The election management body of Liberia, the National Election Commission (NEC), has given reasons for the low number of women vying for political positions in the country.
There are only two women among the 20 candidates contesting for president in the West African country where elections will be held today.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES at the NEC headquarters in Monrovia on Monday, the Chairperson of the commission, Davidetta Lansanah, said it has been difficult for women to participate in politics for various reasons including failed legislation.
“The law that should have been passed but was not passed was advocating for 30 percent representation,” she said referring to failed moves for a mandatory gender quota that missed the opportunity to become law.
Women make up 50 percent of Liberia’s population. The country is ranked 156 of 162 countries on the Gender Inequality Index and 163 out of 185 countries on the list of women in national parliaments.
Whereas the average percentage of women in national parliaments is 26 percent for Sub-Saharan Africa and 17 percent in West Africa, in Liberia, women make up less than 11 percent of the 103 seats in the National Legislature.
Because the bill was not passed, Mrs Lansanah said they have had to stick to the existing law which allows political parties the power to choose whether or not to give women a 30 per cent quota. She noted that NEC has encouraged women to come out as candidates, however, political parties question women's ability to win elections for them.
Regardless of these challenges, the gender office of NEC has been working in partnership with UN Women to increase the participation of women in the electoral process, she said.
The outcome of this partnership is reflected in the number of women who registered for this year's elections.
"If you look at the final registration figures which are 2.4 million, women are over 50 percent and the males are around 49 percent," Mrs. Lansanah told PREMIUM TIMES.
During the last election in 2017, women made up 49 percent of the voting population. She also anticipates that in the coming years, the law on gender quotas will be passed.
Mrs Lansanah also urged Liberian youth not to allow themselves to be used as agents of violence because, at the end of the day, they will be the most affected.
NEC, Mrs. Lansanah said, is working with peace-building groups and other peace advocacy groups to address the possibility of young people being used to foment violence