By: Titus B. Pakalah
Liberian Human Right Campaigner
In 2018, during the official launch of the International SheroesForum which took place at the Monrovia City Hall, ex-soccer player now president of Liberia, “Doctor-Doctor, President” George M. Weah declared himself as feminist-in-chief and affirmed his support and interest to ensuring his government promotes women political participation, gender equality, access to education and women rights protection. Was this truly a ‘talk and do’or a political gimmick that tended to lead the women of Liberia into a middle of nowhere? Unarguably, I have found no clue to the president’s commitment on affirmative action and /orthe ‘Affirmative Action Bill’ which was passed by both houses of the Liberian parliament on September 6, 2016.
The Act promises to empower minority group in Liberia and seeks to create inclusion in national political governance, especially for marginalized women, youth and people with disabilities. But reversely, women and several girls in Liberia are targets of societal vices under the Weah-led administration. There is no tour de force to celebrate under president Weah’srulership, and we should not attempt to narrate a potential fallacy which could envelop the naked truth of a failed feminist-in-chief, and let victims of repressive human rights abuse bleed in their innocence.
Does the President utterly understand Feminism? Well, what is itand how does it even resemble his administration: feminism is about promoting socioeconomic and political change for both sexes through genuine advocacy, and embracing cultural relevance for equal opportunities.
Let’s read through a little history: In the modern western feminist era, we have flipped the pages of earlier contributors and by far, the conventional theories or waves of feminism,dating far back to 1848. The first-wave feminism began with the Falls convention in 1848, this was when about 200 women met in a church in New York to argue the bitterness of civil and religious condition. Participants would discuss their grievances and passed a list of 12 resolutions calling for equal rights. On the average, this idea focuses on overturning legal inequalities to address women’s rights in elections. The second wave feminism began in 1990. It constructs an idea focusing on culturalinequalities, gender norms and women participation in societal happenings. Now, therefore, the Third Wave-Feminism sees women as important factors of race, ethnicity, class, religion and gender, in an attempt to societal reformation. Are these waves resembling the Liberian Political context under President George-Weah?
For instance, there continues to be high frequency of violence against women and girls in Liberia; and it keeps upping each time. Women groups including survivals of rights’ abuses have journeyed on major national strikes and pressured the Weah-led government, but it seems that my president’s administration does not accede to viable national and international frameworkon the fight against the scourge of sexual and gender based violence in Liberia.
This is not feminism. A compiled situational analysis (inference) from the Liberian ministry of Gender Children, and Social Protection and several Human rights movements (March ForJustice) unveils more than five thousands reported sexual and gender based violence cases in two-year period of the ‘feminist-in-chief’, with more than 75% amounting to sexual violence. Allof its prevalence involving the mysterious and unjustified deaths of Linda Z. Sherman and Odell Sherman are a result of inadequate bureaucratic efficiency and lack of gender transformative-programming. Worst of all, the Liberian Human Rights Report released by the U.S. Department of State in 2020hugely entraps Liberia as a country where women and peoples’ rights are rarely protected.
Statutory institutions, such as the sexual and gender based violent unit of the temple of Justice, the Criminal court E and the Liberian Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protectionhave all collapsed in area of accelerating integrated socioeconomic plans on addressing the growing vices of gender inequality across Liberia. It is like no one cares.
What is the SGBV Unit?
It is called the Sexual and Gender Based Violent Unit, originally established on February 27, 2009 and situated at the Temple Of Justice. The unit was created by ex-president Johnson-Sirleaf to statutorily prosecute sexual related crimes in response to the United Nations Security Council Resolution (1325) and the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) objective 4 (Rule of Law). The overall mission and objective of this unit is to “improve the Justice sector’s response to sexual assault and abuse cases and provide support to victims”. Sadly, the unit is literally dead and upending the true essence of justice and women socioeconomic empowerment in Liberia. If you would like to contest against my opinion, then you have got to ask these questions: where was the SDGV unit during the famous More Than Me Child Sex scandal in Monrovia, the case of little Vivian who was gang-raped to death in New Georgia, what about Odell Sherman, who was raped to death as well and the thousands of cases that are going unnoticed in the eyes of the president and his ministers. So this means that the unit is out-of-date.
Are there international budgetary supports?
Of course yes, the Swedish government has been one of the big deals in supporting the Liberian government in areas of technical and budgetary supports. In 2018, the Swedish government aided Liberia USD$1,265,765 to strengthen its office of the high Commissioner of Human Rights in Liberia and to enhance “human right protection, to promote sustainable peace in Liberia”. These budgetary supports from international organizations are largely being mismanaged to effectuate practical change on streamlining gender parity in huge areas of corporate-political concentrations, thus, entrapping the Liberian government into public outrage and protests in the Liberian capital.
Women political participation:
Liberia’s political space is hugely occupied by a patriarchal system.
There are 73 seats at the Liberian House of Representative; only 9 women are in this parliament, while only one woman is in the senate. Interestingly, the feminist in chief has employed 3 women out of 19 cabinet ministerial positions.
Although the constitution of Liberia does not preclude women political involvement, but the move to have contested in politics by Telia Urey, one of the former political aspirants of the 2019 representatives election in district 15, was provoked by the president, in which he publicly stated that ‘’a Urey can never win election’’. This assertion was a demotivating factor to hinder the hope and aspiration of women in an already hopeless political election for Telia.