188 in terms of women’s representation in parliament according to Global data on National Parliament The number of registered females fell far below the stipulated ‘endeavor to ensure’ 30% allocated for each gender equality in the New Elections Law.

Out of 783 registered candidates, 637 (71.4%) were male candidates, and only 156 (28.6%) were female candidates.The National Elections Commission reported that women represented 49 percent of all voters during the first round of presidential and legislative elections.

Mmonbeydo Joah Harrell, Executive Director of Organization for Women and Children commended President Weah for setting in the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development plan with several pillars with an increased political participation of women at the national and local levels to reach a target of 30% by 2023.The pillar includes medium, short term, and long-term interventions some of which include partners in the Civil Society.

Madam Harrell said though President Weah set up a site for women only to apply to work in his government. There is no evidence, however; that any name was selected from the list that applied to the site even though some women who did apply were appointed.
“It is time to back those commitments by actions which in clear terms remain his Constitutional duty as he called himself Chief Feminist.”

“We all must and will continue to hold government accountable in providing safety nets and short-term social protection interventions for women who participate in political processes. Otherwise, the government will fall short of its 30% High-Level National Target,” she said
By SheWrites, SheLeads

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