• Women at ABIC’s dialogue meeting reveal

By G. Bennie Bravo Johnson

The Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) organized a one-day mediation dialogue under the auspices of the flagship of “the Women Situation Room” to promote an election-tradition conflict-free as well as strengthen the participation of women in national elections.

The initiative is being undertaken under the “Sustainable and Inclusive Peace in Liberia through promoting women’s leadership and Participation in Civic and Political Life and their Strengthened role in Conflict Resolution,” which is done in partnership with ZOA and with the support of the United Nations Peace Fund.

Using Sen. Botoe Kanneh’s experience as a case study, the project seeks to find common ground between traditional practices and election processes in order to avoid conflict during elections. The event brought together one hundred tradition leaders from Montserrado and Bong counties, as well as community leaders and prominent women on Monday, May 2, 2022, at the Cecil Dennis Auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In remarks during the dialogue, Gbarpolu county senator Botoe Kannah lamented the appalling situation she faced during the 2020 Midterm Senatorial Election, disclosing that the involvement of traditional practices that marginalized women in election serves as a complete deterrent for women wanting to take part in elections.

During the 2020 Midterm Senatorial Election, Representative Alfred Koiwu, who is a sitting representative of the ruling party and was a candidate, influenced the involvement of traditional practices that compelled Sen. Kannah, who was then a contestant, to perpetually stay in house with her female supporters, while a serious campaign was taking place in hotly contested areas that were subjected to reruns.

Senator Botoe Kenneh urged the women to believe in God and establish good relationships with their fellow women and others where they find themselves, adding that women do not support each other because most women fail and do not interact with their fellow women until they are ready to contest for an elected position.

“I was a dry meat seller and cooked bowl seller who never even thought of venturing into politics, but over the years I served as a humanitarian and, through this process, the same people that I have been serving chose me. However, I told them no, but later I accepted after they put me in jail on grounds that I was supporting the people in the bush. Look, sometimes, when you are not molested, insulted, and harassed, you will not be strong. During the election, women had too many names. During my pre-camping, they put out Country Devil on many occasions, and I went through all those tough times and I came through. With all that, the women of Liberia stood with me. Since I was the only female, they put out Country Devil even though it should not have been. They arrested the ballot boxes and put the devil out again for me.”

The senator said  many of her supporters were beaten and hurt, and even up to today she is still paying hospital fees for some of them. She noted that she crossed fifty-two hills, but with all the insults and intimidation she remained strong and came out victorious.

For her part, Bong County district 6 representative Mema Bridge Mensah called on the women to join their quest to increase women’s participation in the legislature in order to ensure that the plight of women is not ignored by the majority of men.

According to her, women’s political careers are killed only because potential candidates that contested before and did not win are given appointed jobs and, through that, they are mostly encouraged to support another candidate and forget about their dreams, saying that half of the cake is not the whole cake because policy makers are better than being driven by others.

“When women come together, things will change at the legislature, as we did in many homes.” It pains my heart when I take a walk at the Hotel Africa beach and see our children between 15 and 16 years of age smoking and nothing is done about it. We have to do something to make sure that our children stop spoiling because babies are seriously spoiled. We have to make sure the senate passes the drug law. Women, let us wake up. We are no longer interested in 30% but 50% so that decision can be made equal to protect all. “Even government one-stop-shops in the country are controlled by men. How will you report this thing?” She concluded.

Meanwhile, the traditional women stated the lack of support from their male counterparts and the fear of alignment with other political groupings to protect their interests as some of the challenges faced in getting further in the political quest.

Further extolling the women for the advice and also motiving the traditional women, the establishment coordinator of the influential Liberian-based Angie Brooks International Center (ABIC) Cllr. Yvette Chesson-Wureh encouraged the women to learn from the experiences shared by the both lawmakers and other prominent women, adding that her institution remain committed to enhancing and developing the capacity of women for leadership.

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