Bong County – The only female candidate on the lists for the Special Senatorial Elections of behalf of Bong county, Dorothy Kwennah Toomann, received just 1,682 votes representing 2.19% of the total valid ballots, leaving some wondering what went wrong.
Report By: Olando D. Kolliemelling, LMD Election Reporting Fellow
According to the National Elections Commission (NEC), 81,599 people voted in Bong county for the Special senatorial Elections on December 8, representing a 36% voter turnout of the 226,784 total registered voters. Prince Kermue Moye of the CPP won the election with 51.28% of the valid votes, a clear preference that left all the other candidates struggling to claim success.
Mary Cayto Sandiman, manager of the Sandry Orphanage Home in Totota, Bong county, believes that the poor performance of female candidates in the elections, in general, may be blamed on the fact that educated, professional women candidates have allegedly failed to recognize the power and importance of rural communities, and particularly the voting power of rural women.
“If women who have achieved education at the national levels cultivate the culture of enlightening rural women, the [goal] of women becoming part of the governance structure of the country will be realized,” Sandiman said.
Women who run for elected positions in the national government visit rural communities only during the elections period, and this is why Sandiman believes most women on the senatorial lists on have not achieved significant performances. If this behavior continues, she said, women candidates will not have an improved chance of winning elections in the future.
In a post-election interview on December 16, Sandiman was thrilled to acknowledge the atmosphere of peace that characterized the senatorial elections and referendum and, what she described as “huge turnout” of women at polling places across Salala District of the Bong county.
A United Nations (UN) 2017 survey on women voters in the Liberian general presidential elections, estimated that women represent 48% of the total eligible voters.
Sandiman believes that the high turnout of women at polling places in Salala District is an indication that the male-dominated politics is about to change in Liberia.
The National Rural Women organization of Liberia is of the same opinion.
On December 4, ForumCiv, a Swedish civil society platform, organized in Gbarnga, Bong county, a meeting between rural women from six of the fifteen counties. The women overwhelmingly expressed that they are overlooked by the key political players and government officials and they need to do something about that.
ForumCiv is a politically and religiously unaffiliated development cooperation organization with around 140 member organizations from Swedish civil society. Together with human and civil rights organizations they facilitate popular participation around the globe.
Considering the low presence of women in key government positions, the rural women agreed that the status quo must change in 2023 with the next elections.
“We, the rural women, have votes for 2023 and we will put up rural women representatives and senatorial candidates across the country,” said the leader of the Bong county Rural Women.
The main argument of promoting rural women in government positions is that they alone have a keen understanding of the issues and challenges and knowledge on how to address these problems through legislation and policy. Politicians and government officials, they said, do not prioritize the interests of rural women and the time has come for rural women to stand up and show their voting power.
At the gathering, the women and their national president, Madam Kebeh Morgan, agreed to advance several key issues to national government. Together, the women brainstormed on drafting the rural women Land Rights advocacy policy.
Among the most important issues were rural women’s rights to family inheritance, and the right to inherit their spouse’s properties upon death.