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 ECOWAS Ambassador Calls for Increased Women and Youth Participation in Political Activities in Liberia July 4th, 2014

The Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS in Liberia has expressed concerns over the marginalization of women and youth in political activities in Liberia.

Ambassador Babatunde Olanrewaju Ajisomo said the participation and representation of women in the hierarchies and structures of political parties in the country has been very low over the years in the country.

"In particular, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA 2003) recognized women's participation in the peace process by ensuring that women were represented in the Transitional Government. Even with that specific provision, the composition of the Transitional Legislative Assembly had only four women out of seventy-six members,”' he recounted.

In a Keynote address at a workshop for political parties in Liberia, Ambassador Ajisomo noted that it is an indisputable fact that women and youths constitute a large population of Africa but they are the least represented groups in political parties in their respective countries.

The workshop on Mainstreaming Youth and Women in Party Activities, Media Relations and Effective Campaign Strategies in Liberia was organized by the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the National Elections Commission. 

He added that in consolidating the growing desire for gender equality in Liberia, the 2005 elections' guidelines proposed that political parties apply a 30 percent quota for women among the list of nominated candidates.

"Though not legally enforceable, the political parties that applied the guidelines in the 2005 elections had the largest numbers of women in the legislature. There was however no proper follow-up to further strengthen the gains made during the 2005 elections, especially with the election of the first female President of Africa; Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and 14 women in the 52nd Legislature.” He intimated.

The ECOWAS Ambassador noted that such fortune was not repeated in the second post war elections in 2011, adding that although President Sirleaf was re-elected, only nine women were elected into the 53rd Legislature.

The ECOWAS Ambassador observed that female politicians are still fighting to run on a level playing field with their male counterparts. "Furthermore, political parties are yet to take concrete steps to encourage female membership into their parties through the adaption of the 30 percent gender quotas.

On youth participation in politics in Liberia, Amb. Ajisomo said the right of young people to participate in political parties' activities and be included in democratic processes and practices is very vital to ensuring the achievement of a stable democratic society.

He said in Liberia, young people play active role in political institutions as the "foot soldiers" he went on: "They are the driving force in terms of mobilizing support for political parties, but I am not sure if they have that much leverage in terms of leadership and decision-making in political parties."

Also speaking, National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairman Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya said the question of limited women in political participation is a governance and empowerment issue, which he said is not unique to Liberia.

Chairman Korkoya said there is a global gender equity problem that has been the subject of international discourse across many democracies, old and new. He named Rwanda and South Africa as countries in Africa that have used laws and political innovation to make tremendous gains in empowering women politically.

The NEC boss said there are countries that have made little progress due to culture, tradition, institutional arrangements and legal frameworks. Liberia, a young democracy according to Mr. Cllr. Korkoya, is one that has not done well in increasing women's participation in the democratic process. "In fact, it can be argued that the trend of women ascendency to elective public positions has probably taken a downward spiral.

He among other things added that in the 2005 election, of the 94 legislative seats, only 13 or 13.8 percent were women. He said in 2011 the number of Legislative seats increased to 103, Legislative seats only 13 are women.

More than 30 participants from the Unity Party (UP), National patriotic party (NPP), Liberty party (LP), Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), and the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), Free Democratic Party (FDP), Victory for Change Party (VCP), the Union of Liberia Democrats and the Alternative National Congress (ANC) attended the three-day workshop.

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