NEEZWEIN, River Cess – During the 2017 elections, only 15.9 percent of the total number of candidates in the elections were females. The election law provides that political parties and coalitions submitting candidates for an election should “endeavor” to ensure that there is no less than 30 percent of candidates from each gender.
However, the National Elections Commission did not penalize the parties because it said all they needed to do was to show that they were trying to ensure that they met the threshold.
However, some women in River Cess think that having an equal number of female election magistrates in the counties would be one of the surest ways to encourage more women participation in future elections.
They are calling for NEC to adopt a policy for gender balance in recruiting election magistrates in order to increase the number of women candidates and voters.
“They talk about active women participation in politics, but they have so-so men to conduct elections in the counties,” said Julia Sando, a women’s group leader in Neezwein.
Oretha Kollors, a resident of Yarpah Town who worked as a gender mobilizer during the 2017 elections, said she was confronted on many occasions with questions on why both magistrates in the county were men.
Kollors believes that the absence of female magistrates prevented most women candidates from talking about intimidations they faced from their male counterparts.
“For me, I support the women because since I been here I have not heard a woman complain of intimidation after elections,” she said.
“If they see their fellow woman as a magistrate, I think they will have the courage to challenge results if they feel cheated or if they were intimidated during campaigns.”
However, NEC’s civic and voter education director, Paul Wreh-Wilson, said advocating for women’s inclusion as magistrates indicate weakness of women to compete.
Wilson made the comment during an interview with a team of journalists on Tuesday, July 9 during the official opening of a two-day Civic and Voter Education forum organized by NEC in Buchanan.
“I don’t get it when people advocate for women to be appointed. Let them go for it. The vacancies are advertised,” he said.
“I don’t even support the issue of 30 percent seats for women because they [women] need to compete for it. If they are strong they will take it.”
This article was produced with funding from Internews for the Citizens in Liberia Engaged to Advance Electoral Reform (CLEAR) project.