As part of its efforts to support elected women representatives to effectively discharge their responsibilities UN Women in alignment with its global Flagship Programmes Initiative (FPI) yesterday signed an agreement with the Women’s Legislative Caucus of Liberia.
The agreement signed yesterday, 18th January 2018 with the Women’s Legislative Caucus’s secretariat will help to (the Women’s Legislative Caucus Secretariat of Liberia please delete) it to efficiently perform its role as a repository of gender related information and gender expertise at the National legislature that will be easily accessible by all the legislators. The support comprises the hiring of 4 key staff, provide logistical and administrative support and increase their capacity to become a hub for gender expertise in the National Legislature.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, the Country Representative of UN Women Liberia Madame Marie Goreth Nizigama recounted the many strides of Liberian women in search of suffrage which was granted in 1946 and now the struggle for parity in representation which has proved elusive despite five attempts. Madame Nizigama further explained that Liberia’s place in the continent has reached another level: by her record of having two firsts: the first elected female President in 2005 in Africa and recently electing the first female Vice-President of Liberia. She further mentioned that whilst President Sirleaf was leaving the stage it was heartwarming that another woman, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, who had been a champion of gender parity, and a strong advocate of women’s right in her outstanding past career is filling in another very important position at the decision-making level of the Government.
Madame Nizigama used this opportunity to thank the donor partners especially the Government of Canada, who has been the main donor to the work on Women’s Political Empowerment and Leadership.
Also making remarks during the program, the Political Consular at the Embassy of Canada, based in Cote d’Ivoire with oversight for Liberia, Madame Isabell Mainville, expressed her delight to be at the signing ceremony and said the support to the four countries benefitting from the project was in fulfillment of a pledge made by the Canadian PM the right Honorable Justin Trudeau in November of 2016. She further added that the support was in line with the Feministic International Assistance Policy of Canada in which support to women’s rights and leadership is key.
She charged the Women’s Legislative Caucus of Liberia to utilize their platform as key agents of change. She said the quest for gender equality is not to take power from men but to include the voices and perspectives of women.
She called on the new Government to embrace this fully while going forward. In closing, Ms. Mainville reconfirmed the commitment of the Government of Canada to the partnership with Liberia and UN Women in the interest of the women and girls of Liberia.
Speaking on behalf of the Women’s Legislative Caucus of Liberia, the Chairperson of the Caucus, Vice Presidentelect, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, thanked UN Women and the government of Canada for the support. She said the timing is critical as it would prove particularly useful to the new legislators.
She recalled her personal experience as a new senator in 2006 and said her own experience tells her this kind of support is a life-saver. Senator Taylor narrated some of the difficulties they encountered in performing their roles with limited resources. She said ‘because mothers are miracle workers at home people expect them to be miracle workers in their constituencies’. She said whilst the outgoing Government did not meet the 30% threshold in any of the three branches of government, the President-elect was committed to setting that as his minimum threshold in the Executive branch. She said this support will help take this work forward. She called on UN Women to help create a compendium of women competencies by sector as she was sure that due to the many opportunities for training provided by President Sirleaf’s administration, competent women are present in all the sectors. She reminded all present that with the upcoming Senatorial elections’ call for early preparation and actors need to put their handson deck now.
She further requested UN Women to help with the organization of a one- day women’s conference to help the women harmonize their different positions and agendas in the post-election phase. She said with a fragmented agenda, “it will be difficult for us to take advantage of new opportunities”.
While closing Senator Taylor named the Domestic Violence Bill which was a key legislative instrument for President Sirleaf and the constitutional review process as opportunities to be followed through. Adding that the leadership elections in the House of Representatives produced a purely male dominated structure and that it is important not to have one gender with a loud voice and another totally silent.
Also present at the signing ceremony was the Ambassador designate of Canada, H.E. Julie Shouldice and other members of the Women’s Legislative Caucus including the immediate past Chair, Representative Josephine GeorgeFrancis,
Representatives Haja Fatta Siryon, Julie Wiah, Moima Briggs-Mensah, Rustolyn Suacoco Dennis, Rosanna Shaack and Ellen Attoh.
Prior to the signing ceremony, Madame Marie Goreth Nizigama met with the Ambassador-designate H.E. Julie Shouldice to update her about the status of the Canadian funded Women’s Political Empowerment and Leadership project being funded by Canada. During the meeting, the Ambassador designate expressed satisfaction with the progress so far and encouraged UN Women to strive to achieve the project results in the interest of the women and girls of Liberia.
The signing agreement ceremony marked an important landmark in strengthening the political participation of women in Liberia – for the present and for times to come. This was a much-needed intervention that could yield rich dividends.