The conspicuous absence of members of the 53rd National Legislature raised serious eyebrows at the launch of the United Nations bodies and its member countries campaign to address gender equality as a human right and as social and economic imperative in Liberia.
The ‘HeForShe’ campaign comes when the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) had submitted to the government of Liberia views of citizens from across the country which is classified into propositions of which five were from the women of Liberian.
On April 2, the CRC validation witnessed the approval of proposals particularly those suggested by women of Liberia which according to procedure when accepted and approved by the National Legislature will be reflected in the National Constitution.
The Liberian women’s propositions are the reflection of a gender responsive language, the protection of all persons from discrimination irrespective of gender, marital status, health status, age, disability and circumstance of birth and that the Constitution specifically and explicitly guarantees the protection and promotion of women’s and children’s rights.
Further to that, the women are pushing for the protection of the institution of marriage in Liberia including individuals who are forced into marriage taking into account that the Constitution recognizes marriages in Liberia to be either statutory or customary and that the legal age of consent is at 18 years and that married people should own all property in the marriage in common except they choose otherwise as well as guarantee the protection of children’s rights.
The women are further advocating for equal representation of women and men in all elected, selected or appointed positions in both public and private sectors, and that there must be a fair representation of persons with disabilities which should also be carved in the organic laws.
The women are also seeking to ensure that not more than fifty percent of elected and/or appointed positions shall be of the same gender in a political party and that that should be the responsibility of the political parties to ensure the fulfillment of this provision.
Meanwhile, at the launch of the ‘HeForShe’ campaign recently, the chairperson of the female legislative caucus, Jewel Howard Taylor, who registered sadness, said the absence of especially her male counterparts sends out a very serious signal because as representatives of the people if they believe that it is not important to become part of the ‘HeForShe’ campaign, there is still a lot more work to be done.
The Bong County Senator promised that the caucus will work with their colleagues to bring them on board and reminded them that gender equality is not a fight it is a collaboration that is important because women are the bearers of children and the first image of an equality partner therefore frowned on Liberian men making excuses or argument on why there should be equality of women.
She said the men must understand that women are partners in the fight for their children’s future not because they want more power but added, “We want to be partners, we want to be able to work with our men side by side to ensure that the equality that is now being championed is what Liberia will do.”
In an interview with strong women’s advocate Mary Brownell who for the passion of seeing her dreams fulfilled made her presence felt at the launch, stressed that if the men could get serious about the equality of women then Liberia will be getting somewhere because women are making progress in acquiring gender empowerment.
But more to that, Madam Brownell expressed how shocked she was that with all of the competent women, only 11 are lawmakers meaning there is lack of support among women themselves adding that even as a women’s program women are hugely absent.
“We women are our own enemies and we have to learn to work together and support each other; until we can do it, we will always sing this song over and over,” she noted and said it is her hope that such instruments do not only be mere talk but transformed into real serious actions while at the same time appealing to all girls and women to go to school and be informed so that her soul would find rest that she had left prepared women in her footsteps.