(NEC, May 30, 2011/ Monrovia) The National Elections Commission (NEC) with support from the International IDEA held a two-day consultative dialogue forum with political parties so as to ensure that parties put women issues on their agenda by reflecting them in party’s manifestos, constitutions and other party documents. The forum was held from May 23 to 26, 2011 in the port city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
Officially opening the forum, the Chairman of the NEC, James M.Fromayan, urged political parties not to put women issues on the backburner, stressing that there are lots of barriers put in the way of
women’s participation in political decision-making. Those barriers, he emphasized, are sometimes created by people in the rank and file of political parties and the political arrangement, as such, he challenged political parties to ensure that those barriers are removed and women are represented in the governance process.
Chairman Fromayan added that mainstreaming gender issues in parties constitutions and manifestos would give new impetus to political development in Liberia.
Participants at the forum were drawn from 25 political parties while officials from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), International IDEA, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Grand Bassa County Administration attended as observers and facilitators.
Held under the theme “Dialogue for Political Parties on Gender in Political Parties’ Policy Documents”, the forum allows for the presentation of papers on cogent gender related issues that should form part of political parties’ manifestos, constitutions and other regulatory instruments.
During the forum the gender experts that included the Norwegian based Rumbazai Kandawasvika Nhundu and UNDP’s Juana Bhonapha made presentations that highlighted the importance of gender parity in the decision–making process.
Climaxing day’s one presentation Rumbazai said political parties are key institutions essential for removing barriers that prevent women from assuming leadership role in the political arrangement.
The gender expert intimated that Liberia has realized some expectations by electing a female president, but it is still lacking behind in producing women who will participate in political decision-making at every strata of the political arrangement. She wondered why women’s role in mobilizing membership and vote in parties is so pronounced, and yet it does not match their role when it comes to political decision-making or playing key leadership role in governance and political party structures.
In her supportive remarks, Senator Clarice Jah of Margibi County, stressed that democracy was incomplete without the participation of women. She indicated that the fact that woman were at the helm of the political machinery of the state, does not necessarily entail that women representation in government is at par with their male counterparts. She used the occasion to present to participants an act seeking gender parity in the political and societal arrangements which she promised to submit to the National Legislature for passage into law.
At the end of the forum, the participants made recommendations which will be collated by the NEC for consideration to be part of the policy document of the Gender Section of the Commission after the Board’s approval.