January 17, 2020

The Strategic Steering Committee of the Liberian Women Leaders Network (LWLN) is in receipt of a copy of a communication addressed to the President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate by Her Excellency, the Vice President, Jewel Howard Taylor, which has aroused deep concerns about the ability of this Office to effectively perform its functions as prescribed under the Constitution and other legal instruments pertaining to the governance of Liberia.

The communication exposes an alarming and untenable situation, namely, that the Office of the Vice President of the Republic has not been provided resources required under the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 national budgets. It is even more disconcerting to consider that this reported lack of critical support is deliberate in character and continuing with seemingly no intervention by the Honorable Senate as a collective.

The Liberian Women Leaders Network hereby respectfully issues an appeal to the President of the Republic of Liberia, His Excellency George Manneh Weah to intervene in and resolve this matter permanently to ensure the effective functioning of the Legislature in the remaining years of his Presidency. Notwithstanding the oversight responsibilities of the Legislature, it is the responsibility of the Executive Branch, principally the Ministry of Finance, to manage the national budget. Action by the President will also serve to protect the image of the Government and the dignity of the Office of the Vice President.

The issues highlighted in the communication of the Vice President bring into sharp focus the larger question of the role of women in the governance of our dear country, in particular their participation in decision-making and representation at the highest echelons of government. The Vice Presidency is currently the highest position in government which is occupied by a woman. Given the persistent reports, now confirmed by the Vice President’s communication, of the unprecedented lack of support to her Office, it is tempting to view this treatment as being motivated by a gender bias.

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. At a time when LWLN 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 lack of support to the most highly placed female in the government is a serious disincentive to women’s aspirations for political leadership.

The Liberia Women Leaders Network (LWLN) renews its appeal to President Weah to take urgent action to restore normalcy to the functioning of the Office of the Vice President, by authorizing the needed multisectoral support so that the Office of the Vice President may become more wholesome and functional. 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. His selection of a female as a vice presidential candidate was a giant step for women’s participation in governance. It is in his interest and that of the Republic to take progressive measures to reverse the seeming downward trend in relations between the two co-equal branches of the government.

About the Liberia Women Leaders Network: The Liberia Women leaders Network is one of 10 chapters of the African Women’s Leaders Network, an action-oriented initiative formed in 2017 by the African Union and UN Women to enhance the leadership of African women in bringing transformative changes, focusing on peace, security and development.

The Liberia chapter, which was formally launched in December 2019, seeks to advocate for increased women’s political participation, promote women economic empowerment and mentor young women leaders.

The Strategic Steering Committee is Chaired by Ambassador Marjon Kamara, former foreign minister of Liberia and Co-Chaired by Dr. Evelyn Kandakai, former education minister; Other members include Mrs. Ophelia Hoff-Saytumah, former Mayor of Monrovia; Cllr. Ruth Jappah; Ma Kebbeh Monger, head of the Liberia Rural Women Network; Lena Cummings, a women’s rights activist and acting director of the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WOGOSOL); Facia Harris, a journalist and women’s rights activist; Saran Kabba Jones, a WASH campaigner; and Representative Rosanna Schaack, a former nurse and chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus.

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