-Bong County lone female candidate
Senatorial candidate, Dorothy Kwenah Tooman, called on politicians to stop instigating the youth to verbal and physical assaults against the rival candidates. This, she said, undermines the fragile peace and security of the country. Peace, she said, is essential to maintaining stability in Liberia.
Tooman, who is the sole female senatorial candidate from Bong county, encouraged voters to criticallyevaluate all candidates, in order to better understand what kind of development they should expect after the voting centers close.
Violence, however, is unacceptable at any time. She condemned the politicians who encourage their young supporters to insult the rival candidates, including shouting insults and carrying out physical attacks. She warned that even small and isolated acts of violence are dangerous and have the potential to lead to cascading violence and revenge among candidates and their supporters.
“Our politicians need to desist from wrongfully using our young children to attack others because they are giving them peanuts. These things can certainly undermine the fragile peace of the country”, she cautioned, referring to politicians allegedly paying young men little money to incite violence or to carry out acts of violence against rival politicians.
She also called the attention of young people and what they say during live talk shows and on social media platforms, some of them delivering insults to national leaders. Tooman, who is former Executive Director for the Development Education Network Liberia (DEN-L), noted that this type of behavior undermines progress in any country and especially in Liberia, where over 50% of the population is represented by youth. She urged voters to remain civil and peaceful before and after the elections, as the county is known as a place of violence-free election.
A confident candidate
Tooman is confident that, if elected, she is suited for the tasks in the Senate, taking into account her qualifications and experiences, and added that the Senate belongs to well-experienced and seasoned individuals. She characterized herself as a social and gender advocate, and transformational leader, and believes her qualifications and experience are needed in the Legislature to work and repair the county.
Being a woman is not a handicap. She said that the fact that she is the only woman out of seven candidates from Bong places her in the best position to push for women’s agenda in the Senate.
Liberia’s first female Vice President, Jewel Howard Taylor, who is also a daughter of Bong, served two nine-year terms as senator for the county prior to becoming President George Weah’s running mate in 2017.
Currently, the only woman occupying one of the 30 seats in the Senate is Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, who represents Grand Bassa County, situated along the costal belt of Liberia. She represents the opposition Liberty Party.
Vote more women
Dorothy Tooman believes that having more women in leadership positions can enable Liberia to benefit from tangible achievements, including infrastructure, education, agriculture and health, among others, referencing former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who became the first female president in Africa.
“Over the years, as a female, I have contributed to the local and national policy development processes, including the National Action Plan of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, Liberia Decentralization Policy, the Land Rights Law and amendment to the Budget Law of Liberia, among others.”
Resolution 1325 addresses the crucial role that women should, and already play in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. It states that women’s full participation is important to every aspect of achieving and sustaining peace and stability within a community.
The Resolution urges all actors to increase women’s participation in politics and governance, among others, and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts.
The final list of qualified candidates for the Senate race, published by the National Elections Commission on Wednesday, November 18, puts total number of contestants for the Senate race at 118, including 20 women. This means that just 17% of all candidates are women. That is fewer than 2 women candidates for every 10 men competing. But when it comes to actually voting for a woman in office, Liberians seem even more unwilling to cast their ballot away from the traditional male politician. According to the 2017 NEC voter registration, 49% of all the registered voters in Liberia are women.
Tooman noted that such statistics present a very compelling need for more women to dare to ascend to national leadership. She believes in the peaceful conduct of the elections, access for women to leadership positions, social inclusion and gender equality, dialogue, and reconciliation to solving continuous disunity in Bong county. All of these, she said, can be reasonably achieved.
The issue of money
Although paid from public funds, no one seems to know with certainty how much money is a Senator or Representative making, much less how much additional compensation they receive in goods and services.
Opposition Senator, Darius Dillon, of Montserrado county, publicly stated that his comrades receive 15,000 USD a month, but he faced several rebuttals and denials from his colleagues. None of those rejecting the figure released the actual number representing their salaries and benefits.
Tooman pledged that she will part with some of her salary, if elected: “I will not take more than seven thousand dollars monthly as compensation. We [I] will save the rest of our [my] compensation as senator in a designated account to support peace and development, including the talents of Bong county. Funds from said account would be managed by a team of trusted people within Bong county”, she said. Madam Dorothy Kwenah Tooman