Analysis: What Are the Prospects for Liberian Women in the 2017 Elections and Ellen’s Post-Era?

By: Josephus Moses Gray/Email:
Liberian Women Queued During Voter’s Registration Exercise

The international system in recent years has experienced a new phenomenon and fascinating developments in contemporary politics regarding the rise in women’s involvements in political struggles to persistently challenge their male counterparts in an internationally praised democracy process for representation and leadership from one region to another across the globe. This new phenomenon cut across the various continents from Africa to Asia, South America to Western Europe and the Scandinavia region, except for the Middle East, where women’s rise to power faces a difficult struggle to easily overwhelm.

This new phenomenon did not come simply, unfortunately, women paid the heaviest price based on situation,  with Liberia being no exception. But what are the prospects for Liberian women in the 2017 General Elections and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s post-era?

On January 16, 2018 Johnson-Sirleaf leaves office having presides over two successive terms, that is a fact; she is to some extend has done well, but you wouldn’t find many people agreeing with you, though, that Johnson-Sirleaf is well known on the globe stage, but has that brought any tangible and greater benefits to the nation in term of providing basic necessities of life like electricity, paved roads, safe drinking water, jobs, quality education, available and affordable health care and education for their greater population? No doubts, the reactions would be mix in the context of positivity and negativity; provided to whom you are speaking to-optimistic or pessimistic.

J. Moses Gray the Author of this article

The affection for Johnson-Sirleaf in the contemporary politics of Liberia is in two-forth-depending on which of the sides you find yourself, however, let wait and see how the affection for the president is going to be when she shall relinquish power to her heir. What is unknown is will people overcome with emotions and cry with tears; some will say it will be seismic movement, the end of the Sirleaf’s era for  the mother of four children, while for others, she will be departing the political sense with scarcity more than a warn handshake, but generally the president has done well considering the numerous challenges that her administration inherited and how she kept 12 years of an uninterrupted, stability and security although the administration has its own pitfalls.

This article digs into the essential role of Liberian women and how democracy is perceived and practices currently in the country with an overview of Liberian women involvement in the forthcoming 2017 General Elections. No doubt, the nation has experienced participatory democracy since 2005 but generally democracy in a contemporary Liberia is seeming as voting, failing to realize that free and fairs elections, though a cardinal component, are neither the beginning nor the end of democracy; they instead formed part of the attributes of sustaining a credible process of democracy.

The gradual changes of roles of the modern state not least formed a hard request for recovery of gender balance in the leadership of the state and create a more efficient mechanism of governance at all levels. That is why the promotion of women in power considered now as a tool of a stable, humane, and sustainable development of society as truly equal status between men and women change the priorities of the state policy, the life of the country.

There are at least two theories about women in politics. According to one, in the policy there is a special women’s style, which is characterized by great attention to human, social issues. It is believed that a woman’s style is more peaceful, because women do not tend to solve problems by force, launch wars and conflicts. The second view is that the style of the policy does not depend on the individual’s gender, but on the psychological characteristics of the policy, because there are men who are peaceful and attentive to the individual’s personality, and there are women who are warlike and are not careful people

While certain electoral systems are more women friendly than others, for an under-privileged country like Liberia, the prevailing circumstance is the direct opposite; our  democratic system is not a good indicator of the percentage of women who will make it into the legislature  comes the this year’s October General Elections. Unlike other African countries and other regions across the globe, our electoral laws disadvantaged women for elected positions especially the legislative posts.

The 1995 UN Conference on Women held in Beijing helped to spur these trends by adopting a Platform of Action that encouraged countries to advance women’s political leadership; women account for about one-in-ten of today’s leaders of United Nations member states. In the decades leading up to 1990s, only six countries in sub-Saharan Africa had adopted quotas, while today more than half (25 out of 53) of all sub-Saharan African countries have adopted gender quotas which are measures that increase the chances of women being elected to office.

UN report (2015) indicates that while the number of female leaders has more than doubled since 2005, a woman in power is hardly the norm around the world. Sixty-three of the 142 nations studied by the World Economic Forum have had a female head of government or state at some point in the 50 years up to 2014, but in nearly two-thirds of those nations a woman was in power for less than four of the 50 years – including 11 countries (17%) where a woman led for less than a year.

For instance, the Scandinavia region was the first to experience the flood of female representations in the world, but the Nordic model has now been replaced by Africa, which has greatly experienced dramatic jumps in female parliamentary representation primarily through the implementation of several laws.

Countries such Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya and Rwanda all rank highly for their level of women’s representation in parliament. The only country in the world with the highest number of women in parliament is Rwanda claiming the world’s highest ratio of women in parliament in 2003 and today Rwandan women hold 64% of the country’s legislative seats.

African countries have some of the world’s highest rates of representation; in Senegal, Seychelles and South Africa, more than 40% of parliamentary seats are held by women, while in Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania and Uganda over 35% of seats are occupied by women. By contrast, women in the US women hold 18% of the seats in the House and 20% in the Senate.

