BRIDGE: Agent of Change in Liberia

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On that memorable day of June 24, 2013, representatives of women groups in Liberia along with National Elections Commission (NEC), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and United States Aid for International Development (USAID) converged at the Golden Gate Hotel in Monrovia, Liberia, to receive a unique package of engendering elections strategies in our nation’s electoral process from BRIDGE trainers (Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections) who came from as far as the East and South of Africa.

This BRIDGE training, Gender and Elections, conducted under the thematic area, Working with Electoral Stakeholders, unearthed various methods and strategies through which women of Liberia can work with their male counterparts to mainstream gender during the electoral cycle.

Our very eloquent and energetic BRIDGE facilitators, Tomsie Dlamini from South Africa and Nyambura Ngugi of Kenya, led the team of builders through four days (June 24-27, 2013) of constructing this all important gender BRIDGE for the first time in our beloved country, Liberia.

What an experience it was!! How motivating it was for us, men and women (the TEAM at the training) to understand that both sexes, male and female, should be given equal opportunities during all electoral processes keeping in mind those core values of the Liberian electoral law which speak to transparency, accountability, credibility, fairness, integrity and the act of being free from all forms of electoral violence to enable one to make an independent choice.

Since 1847 the women of Liberia only had the opportunity to be a part of voting from 1947; one hundred years after Liberia’s independence. Liberian women from there on, have always been marginalized by their male counterparts during electoral processes knowing that men and women must have equal participatory opportunities.

BRIDGE helps improve those ideas of participants relative to gender and the democratic process of elections. It enlightened participants about some of the ways and means through which other countries of the world address issues of women quotas to enable them to be active players on decision-making platforms such as, political parties ushering them into parliaments. So true, so real, this is what BRIDGE does.

Because of the exclusiveness of this training, the facilitators sought ways through which participants could vividly visualize what has been achieved by legislating quotas within the Liberian parliament, what political parties are thriving to do to improve on women representation in politics. This was brought to the fore in comparison with achievements in our sister states in Africa and the world over.

Interestingly, the chairman of the Women’s Legislative Caucus and the Secretary General of one of the Political Parties made presentations relative to women quotas within the respective institutions.

It was great, and we are sure that one of these days all Liberians will get to understand the importance of allowing women to fully participate in the decision-making processes of our country.

BRIDGE gave us insight into some of the ways we can help remedy this situation.

BRIDGE was wonderfully constructed in the minds of the participants.

BRIDGE needs to be constructed in the minds of other Liberians.

And let the world know that this BRIDGE is one of the solutions to the many problems of today’s growing democracies in the world.

Thank-you IFES! Thank-you USAID! Thank you, NEC. Thank you to our caring, inspiring facilitators for taking us on this four-day journey helping us share knowledge and understand the many strategies we can use to help move us to greater heights on gender matters and craft gender responsive programmes. We, the participants, commit to be bridge agents of change as we go back to our various institutions.

Let me acknowledge participants who have vouched to promote gender sensitive values within their respective organizations and among the Liberian populace. Not forgetting those wonderful contributions from Martha Karnga and the great editorial skills of Ms. Loretta A. Pope.

AUTHOR: Ignatius Boyah Wisseh

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