Liberia parliament passes Equal Representation and Participation Bill

Liberia’s House of Representatives has passed a bill that allows for parliamentary seats to be reserved for women, young people and persons with disability.

According to the Equal Representation and Participation Bill passed , five seats are to be reserved for female politicians, one for youths and one for people with disabilities in the nation’s lower house of parliament, according to the United Nations agency U.N. Women.

Women’s rights activists in Liberia welcomed a new law that gives the country’s minority group – women, youth and people with disability – a voice within a key arm of the governance structure, the legislature.

Liberia has a female president in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who at the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York, spoke about the need to empower women, girls and other marginalized persons in society.

“The long-awaited passage of this bill is great news for women in Liberia,” Mary Wandia, programme manager at the rights group Equality Now said.

“Liberian women and girls have been failed for too long on several fronts,” she added.

Despite having first woman freely elected as a head of state in Africa, only one in nine seats in Liberia’s parliament are held by women, according to the World Bank.

The west African nation ranks 40th out of 54 African countries for the number of women in parliament, and 149th out of 191 worldwide, U.N. Women said.

“Girls can aspire to join a space that is welcoming, that expects them. Women will know that Liberia cares to hear their perspectives and include it in decision making,” said Peterson Magoola of U.N. Women said.

A challenge comes with the current legialation according to some civil society watchers who contend that male politicians may seek to persuade voters that aspiring female candidates should be chosen only for the seats reserved for women.