…… Citizens of Montserrado County District #17 Demand
By: Leila B. Gbati
Several citizens, mostly women, of District 17 in Montserrado County have expressed concern in regard to the 30 percent female representation in the upcoming election and disclosed their burning desire for female representation.
The residents who are believed to be supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) have also expressed fear that their party might likely lose the district if they do not send the right person to contest in the district.
For over two decades, Montserrado County, District #17, has been led by males who have massively failed the people of the district.
With this, the residents believe it is time that a woman be entrusted with the district, especially those who have made significant marks on their lives.
Speaking to our reporter over the weekend in the district, the citizens said that the CDC, being the ruling party, has committed to the 40% gender quota, and President Weah, being a feminist-in-chief, should give women the chance to contest in their district and be on the party list.
According to them, CDC has never won the district because they have failed to allow the rightful person to contest, and in order for them to win this time around, they will have to try a female candidate who believes in the manifesto of President Weah.
The concerned District 17 residents said that they are afraid that the representation of the CDC will be in limbo because they do not know who is going to lead the ticket now.
Meanwhile, CDC has not come up with a representation in the district, but two names are already popping up from the party: Welma Blaye Sampson and Bernard Benson. Therefore, the residents are calling on CDC to go for primary so that whoever wins, can support the person to win the district.
Vicky Kamara, a resident of District 17, said that she will only support a female candidate because they need a woman to represent the district this time around.
Vicky said that it is an added advantage for a woman to contest in the district because they believe that she will seek the interest of everyone.
“If a woman rules this district, she will listen to the cry of her fellow women and embrace them, but a man will not seek our interest as compared to a woman who knows what her fellow women need. We pray to God for the CDC to allow a female on the party ticket in this district. For me, if they do not allow a female on the ticket, I will not vote on election day, so we are asking them to do the right thing, and President Weah should not forget about us, the women, because we come first in anything,” she said.
Vicky also said that in the past, most of the leaders they had in the district were men, adding that “they have never prioritized us, the women; when they win, they pass by us, so they should not be coming now to ask for our vote, then at the end of the day they sit down and do nothing. No, we are not giving our vote to any man; we are tired of them. We need a woman to contest here, and we will tide our rappa to support her. We the women are not doing anything here; we are tiding our waists this time around to support our fellow women because we believe that if she wins, she will not forget about us”.
Bendu Henry is begging President Weah to listen to their cry and allow a female candidate to contest in the district because they are faced with a lot of challenges that the men’s leaders will not see.
“If a woman is leading, she will do something for her children; she will not hear her children crying and turn her back. You can have a stepmother but not a stepfather. If a woman leads, she will represent everybody. We have tried the men for too long and they have failed us. We have been listening and following them to the extent that we even failed our women, but we have learned a lesson that if we put our friend woman there, she will listen to us more than the men.”
“The water business is giving us a hard time; we only have two pumps in this whole community. Even though our road condition is bad and there is no conducive latrine in this community, we only have one latrine here, so you see, these are things we believe that if a woman goes there, she will do for us because she is a woman and understands the difficulties we go through as women on a daily basis”, she emphasized.
Also speaking, Maima Grant said she will fully support a woman candidate this time around because she is a strong supporter of CDC, but if they do not send a female candidate to contest, she will not support them in this election.
She said, “What I have to tell CDC is that they should send a woman to contest in this district; we do not need men to lead us here again, so we are appealing to our President to seek the interest of us women and allow our fellow women to participate in this election. We are interested in a woman who will not let us down as the men have done over the years; we want to see a woman on that ticket this time; we have tried the men and have not seen any better, so let the women go there too”.
Mercy Sonnie, speaking on the same issue, said she would only support a woman candidate, emphasizing that they need a woman to lead the district now because they are tired of the men, adding that “if we vote for the men, they always say it is their money that made them win; if we go to their house for help, they put words in our faces, so we believed that if our friend woman is there, she will not let us down. I believed that things would be okay for us, the women and youth, if a woman led this district. “A woman knows the pain of her fellow woman”.
Rebecca Wesley said that the CDC must allow women to participate in the election and allow the democratic process to prevail instead of just forcing somebody on them.
According to Rebecca, even though they do not know yet who will be running for CDC, all they want is for the party to go for primary, and anyone that wins, be it a woman or a man, they will support to the fullest so that they can win the district.
Ma Rebecca stressed that primary is the only option for now because they cannot afford to lose the district again.
“This district is vulnerable; the representative we have here is always in Bomi County, and he is not focused here, so we want CDC to go for primary, and if anybody wins, be it a man or woman, we will support and campaign for that person to win this district if it causes us to walk and go to the President to appeal to him for this, we the women are ready and resolved,” Ma Rebecca stated.
For his part, Stanley Pewee said he is a strong supporter of CDC, and if the party desires to win the district, those that want to contest on the party ticket should go for the primary, and whoever wins, will support the person because it will be an added advantage for CDC to win that particular district looking at its population.
