Is Liberia’s Sirleaf really standing up for women?

By Robtel Neajai Pailey

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

In a public statement earlier this month, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa’s first woman elected head of state – vowed to campaign actively for female candidates running in presidential and legislative elections in October. While her pronouncement may appear praiseworthy, it is too little, too late.

In this year’s high-stakes elections – the country’s third since the end of a devastating 14-year armed conflict – only 163 out of 1,026 (16 percent) approved candidates are women, including one running for president in a crowded field of over 20 men. This represents only a marginal increase since 2005 and 2011, when women accounted for 14 percent (110/762) and 11 percent (104/909) of candidates, respectively.

During a meeting earlier this month with 152 female contenders, Sirleaf lamented the abysmally low number of women in elected office. In 2005 when she triumphed over footballer-turned-politician George Weah in a duel for the presidency, only 13 women were elected to the national legislature. That number dropped to eight in 2011, when the president secured a second mandate to lead Liberia. There is a strong likelihood that fewer women will win seats come October 10.

This is as much Sirleaf’s doing as it is a reflection of Liberia’s acutely patriarchal political system. In the past 12 years, she has done next to nothing to position women favourably to win votes.

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Source: Globe Afrique Media

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About Cholo Brooks 13510 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.