Addressing a one-day Stakeholders' Consultative Conference yesterday in Monrovia, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai said that Liberia has done well in the area of women development, but added that there is still room for improvement.
According to him, Liberian women have continued to play crucial roles in the country's search for peace, in the area of agriculture, while playing critical roles in bringing up the children in the home.
He said these were only a few of the responsibilities bore by women to ensure the growth and development of the country.
The one-day consultative conference was organized by the Women Legislative Caucus of Liberia. It was held under the theme “Promoting National Unity and Development through Equitable and Participatory Governance.”
The conference brought together women from all walks of the Liberian society, including political parties, civil society organizations, professional working groups, former female lawyers, female ministers and superintendents, amongst others.
In his remarks, the Vice President urged the conference to discuss issues for the betterment of women and the country without injecting their personal feelings in the issues before them.
Meanwhile, Vice President Boakai read a message of goodwill sent to the conference by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In her message, President Johnson-Sirleaf boasted of having more women in the employ of government in top positions than at any time in the nation's history. The President pointed out that according to a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Gender and Development; women hold 31% of top ministerial posts, 29% of deputy minister positions and 25% of assistant minister positions.
“Women head 28 percent key government agencies including: the National Port Authority, Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, the General Services Agency, Monrovia City Corporation, the Center for National Documents and Records, the Environmental Protection Agency and the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.
“Of Liberia's 15 counties, 5 of the Superintendents – 33.3% are women…Several of the key governance entities are headed by women among them, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Elections Commission and the Public Procurement Concession Commission,” the President said in her message.
The President then challenged the female legislators to reintroduce the “Gender Equity Bill” and guaranteed its passage into law.
The Gender Equity Bill calls for at least 30 percent representation of women in government.
“Liberia, which ratified the 1979 UN General Assembly Resolution, must as a member of the comity of nations, respect international norms. This would bring us closer if we work fully in line with countries such as Rwanda which has 52%, Senegal 42.9%, South Africa 42%, Mozambique 39%, Tanzania 36% and Uganda 35%.
For her part, keynote speaker Gender and Development Minister Duncan Cassell indicated that Liberia's history has not been one of equal participation in politics and adherence to democratic processes.
Minister Cassell said that certain groups have been marginalized, discriminated against and prevented from participating in the decision-making process that shaped their lives and futures.
“Women are on such groups, with numerous social, cultural and legal barriers preventing their participation in political processes, both as candidates and voters,” the Gender Minister said.
Outlining the challenges women are facing, Minister Cassell indicated that there are still structural constraints, which are needed to intensify to ensure the increase in women's political participation.
She also named the issue of violence; including gender based sexual violence, as an issue deserving much attention to ensure women's fuller participation in government.
The President of the Women Legislative Caucus of Liberia, Montserrado County Representative Joseph M. George-Francis stated that the organization remains firm and committed to pursuing and upholding those virtues that propel women to take on the task of participating in all national democratic and governance processes not only in Liberia, but the world over.
“I must admit that these salient and meaningful strives by world bodies are perfect opportunities and platforms on which we can harness our skills, resources, thoughts and expertise for the genuine; automatic advancement of our share idea and definite interest of women development and participation in all layers of every process that moves towards advancing society.
“It is indeed for this single most strategic reason that we the Women Legislative Caucus remain robust and committed to ensuring that such progressive dream of human existence comes into further realization,” Rep. Francis averred.