Stanley mentioned that if CDC acts carelessly and they lose the district, there will be nothing for them, emphasizing that if an opposition candidate wins, they will not benefit anything from that person. He or she will not seek the interest of the people because they will not work in the interest of President Weah.
According to Stanley, if the party puts out men or women in the district, he will support that person, but his major concern is for them to go to primary school.
“Whoever wins the primary, we will campaign in this district and make sure that person wins this district. For me, if anybody gets on the ticket, I will vote for them, but CDC must go for the primary and allow the democratic process to prevail because that is the right thing to do, so we as partisans are calling on them now to listen and do the right thing. The primary is my concern, and we will have to go for it, and we will make sure that person wins so that we can get something good here. If we sit down and the opposition wins this district, forget it; there will be no development here.
“We need current in this entire district and a conducive road, and the only way to achieve that is for CDC to win; if not, we will be in darkness throughout. My concern is for the people to go for primary, and just after that, whether man or woman, anybody who wins, we will support them and they will be victorious.
“All the male representatives have done nothing for this district, so this time around we want a lady who might deliver the tangible. President Weah told us that he needs more women to represent us, so we have to go by that by giving the women the opportunity to represent and lead,” Henry George said.
What is the 30% gender quota about?
The 30 percent gender quota for women on candidate listings was first set in Liberia in 2005, with the “guidelines relating to the registration of political parties and independent candidates” stating that each party “shall ensure” that 30 percent of its candidates be women.
On September 17, 2022, the Legislature passed the New Elections Law with specific fines (US$10,000) for violators of Section 4.5 and forwarded the same to President George W. Bush for signing into law and subsequent printing into handbills, but unfortunately, the law didn’t pass.
Section 4.5 (1 C) of the New Elections Law mandates that political parties submit not less than 30% of either gender for their candidate lists to the NEC.
With barely four months until the elections, citizens’ concerns are arising about the 30% female representation in the election process.
Some citizens, mainly women, are afraid that political parties will not include women on party tickets since the new election law (Section 4.5 (1C)) didn’t come to reality, which would have mandated political parties to put women candidates on party lists.
The low representation of women in the Legislature is alarming, and according to them, they need more women to legislate laws in the interest of women and girls, which is something everyone fights for.
The case of District 17
The fate of women’s participation on the CDC list is a serious issue in District 17 because of the failure of the new election, which mandates that political parties allow 30% of women candidates on party lists. Even though the law did not pass, it can be recalled that the CDC committed to a 40% gender quota for women’s representation in leadership and women’s candidates on the party lists, which according to them has been claimed as an enshrined policy decision for all of its internal and external democratic processes.
However, supporters of the party and residents of District 17 are worried because, according to them, they are not seeing signs of female representation, so they are calling on the party to make it up to the 40% gender quota by allowing women to contest in the district.
According to them, the party should rather go for the primary to be able to elect those that will contest in the district rather than just putting anybody on the ticket who might likely not win.
They believed that if CDC goes for the primary and whether a man or woman wins, they will vigorously campaign for that person in order for them to win the district.
The citizen also emphasized that the CDC shouldn’t sideline women who are desiring to contest in the district because, over the years, they have had men’s representation and never won the district, so this time around, the party should do something new.
NEC and partners buttress the political participation of women in politics.
On May 5 and 6, 2023, the NEC and partners gathered registered political parties in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, to draft and validate an MOU to support the 30% gender quota.
Davidetta Browne Lansanah, Chairperson of the NEC, told reporters that in the past they had the gender equality law, which basically said that people should endeavor to ensure the inclusion of women candidates, but the new law, Section 4.5, if it is passed, actually says that political parties should include women as candidates on party lists.
Madam Lansanah said where you have shall endeavor to means that it’s left to you to do it, but now the new law is saying that it’s mandatory; unfortunately, the law did not pass as such. As such, they have gathered to get political parties to put something into place that will increase the participation of women.
“The gender equity law is for both men and women, with an emphasis on increasing the participation of women. We want to appeal to these parties to take another step further, even though the new law did not pass, but we still think that they can implement something,” she noted.
The NEC boss said the gathering should be the groundwork for building the kind of confidence for political parties to include 30% and even more women as candidates to run for elective positions in the elections.
“We have to take the first step. When you are sure that women can make it to the party listing, then of course you have to be working in the party and perhaps behind the scenes to ensure that these women are elected.” That’s’ the idea. There are close to 26 political parties that are fully registered and have conventions, so there are other parties that are going to the convention, some of them new, so the entire listing of political parties may not be represented here,” she asserted.
Madam Lansanah continued, “One of the things we should appreciate is that all of the parties here whether they are represented by men or women after this meeting they will take back to their various parties what the decisions here will be and it is those parties now at the high level will make that decision to sign or not to sign so, we are hoping for the representation here on the ground for political parties be it women and men will have enough influence over the principles in the political parties at the high level to convince them to see the need to sign the MOU to commit themselves to the increase in the number of women as candidates on their parties listing to work with them and ensure they are elected come October 10, 2023”.