Women’s representation in the Liberian National Legislature continues to decline:
16% – 2006
13% – 2012
11% – 2014
10% – 2021
On 11 May 2023, political parties and the National Elections Commission (NEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which signals political parties’ commitment to nominating women in a minimum 30% of their candidate listings in the upcoming 2023 General Elections. This commitment demonstrates their support for women’s political participation and was a significant step toward promoting gender equality and women’s political representation.
Despite the progress made, African countries are still far from achieving women’s equal and effective participation in political decision-making. Liberia is no exception, as cultural norms, traditional beliefs, and recent violent conflicts have often limited women’s opportunities to contest for public office.
The signing of the 30% Gender Quota MoU between the political parties and the NEC of Liberia is a positive step towards holding political parties accountable for promoting gender equality and women’s political representation. The MOU seeks to ensure that at least 30% of the candidates for elected positions are women.
This initiative aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Liberia’s National Gender Policy, (2009) which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Furthermore, it builds on the legacy of H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s first female president and Africa’s first elected female president, who broke the political barrier in Liberia’s first post- war general and presidential elections in 2005. Currently, Tanzania and Ethiopia are the only two African countries led by female Presidents. Political parties are essential in fast tracking women representation in political decision- making. It is encouraging to note that 20 political parties signed the 30% MoU. The MoU provides a golden opportunity for women candidates and the EISA IEOM urges women to be steadfast in breaking all barriers that exist to exclude women from participating in public spaces.
The EISA International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) welcomes the signing of the MoU as a positive step in advancing women’s political participation. As the African proverb goes, “A bird never flies on one wing,” and the commitment made by political parties and the NEC demonstrates a promising commitment to secure women’s inclusion in the 2023 Liberian elections and beyond.
The signing of the MOU is not just a step in favor of gender equity in politics but in favor of Liberian society as a whole” EISA-IEOM.
The EISA IEOM has observed that although women participated actively as voters and election staff, their representation in the Liberian National Legislature continues to decline with each election. Liberia’s democratic agenda and women’s political representation in politics and leadership is unlikely to be achieved until affirmative action, political will, and enforceable laws are implemented to remedy the exclusion of women from the national legislature.
Speaking at the MoU signing ceremony, EISA’s Country Director congratulated the NEC and political parties:
EISA applauds the NEC and political parties in pledging to include all stakeholders, men, women, youth and persons living with disabilities in the electoral process. EISA’s IEOM will be watching all political parties closely as they work to fulfil this promise to the people of Liberia.
Grant Masterson, EISA Country Director, Liberia
Left and center female political party representatives and to the right NEC Chairperson, at the signing ceremony held at the Monrovia City Hall on 11 May 2023.
About EISA: The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) is a continental not-for-profit organization located in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire with field offices in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Niger, Liberia Chad, and Sudan. EISA has continental and sub- regional programs in the field of elections and democracy throughout Africa. EISA strives for excellence in the promotion of credible elections, citizen participation, and the strengthening of political institutions for sustainable democracy in Africa.
About USAID Support to EISA-IEOM to Liberia: The USAID-funded EISA International Election Observation Mission (EISA-IEOM) Activity seeks to enhance the integrity of the 2023 Liberia Presidential and Legislative elections through the deployment of an independent international election observer mission (EOM) to monitor, assess and report on all phases of the electoral process in accordance with international and regional benchmarks. The IEOM is implemented in close coordination with and the financial support of USAID/Liberia and will complement the efforts of other electoral stakeholders. EISA-IEOM has deployed international LTOs across Liberia to observe BVR Phase 2 of the registration and will compile a Phase 2 and comprehensive BVR report at the conclusion of the inspection process.