The Embassy of the United States of America respects the robust and open Liberian stakeholder consultations and civil society discussions that informed electoral reform measures submitted to the Liberian legislature. Unfortunately, lawmakers chose to avoid public debate about ways to increase the number of women holding elected office, effectively sidestepping an issue constituents have indicated matters deeply to them. All around the world, people and countries are beginning to accept the basic truth that nations are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunities. There is increased focus by global policy makers and governments on the need for women’s participation in political processes and on their contributions to building stronger societies. Study after study has shown that when countries increase the number of women engaged in all levels of government, there is greater governmental attention to and funding for the issues that affect the lives of ordinary citizens.
While we can all be proud of the trailblazing women who have succeeded in politics against the odds, from former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to current U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, we cannot rest on their success or minimize the factors that limit women’s participation – including the high costs associated with running for public office, the power of incumbency, persistent discrimination, insufficient childcare, and lack of family and peer support networks. Recently, as noted by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, backlash to women’s political participation has included threats, sexist verbal attacks, sexual harassment, public condemnation, and assault. Such attacks can crush the political aspirations of other women and girls.
We encourage Liberian political parties and leaders as well as elected officials to listen to the Liberian people, including the half of the population who are female, and seriously consider measures to bring more women into political participation. In a free and democratic society, women must be able to fully and safely participate in the political and electoral process at all levels – as voters, candidates, election administrators, and elected officials.