Eminent Women of the WSR

Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who is also the Champion of the Women Situation Room (WSR), has called on political parties to observe the laws and respect international standard regarding the participation of women in politics.

Madam Sirleaf said that the laws regarding women’s participation in politics need to be looked at once.

She made these assertions on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at a conversation with eminent women of the Women’s Situation Room (WSR), which focuses on women’s participation in mediation and conflict resolution organized by the Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) held at a local hotel in Monrovia.

Madam Sirleaf said it is necessary for women to take up leadership positions so that they can argue for the things that will protect, prepare and support women in their desire to run for office.

She emphasized that this is a long process but is achievable once everyone agrees and commit to working for it and also tries to expand the number and get everybody to think in the similar faction to make it happen.

The Champion of the WSR recalled that in time past, she and others went through the same thing, but noted that at the time, they proposed legislation that sought for women’s representation in each of the Liberia’s 15 counties.

However, she stated that the proposed legislation was not realized because the numbers being proposed at the time it would have led to a major budgetary problem, adding that they therefore thought to cut down the number so as to have been easily financed by the budget thereby causing them to have run into the momentum of second term and the movement for pushing for same was then lost.

She said coming back now she thinks it is the time to pick it up, noting that probably, as before, there would be financial constraints but if they work along with some lawmakers who are positive and are committed to reform and women’s issues, they might be able to at least get a few of them for a start and could later be expanded.

“Let us not give up, let’s push for that first positive step and then work toward it but at the same time every woman has the right to run, that’s your constitutional right,” Madam Sirleaf said.

She urged the women to make their strategies well prepared and work in their communities because community dwellers are the ones that will vote for them, adding that as such, they should not wait until November 2023 before beginning to do things.

Madam Sirleaf noted that their experience in Liberia is clear that when women decide that they want to take up a position in the interest of women and the country they can become a very powerful force.

“Many of you here were part of processes that led to the change in our country that put a woman in charge so for all of you this is nothing new. You stood together and supported each other and you determined what was in the interest of the country and you got it done, and I hope this time looking at your agenda, talks about protection of women’s participation and leadership which are all the typical issues around the world and so I commend you,” Madam Sirleaf said.

While pledging her support to working with the women aimed at sharing experience and finding a way forward, the ex-president commended the eminent women for organizing the gathering.

Also speaking during the occasion was Madam Roseline Toweh, a founding member of the WSR – she shared her experience, stating that 2009 when the Women Colloquium was held in Liberia, they were charged with the responsibility to work with young people.

She asserted that most times when there is violence in the country, young people are used by actors and politicians who want to have their own say into certain situations.

Madam Toweh indicated that this is why she and Cllr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh along with other women decided to have a room where they would mitigate conflict and violence before, during and after elections.

She stressed that when it comes to mediation all the strategies they use are not always the same looking at the country and the violence that is at hand before strategizing.

According to her she was opportune to have traveled to Sierra Leone and Uganda as a delegate of the WSR-Liberia and the Liberian delegation made peace and resolved the situation in that neighboring country using the knowledge they had acquired for Liberia through the WSR as peacemakers.

For her part, the Establishment Coordinator of ABIC, Cllr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh said ABIC is pleased to have hosted the program of Women’s Participation in Mediation and Conflict Resolution sponsored by the United Nations Peace Building Fund, of which she said they are appreciative.

Cllr. Wureh indicated that the program is exclusive of the eminent women of the WSR because each eminent woman is a Liberian who has been trained in mediation and conflict resolution and thus has the necessary tools to discuss issues arising to which mediation and conflict resolution are needed.

The meeting was graced by several eminent women including Cyvette Gibson, former City Mayor of Paynesville; Ophelia E. Hoff Saytumah, National Focal Point Mano River Women Peace Building Network (MARWPNET); Miatta Fahnbulleh, Founder of Obaa’s girls; Maureen L. Shan, founding member of Liberia Women Initiative; Korpo Howard, President of Montserrado Rural Women; and former Foreign Minister and Board Chair of ABIC, Olubanke King-Akerele; among others.

Leila B. Gbati writes

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