LIBERIA: Rural Women Want Inclusion In Politics

Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The Inquirer Online
Western Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 

As the Presidential and General Elections draw nearer, women in rural Liberia have called on political parties to include them as decision-makers in their various manifestos. The rural women are calling on leaders of political parties to allow them occupy higher positions in political parties and in the decision-making process of the country. They want women to be party leaders as their male counterparts and not to be placed at the back seat. In Grand Bassa County, District N0, 2, some women who spoke to this paper through an IREX-sponsored program, said their inclusion in national politics will enhance the democracy process and buttress the participation of all Liberians regardless of sex as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on Discrimination.

“Let them allow women to occupy higher positions either as party chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary because some of these women have qualified themselves by going to school and obtaining degrees and can do whatever men can do. We are prepared to support them in every aspect,” Ellenor Barnie in Waka Town, Grand Bassa County said.

Liberians are expected to go to the polls in October or November to elect a new government or retain the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-led government. Political campaign for the General and Presidential Elections will commence in July with at least 22 political parties and several independent candidates registering to contest the ensuing elections.

Already some parties have begun reading out their manifestos to convince voters of what they are capable of doing for the citizens. But women in Liberia continue to demand their inclusion in national politics.

At the National Legislature in Monrovia, women have been demanding a 30 percent representation with the reintroduction of the Gender Equity Bill that was massively defeated in the male-dominated Liberian Legislature.

In spite of their demand for inclusion in national politics, many rural women are poor farmers who walk several miles from their villages or towns to health centers due to the lack of medical facilities in their communities.

“If women are included in national politics and become part of the decision-making process they will ensure that issues of women including reproductive healthcare, sanitation and the issues of taking our local produces to the markets are adequately addressed,” Mary Baryogar, leader of a local women group in Bassa said.

For Oldlady Mary Barnie said if young women are given the chance to be part of the decision-making process will foster peace and address issues affecting them as women in the country. Mamie Doe, a kala seller (locally-made bread) in No.1 District said if the opportunity is given to her she will run for a representative seat in her district. She further stated, “We want to be part of the process because we are all Liberians and have a stake in the running of our country and not only men.”

Stakeholders including the National Elections Commission (NEC) and some international partners have been pushing for the genderization of political parties' manifestos for women to have greater input in their various parties while Liberian women themselves have been pressing for a 30 percent representation in government.

Women are making impacts on the political scene since the ascendency of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the first democratically elected female President of Liberia in Africa. While women in Monrovia are pushing for inclusion in decision-making process, rural women are also following their footsteps by calling for their inclusion in the process. An IREX-sponsored report By Morrison O.G. Sayon