Monrovia – The Affirmative Action Bill for equal participation and representation of women in politics, which has suffered many setbacks and lingering since 2010, was recently passed by the House of Senate, but may be passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday of this week.
Report by Mae Azango [email protected]
For the progress made by the House of Senate, the UN Women had a one-day consultative meeting with the media, the Women Legislative Caucus, Government Ministries, the disable community and the public, to create awareness and engage stakeholders before the bill is presented to the House of Representatives on Thursday for passage.
“In 2010 when we brought about the passage of this bill, it was not easy to convince our male counterparts because they thought we were trying to unseat them, but we are over that now, because of our regular consultations in making the issue clear to them,” said Senator Jewel H. Taylor of Bong County.
“It took us three or more hearings, with male senators to be able to make it clear to them that we do not want their seats, so we will have the same hearings with the representatives so that…the bill will be passed,” she added.
Senator Taylor, who also chairs the Women Legislative Caucus, further noted that in meetings with women contestants, it was agreed that the elections will be determined on a single majority win.
She said 30 percent was the benchmark at international levels.
“We do not want to remove men from their seats, but we also need our voices to be heard and a place at the table, so we are just saying give us additional seats so that we can also be allow to participate in the national governance of our country,” said Senator Taylor.
During the interactive forum, Daintowon Domah Payebaye, representing the disable community expressed the level of marginalization they received from the public that regarded them as nothing.
“We are known to be a part of the society, but there is no place in the budget for people with disabilities, much to talk about having disabled people occupying seats in the National Legislature,” expressed Payebaye.
Speaking further, Payebaye questioned Senator Taylor on the 2009 law that was passed in granting people with disabilities three seats in the National Legislature, which was squashed by the National Elections Commission of Liberia, (NEC).
“But as to whether the male lawmakers vote for the bill or not, people living with disabilities must get those three seats because they are the most marginalized in our society and we cannot continue to see them where they are,” said Senator Taylor.
The part of the relevant act referring to people with disabilities states the following, “Whereas, Section 9 of the 2005 Act establishing the Liberian National Commission on Disabilities provides for all allotment of three legislative seats to persons with disabilities.”
Responding to whether male legislators were pressured into passing the Affirmative Bill, Nimba County Representative Larry Younquoi said he was not pressured.
“I am going to support the Affirmative Action Bill because I am a demographer; we are going to support the Bill because we believe in it and not because we are being pressured,” he told the ceremony.
“I am voting my conscience and I am voting to raise the standard of women because I know they are a part of God’s creation.
So, this is why we will push for and we are going to stand and raise our hands and voices in giving our women support,” Representative Johnson Chea of River Gee supported his colleague.