The Women’s Situation Room (WSR) Eminent Women of Angie Brooks International Center have decried the act of violence against women in elections.
Addressing a press conference Thursday in Monrovia, during the closure of the Project Title: Sustainable and inclusive peace in Liberia through promoting women leadership and participation in civic and political life and their strengthened role in conflict resolution. Cllr. Yvette Cheeson-Wureh, said accesses to a peaceful participation of women of diverse occupations in elections that are keep dwindling.
“Women participate in elections as aspirants, candidates, voters, and security officers’ election commission officers, political party’s supporters, polling center’s agents, media personnel and floating voters, these different levels of political participation come with different levels of violence targeted at women in elections ranging from gender and sexual based violence, verbal abuse , physical violence to emotional and psychological abuse “, she indicated.
She narrated that in this age of the internet and social media, there are online harassment, fake news and misinformation,” when the political atmosphere continues to give rise to unfavorable conditions for women to take part in elections, it is simply an affront to their constitutional right of freedom of association in a manner that grossly undermines the core of our democracy”.
Speaking further Cllr. Cheeson-Wureh said the electoral violence against women is a death threat, and not a scare tactic.
She indicated that the women have witnessed such from the bloody altercation with machetes, stones and other weapons against the representative candidate; Cornelia Kruah-Tokpa to the putting of gas around the house Tellia Urey was in and lighting a fire to burn her alive, the hunting of Senator Botoe Kanneh with guns like a deer in the forest.
Cllr. Cheeson-Wureh said the perpetrations of these acts of violence intended to have them killed, stressing that as the Eminent Women of the WSR, have also observed a novel disturbing trend of violence targeted at women political participation which raised its ugly head during the December 2020 midterm senatorial election.
“The abuse of our culture and traditional norms, the orientation of the Poro Society in Liberia is a much revered traditional practice, and one that has been very well situated as part of the fabrics of the society. The traditions of this country define the meaning of this culture and its implications especially as related to the Zoes and the country devil” she said.
The Women Advocate indicated that such practice has no role to play in making democratic decisions in Liberia, so it is very unfortunate that the tradition is gradually creeping into politics and elections in an exclusive violent manner to women’s participation.
“We note with grave concern that not only will this harm and deter women’s participation, but in some instances, it can lead to death. The abuse of traditions in politics to harass and intimidate women, defeat all efforts to build a truly inclusive democracy in Liberia”, she noted.
Cllr. Cheeson-Wureh speaking on the early warning signs, she disclosed that the early warning signs have shown solid momentum being garnered for violence ahead of the 2023 elections, to the brink of no longer being early warning, but the concrete signs of violence brooding in infancy and awaiting the set time to explode.
“We have analyzed these multiple situations and have observed the lack of dispute resolution mechanisms and conclusiveness in multiple investigations at the political party level , community level and the national level as the reason for these unfortunate creations”, the women indicated.
She further disclosed that freedom of expression is the bedrock of a thriving democracy with a number of the print and broadcast media are owned by political parties or politicians.” This has led to the extremely worrisome situation in seeing the political divides within the media ecosystem which is utterly devoid of censorship in its production of diversified news for public consumption”.
She narrated that media has being used for the creation of critical defects in information dissemination, stressing that sometimes being the perpetrator of chaos among others.
“The challenge is how to bring all grieving political actors to collaborate and abide by the tenets of democracy with a high regard for the rule of law. This, we cannot compromise as it is the referee putting in check the two sides of peace and violence in their respective corners’’, she indicated.
Cllr. Cheeson-Wureh noted that the issue of electoral violence bedeviling the country requires as immediate multi-stakeholders’ approach to address. “It cannot be done in one day and it cannot be done by one entity”.
She said, as ABIC, a lead civil society originzation and the eminent women of the WSR Mechanism are calling on all partners, national and international to continue collaborative efforts to cut out these cancerous sings of violence as the country prepares for the 2023 elections.
Cllr. Cheeson-Wureh also thanked ZOA Liberia for implementing, and their donor, the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund for the work they have done together in the last 18 months.