MONROVIA, Montserrado – After Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor complained that her office has not been receiving its budgeted allotments for an extended period, a network of Liberian women leaders is calling on President George Weah to resolve the matter swiftly.
Last week, a leaked letter from the office of the vice president surfaced to explain that Howard-Taylor could not attend the opening session of the Senate – as is customary in her role as president of the legislative body – due to the government’s failure to provide funds allocated for the operation of her office.
The vice president told senators in the letter that bills due to her office from 2018 to 2019 are still not paid. She noted that she had previously brought these concerns to the attention of senators, without any resolution.
Less than 72 hours after the letter was leaked to the press, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Bhofal Chambers, called on officials of the government to stop complaining about the challenges they were facing. While he did not name the vice president specifically, Chambers is a strong ally of President Weah, who has not had the strongest relationship with his vice president.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Strategic Steering Committee of the Liberian Women Leaders Network, headed by former foreign minister Marjon Kamara, appealed to the president to intervene to ensure that the legislature functions effectively in the remaining years of his presidency.
The women noted that the president’s intervention would protect the image of the government and the dignity of the office of the vice president.
“From a country which produced the first democratically elected female president in Africa, much more respect and recognition of women is expected by Liberian women and women globally,” the women wrote.
“At a time when [the Liberian Women Leaders Network] and other civil society organizations are exploring avenues to tangibly support women aspirants in the impending senatorial elections, there is need to foster an enabling environment to encourage Liberian women to engage and participate.”
The women further appealed to Weah’s assumption of the title of ‘feminist-in-chief,’ noting that a lack of support to the vice president’s office could be construed as motivated by gender bias.
“This will bring real meaning to the president’s commitment to gender equality as a HeForShe champion and feminist-in-chief, at home and abroad,” they noted.
The Liberian Women Leaders Network is one of 10 chapters of the African Women’s Leaders Network, an initiative formed in 2017 by the African Union and U.N. Women to enhance the leadership of African women in bringing transformative changes, focusing on peace, security, and development.
Ida Reeves contributed to this article. Featured photo by Zeze Ballah