GBARNGA, Bong â€“ NAYMOTE, a civic education organization, has completed a weeklong training for women contestants and their campaign managers at the Development Education Network in Gbarnga.
A total of 100 women from across the 15 counties attended the training facilitated by experts in elections, peace building, and womenâ€™s rights issues. [Full disclosure: The author of this article is the regional coordinator for NAYMOTE in Bong, Lofa and Nimba.]
Delivering the opening keynote address last Tuesday, Francis M. Kai-Kai, chief of Peace Consolidation Services at UNMIL, said the political arena must be enlarged for the participation of women to ensure effective and inclusive nation building.
He said this could be done â€œthrough the empowerment of women to break out of their traditional roles, which, of course, are also critical and contribute to nation building. Women must start contributing to the politics, economy and socio-cultural transformation of the country.â€
Kai-Kai described the training organized by NAYMOTE as â€œgermane to the development of Liberiaâ€™s democratic governance.â€
He said UNMIL believes that womenâ€™s political participation is a fundamental prerequisite for good governance and gender equality. Kai-Kai noted that when the number of women in the legislature is high, there will be a greater attention to womenâ€™s issues.
Kai-Kai told the gathering that promoting womenâ€™s participation in governance and national-building is â€œcentral to UNMILâ€™s mandateâ€ and so the UN Mission in Liberia is partnering with national stakeholders like NAYMOTE to move the gender agenda to the forefront of civil society engagement.
â€œThe benefits of increased women participation in the political sphere are enormous. In fact, womenâ€™s full participation in the political space must be seen as a fundamental human right, over and beyond the perceived benefits, it brings to a country,â€ Kai-Kai added.
He said the United Nations has been supportive of the Affirmative Action and Equal Participation Bill to ensure that women are equally represented in the Liberian legislature.
Also making remarks at the launch of the program was Samuel Watson, the chargÃ© dâ€™affaires of the United States Embassy. He said two things are critical for the advancement of women in Liberia.
â€œFirst, women need to build a strong network to use many voices to support equality. Second, women need to develop allies, including men who want to support the women in their lives and to work for equality,â€ Watson said.
He said the United States has been a proud partner in the effort to build a strong network of politically engaged women in Liberia and in the work to create strong alliances.
Watson wants Liberian women to be persistent and inclusive in their push for equality. He lauded the efforts of women who are working through different networks such as the Association of Females Lawyers of Liberia.
Earlier, NAYMOTEâ€™s executive director, Eddie D. Jarwolo, said the training is meant to help the women understand Liberiaâ€™s political system, political campaign strategies, and grassroots mobilization, among other things.
He said for too long the country has remained underdeveloped as a result of womenâ€™s underrepresentation in the legislature, where he said major laws governing the country are made.
Jarwolo announced that following the training, NAYMOTE would provide L$500,000 (US$5,000) to support the activities of the Coalition of Political Parties Women in Liberia.
The amount, according to Jarwolo, is intended to stage citizensâ€™ engagement events across the country aimed at pinpointing the most important issues to voters, as well as organizing mock campaign events for graduates of the training to improve their public speaking skills before the actual campaign period in Octoberâ€™s election.
The training is a three-month initiative and UNMIL is sponsoring it.
Featured photo by Moses Bailey