Constitutional Reform increases opportunity to enhance women’s Rights

Women of Liberia were adamant concerning constitutional proposals related to their rights

Women of Liberia are optimistic that they have a perfect opportunity to make their voices heard when a referendum on constitutional reform is held  in 2016 and may most likely strive to clinch at least fifty percent (50%) of the seventy-three seats in the National Legislative come 2017 general and presidential elections.

Highlights

  • The constitutional review process was fully supported by UNDP and other key development partners such as UNMIL, USAID and UN Peace-Building Fund.
  • During the conduct of the UNDP supported CRC review process, a team of Commissioners led by Cllr Scott, reached15 Counties and 73 electoral districts, the Diaspora (Ghana &USA).
  • the Committee had interacted with more than 45,000 participants, with 18,424 (11,768 males & 6656 females) participants recorded from meetings in 15 counties and 73 electoral districts which amounted to at least 56,729 (36,976 males & 19,753 female) suggestions.

Counselor Gloria Musu Scott,  who Chaired Liberia’s Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) and Former Representative and Chairperson of the Women Legislative Caucus of Liberia (WLCL) in the 52nd National Legislature now Advisor, Josephine George-Francis, hold the view that women of Liberia should use every opportunity given them to propel themselves to higher levels.

Late last year, Counselor Scott presented the recommendations of the National Constitution Conference to the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, following many months of consultations with a wide range of community representatives throughout the country.

This report and the activities leading to its conclusion have been seen as a major success to the decentralization of the governance structure of Liberia.

The constitutional review process was fully supported by UNDP and other key development partners such as UNMIL, USAID and UN Peace-Building Fund. CRC’s public consultations with Liberians were not only intensive, but also of enormous range and depth.

According to counselor Scott, “It is a good opportunity for women to “make some noise”. “If men seeking office don’t support women’s rights, they won’t be able to count on their votes in the 2017 election.”

Former Representative Josephine George on her part holds the view that, given that a new constitution might come into force; women must now begin engaging their male lawmakers and other stakeholders on affirmative actions for women.

“Liberia is in a new dispensation, where women can use their voices, as their participation cuts across all lines” Former Representative George noted.

She emphasized that the more women ascend to leadership positions, especially at the Legislature, the easier it will be to address issues related to them. “Let’s stop the blame game, and work along with our male counterparts towards achieving our much-desired goal of gender equality.  She continued “the ball is in our court and we have to be armed with the necessary tools to speak out and make changes” Madame Francis stressed.

During the conduct of the UNDP supported CRC review process, a team of Commissioners led by Cllr Scott, reached15 Counties and 73 electoral districts, the Diaspora (Ghana &USA), and hosted meetings and conferences with many other national role players and sector groupings including, but not limited to Political Parties, Civil Society& the Media, Elders & Traditional Leaders, Women, Youth, People with Disabilities, the Religious Community, Business Community, Security Sector etc.

Other than formal meetings and consultations, Liberians from all walks of life were also inspired to participate through radio call-in, toll free call-in, visitation to CRC head offices, etc.

After all these engagements, the Committee had interacted with more than 45,000 participants, with 18,424 (11,768 males & 6656 females) participants recorded from meetings in 15 counties and 73 electoral districts which amounted to at least 56,729 (36,976 males & 19,753 female) suggestions.

The participants were representatives of sector groupings whose membership range from at least one hundred to several thousands thereby creating a multiplier effect of more than a million participants.

There are currently only 11 women representatives in the Liberian parliament out of a total of 103. “So we will need male Legislators to be women-friendly, if reforms are to be passed into law,” said Cllr Scott.

Enacting a law that would give equal status to ‘traditional’ marriage is one example of constitutional reform recommended by the CRC. Under existing law, women in traditional marriages, generally living in rural areas, have no right to own property.

Despite the heated debates generated during the CRC consultations, Delegates voted on all 25 proposals with majority voting for example, on the reduction of Presidential tenure from six to a four year term; Senatorial tenure from 9 to 6 years; Representatives 6 to 4 years.

President Sirleaf has already turned over the report to the National Legislature with her comments.

The Legislators are currently holding consultations through standing committees to review the report and take appropriate actions.

Subsequently, the National Elections Commission will be mandated to conduct a referendum.

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