Liberia: Women Situation Room Reviews Programs; Wants to Be More Robust And Effective
MONROVIA – The Women Situation Room (WSR) last week convened a conference in Monrovia to review its operations in order to catalog its successes and challenges over the years and as well seek where to improve and become more viable regionally, continentally, and globally.
The WSR is a women-led approach to preventing and reducing violence during electoral processes and in some countries assume a conflict management approach in the post-election period.
Several countries have established the WSR, which seeks to reduce cases of violence and sexual violence, and increase the number of women in electoral processes – either as voters, candidates, supporters or observers during elections.
The head of the Angie Brooks International (ABIC), Liberia Chapter, Cyvettte Chessen Wreh said the review process is meant to outline the work, challenges, and success of the WSR, and interrogates its role in preventing and managing violence during the election periods and its link to conflict early warning and early response, and conflict resolution.
The ABIC head said the involvement of women at the decision-making table is vital to the sustenance of peace in any nation. Madam Chesson-Wureh is the originator of the WRS—an initiative she started in 2011 when former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was vying for her second term, the review is critical at a time when Liberia is headed for special senatorial elections as well as other countries that are headed to elections subsequently.
It is no secret that violence during an election cycle is an all-too-frequent phenomenon in most African countries, where it may be triggered by political or ethnic tensions, or flawed electoral processes.
Elections in some African countries are often marked by violence, which ranges from low-level intimidation and harassment to more intense violent displacement and death.
With these, Madam Chesson-Wureh called for the involvement of more women, which she said have the ability to detect and diffuse potential violence, into peace adding that it is wrong to downplay the expertise of women during the elections period.
Speaking during the review of the women situational room recently in Monrovia she mentioned that the room seeks to incorporate influential women on the continent who are also charged to propagate the message of peace in their respective countries.
She wants African leaders to always solicit the inputs of women in matters that tend to affect the peace evolving from elections dispute.
Electoral violence of any kind can deter citizens from voting, discourage candidates from running for office, weaken civil society’s scrutiny of elections, and hurt the legitimacy of a government and often, women are affected by the intimidation caused by this violence, she said.
Madam Chesson Wureh noted further that the WSR, which is the brainchild of Liberia, has reached other African countries with the objective of promoting Peace void of political influence. Some of the countries include Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and others.
She single out Nigeria as a case in point where the WRS has made more impact. She said due to the work of the room, the Nigerian elections held in 2015 were considered peaceful because of the utilization of the WSR.
For the first time since independence in 1960, Nigerian voters peacefully voted to transfer political power from one party to another. Given Nigeria’s chequered electoral history – filled with violence, rigging, and lack of a viable opposition party since military rule ended in 1999 – Nigeria’s recent success story is a positive sign for its democratic consolidation and a potential game-changer for other African elections, the WSR head noted.
She believes that the pervasive human rights, socio-economic, health, and political inequalities that disproportionately affect women and girls impede Africa’s efforts to achieve transformative and sustainable socio-economic development.
This is seen in countries affected by electoral violence and political instability. To respond to these challenges, Madam Chesson-Wureh insinuates that there is now greater recognition of the centrality of ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment, if development is to be sustainable.
One continental law that also echoes this belief is the 2003 African Union Maputo Protocol. The protocol expressly demands affirmative action measures to assure women’s participation in electoral processes, decision-making, and conflict prevention.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is a progressive blueprint for advancing women’s rights. This declaration identified 12 critical areas of concern and outlined actions to be taken in each of these areas to create a better world for women. The role of women in conflict prevention and decision-making was among these areas of concern. However, more than twenty years after this comprehensive affirmation of women’s rights and empowerment was adopted, it remains only partially fulfilled. Confronted with slow progress, more than half of all countries use some type of gender as the quota for an elected office