At once a conflict region like Liberia, women were violated, harassed, beaten, raped, abused and stripped of their goods. Others were obliged to give themselves to the fighters to survive. The new political phenomenon across the world of women’s leadership can be described as a   breakthrough of the female to the highest echelons of power, but in Liberia the breakthrough for greater representations for Liberian women in the legislature still remains an unattainable.

Of particular on the laudable of Liberian women,  a Liberian admired author, diplomat and professor, Josephus Moses Gray’s new book titled: The Paradigm of Oil Diplomacy”, devoted chapter Six of his instructive book detailed women leadership world particularly Africa. Going further, Professor Gray’s publication narrates the contributions of women activists such as Madame Mary Brownell, a respectable woman of society by all accounts, a classroom teacher and peace campaigner, revealing how Mother Brownell search for peace has gone beyond national borders, and have greatly impacted the country’s peace process and humanity.

The publication further highlights the numerous challenges that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s First female democratically elected president managed to overcome to keep the nation stable with 23 years of an interrupted peace and stability, the restoration of the nation’s image abroad, among others.

While Angie Brooks Randall, is also mentioned;  the first female president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and the later Ruth Sando Perry, former Chair of the Six-man Council of State.  The book, also, revealed how Sando Perry is credited for her efforts in helping to restore law and order and improving the overall conditions in the country during the transitional period.

Also singled out is Roberta Leymah Gbowee, peace campaigner and joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize who led the women’s movement to help end the war in Liberia. The book further detailed Mother Suakoko of Bong County; her role in the fight against injustices in  her country.

Although Liberian women, to a larger degree have occupied lucrative public positions in the country, they have not benefitted from greater representation in the legislature or other elected positions, women’s rise to power through elections face a difficult struggle to easily overwhelm.

This political struggle which goes with heaviest price has not started over a century, until in recent time when women started to occupied key political positions in the political system including the presidency. In general, the proportion of women in decision-making in legislature is low and far below their proportion in the population and labor force. The participation of Liberian women in legislature and other elected positions is extremely important not only for women, but for society as a whole.

Practice shows that for women, such issues as the environment, child protection, health care, social security and so on, and the issues standing at the periphery of the interests of men. Among other things, the lack of representation of women in government provides a basis for the question of how legitimate the relevant political structure, whether the democratic political system of the state.

The African continent has enjoyed the gradual ascendency of female presidents, vice presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers, just to name a few. According to statistical data obtained, currently there are about  18 female world leaders, including 12 female heads of government and 11 elected female heads of state (some leaders are both, and figurehead monarchs are not included), according to United Nations data

The Prospects of Women Leaderships in Africa have gained momentum, but much needed in this direction.  The effect on societies and gender relations was much more profound in these post-conflict countries in South Saharan Africa, including Liberia, where the incumbent is a female and also Chair of Economics community of West African States (ECOWAS) while in Chad the current Interim president is a female and a former president of Malawi a female. Overall, there have been nine female prime ministers in Africa since 1993 and 12 female vice presidents 12 female vice presidents.

Meanwhile, the United States has been the greater advocate for women’s rights and democracy, but it has precisely failed to elect a woman to the president. The women long political struggle for highest offices which started over the centuries, almost accomplished its ultimate objective for a woman to rewrite the political history of the United States of America and the United Nations.

Had this missions not been upset by Republicans’ Donald Trump decisive victory against Democrats’ Hillary Clinton, and the October’s victory of  Portugal’s former premier Antonio Guterres for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the women long struggle was to be achieved. Antonio Guterres has succeeded Ban Ki-moon on 1 January 2017, had these two elections gone the other way in women favor, the message to the Arab World of women’s phenomenon was going to be forceful.

But the crushing defeat of  Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump did not only ruined the Clintons’ dream, women in general; women were to be in the middle of leadership of the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) countries since one is currently headed by Theresa May  of the United Kingdom. These unforgotten political devastations in the recent US and UN’s elections took place in less than a month, all on the soil of the United States. A win for both women for the White House and UN Secretary Post was to complete history of the women’s phenomenon in the men dominated world.

While the Hillary enthusiasms were cutting across the world, the Americans were going for the opposite and made their decisions for USA and not what the world wanted; they went for Trump, a New York business Tycoon and not Washington, D.C. political establishment with over thirty years in the mainstream of world politics. The devastated defeat of Hillary Clinton simply means America was not quite ready to have a woman for a president.

A Similar situation occurred in New York, at the UN Headquarters where 194 UN Member States, not just America, decided to elect a male as the new Secretary-general instead a female to serve as the World Number one diplomat.

However, it is the Obama’s administration that undermines the leading woman candidate from being elected as the nine Secretary-General of the UN; the lady was the choice of the Eastern bloc heavily supported by the Russian Federation. Washington has threatened to veto the election of the Russian backed candidate while the Russian in retaliation also threatened to veto Washington’s choice, from South America, therefore as a bargained, Portugal’s former premier Antonio Guterres was elected the new Secretary-general of the United Nations to the disadvantage of once leading women ‘candidates.

By: Josephus Moses Gray


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About Cholo Brooks 16097 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.