Gbarnga, Bong County – Dorothy Kwenah Toomann, former executive director of the Development Education Network (DEN-L), is the only woman amongst seven male candidates vying to become senator of Bong County.
Toomann, who is contesting as independent candidate, is an undergo in a contest dominated by the incumbent senator Henry Yallah of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and Deputy House Speaker Prince Moye of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and independent candidate Menikpakei Dumoe.
Regardless Toomann has been a loud advocate for a fresh face in the Bong Legislative Caucus, particularly a female. Her tour of the county has been hindered by the lack of funds, something Moye and Yallah have outmuscled her.
In her first sit-down interview with FrontPage Africa’s Selma Lomax, Toomann talks about the change she believes Bong County really needs and the uphill journey towards the change.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Who is Dorothy Kwenah Tooman?
TOOMANN: Dorothy Kwenah Toomann is a daughter of Bong County. She was born onto the union of Pastor Sumo Kwenah and Ma-Younger Kwenah. My father is late now and my mother lives with me in Gbarnga. Both of them hailed from Kbonia in District Two, before migrating to Duita, District Two. My people later moved to Gbarnga in 1968, since then I have been living in Gbarnga. I went to St. Martin’s Catholic High School in Gbarnga and graduated 1986 before going Monrovia.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: What motivated you to get into the Senate race?
TOOMANN: I have been involved in the post-war peace process of our country, and also advocating for women public participation. We see a lot of problems emanating from the Bong County Legislative Caucus to the extent someone is calling for the division of the county, we invest money into some development projects in the county and it turn out to be a big waste, we see youth development being undermined by the delay in the construction of the Bong County Technical College, and I have a background in advocacy and fund raising, and with all these backgrounds you see Bong County still behind in the areas of development, advocacy and lot more, that’s what motivated me to declare my ambition for the Senate race in Bong County
Also, when it comes to women political participation, I strongly feel the county is in need of more women representations at the legislature. Currently, we have one woman in the Bong Legislative Caucus and I see it as a big strategy by the men to keep women back and this is why I chose to contest as an independent candidate.
Additionally, the legislative caucus is divided into two big blocks all because of politics. If I am elected senator of Bong County, I will use my influence to unite the caucus in a way that we will work for the overall development of the county.
FRONTPAGE AFRICA: What would you do differently if you are elected senator that Yallah and Moye have not done since they were elected nine years ago?
TOOMANN: Yallah and Moye have been elected since nine years and yet the community college that is the heart beat of the young people of the county hasn’t been completed despite over 5 million United States dollars investment. Where is the leadership? The caucus needs a fresh mind that can bring that change –and I feel I am bring that change. Also, there have been a lot of incomplete projects in the county. If I am elected senator of Bong County simply because of the level of disunity that has enmeshed the caucus. Dorothy Tooman can bring that change that the county had long craved for.
FRONTPAGE AFRICA: Do you feel challenged entering a male-dominated race?
TOOMANN: I believe if you want to succeed in anything that you do, it doesn’t come easy. I embrace challenges very well and my mindset is that I don’t want to stop me. First and foremost, I don’t approach issues as a woman and I think that is where people get it wrong. In carrying out duties, gender should not play a role and I don’t say that to women as a form of encouragement because sometimes you find that women could be self-defeatist. It is only women take themselves to be weaker sex that they get defeated. I think the job is more important.
It just re-emphasizes the need for more female representation in the county. Women in the county need to work to ensure that I am elected senator to represent the voice of women across the county.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Considering the huge resources that are required for an election in Liberia, who do you hope to cope with the big gladiators like Moye and Yallah?
It is the people that will decide that. I tell my people on my tours that if people come with money ask them where they get it from. I think what I am doing here is to lend my voice and I believe it is being heard. I am the only woman in the race and the reason is I never fell for any temptation from people who had wanted me to back off from the race. The only way I want to serve my people is through a job and I believe if given the mandate, I will do the job very well. The people of Bong County are very smart people. They have understood that money can’t influence their decision as indicated on the level of support I have received from citizens since declaring my ambition. In fact, people have begun funding my county tour. I continue to receive gasoline and money from our supporters across the county. The flyers I am using were printed by someone who voluntarily decided to help me. So, I am very much optimistic that money will not play a major part in these elections.
FRONTPAGE AFRICA: You and the Deputy Speaker Moye hail from District Two, are you optimistic of winning the district despite the fact that Moye has won the district twice as a representative?
TOOMANN: My popularity is not only unique to District Two, where I have spent most of my life impacting people, I am popularity everywhere in the county. The message in District Two is that the Deputy Speaker has a job and the people in the district need another daughter of the district that will help boost the development of the district. I am very sure of defeating Moye on December 8.