According to Pakistan activist for female education, Malala Yousafzai, “There’s a moment where you have to choose whether to be silent or stand up.”
For the women in Liberia, it’s time to secure a place in the political space without fear or intimidation.
The Sister Aid Liberia Inc. (SALI) a women-led National Non-Governmental Organization that promotes Rights Advocacy and Empowerment, held a one-day dialogue with university students including young women and girls in Monrovia as the 2023 Presidential and General Elections approaches.
The dialogue, themed “University Talk to Support Women’s Leadership and Political Participation in Liberia” is under the Liberia Electoral Support Project (LESP) led by UNDP in partnership with UN Women and the NEC, with funding from Irish Aid and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
The one-day panel discussion program brought together over three hundred university and high school students (mostly women) from several academic institutions including the University of Liberia (UL), African Methodist Episcopal University (AMUE), AME Zion University (AMEZU) United Methodist University (UMU) and high schools across Monrovia and its environs.
The project is intended to ensure that women and girls discuss issues and challenges that women face in politics. The project was implemented by Sister Aid Liberia Inc. in Margibi and Montserrado counties.
At the start of the event, Founder and Executive Directress of Sister Aid Liberia, Madam Miatta Darwolor, indicated that as part of SALI’s mission, it is the singular mandate to ensure women and girls get involved in active politics and be part of national decision-making in Liberia.
“Sister Aid Liberia is a women-led non-governmental organization that promotes young women and girls’ rights in political participation and leadership, works to prevent violence against women and girls, and advocates for women-friendly policies and laws”, she mentioned.
Mounting the podium on the panel discussion team, was Victoria Torlo Koiquah – Senatorial Aspirant of Montserrado County. She talked about Advancing women’s rights to vote and participate in the electoral process; Madam Jodie Reid Seton – Executive Directress for Liberia Initiative for Empowerment, (LIFE) Inc. She spoke about the importance of electoral quota for women and women in political leadership; Madam Loretta A. Pope-Kai – Chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, addressed the traditional barriers to advancing women’s political empowerment and leadership, and Madam Lisa Kindervater Sieh – Senior Program Specialist at UN Women Liberia, spoke on the importance of the electoral quota for women and women in political leadership.
Addressing the topic “Importance of the electoral quota for women and women in political leadership”, Madam Lisa Kindervater Sieh encouraged Liberian women to be trustworthy, confident, and courageous in political participation and leadership.
She revealed that women’s empowerment is important to contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of Liberia, but there is a need that women are trustworthy and capable.
Still at the program, participants mainly students from different institutions raised questions to guest panellists about the challenges they face with regard to women’s leadership and political participation.
Students (mostly females) were concerned as to how the perception by many males that women are only subject to homework and catering to children at home instead of sharing equal opportunity, equal participation in national decision-making, and politics can be minimized.
Other challenges that students raised about women’s participation in politics in Liberia were: discrimination amongst their male counterparts; lack of financial opportunity to convince their followers, intimidation, and fear of public speaking by their male counterparts, among others.
But addressing the students’ concerns, the National Civil Society Council of Liberia’s Chairperson Madam Loretta Pope-Kai encouraged female students and leaders to always believe in themselves and be practical.
Madam, Pope-Kai told scores of students that women can only take the lead in decision-making if they prepared themselves adequately and be practical while seeing the need to have good mentors to learn from and follow.
She further urged young women to be brave and always willing to learn to do what their male counterparts do as well.
Addressing the issue of limited women in leadership, the senatorial aspirant of Montserrado County, Madam Victoria Torlo Koiquah challenged young women and girls to always promote and support women during elections in Liberia.
Madame Koiquah revealed that about 52 percent of Liberia’s population are women and women are always voting for leaders – mostly males instead of females.
She then cautioned women to begin to vote for their colleagues instead of males all of the time.
According to her, if women continue to vote and support their gender in leadership through elections, Liberia can experience 50-50 gender leadership and the rights of women will be respected because laws will be passed in their interest of them.