While we applaud the Honorable House of Representatives’ decision to adopt into law an Act amending some provisions of the Liberian New Elections Law that strives to grant women political power, we believe it is long overdue and insignificant.
Liberia, without a doubt, lags behind other African countries. Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for women to have a greater and more meaningful role in political decision-making. If Liberia does not modify its institutions, procedures, and laws to ensure that more women participate in political decision-making, the 2030 global agenda will remain a pipe dream.
The House of Representatives’ action to amend Section 4.5 of the New Elections Law, which sets aside an exclusive 30% for women’s representation in every political party’s candidate lists to the National Elections Commission (NEC), should have instead set aside 30 seats exclusively for women to contest, as we have seen in other countries in Africa. Political quotas are the simplest way to achieve gender equality.
In addition to quotas placed on candidates or political parties, most African countries now have at least one gender quota in place, with 13 countries having specifically designated seats for women in parliament. These protected seats allow countries with strong female representation in parliament, such as Rwanda (61.25 percent), South Africa (46.35 percent), Senegal (41.82 percent), and Ethiopia (38.76 percent), to include more women and diverse opinions in legislative decision-making.
The 30 percent political party quota existed in Liberia for a long time but was never enforced because it was simply stated that a political party would try to include 30 percent women on its candidate list, but the motive was insufficient, so it failed.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Gambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Togo, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Ethiopia, Gabon, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe, the number of female speakers in both upper and lower houses of parliament on the continent totaled an encouraging 16 out of 75 legislative bodies.
Therefore, we urge the Honorable Liberian Senate to act responsibly by including a clause that ensures at least 30% of seats in both houses are reserved for women, as is the case in many other African countries as mentioned above.
Women are part of a group that has been marginalized due to historical inequities, which also includes the rural and urban poor, children, youth, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
The inclusion of such a provision in our election law reflects the government’s commitment to achieving maximal progressive change through advocating for women and the most marginalized members of society.