Theme: “Empowerment of Women in the ECOWAS Region”
Presented by: 
Madam Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr,
 Minister of Gender, Children & Social Protection
Wednesday, 14 April 2021
I am grateful for the opportunity provided me amongst thousands of women of the Republic of Liberia to serve in the capacity as the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection and wish again to commend the President, His Excellency, Dr. George Manneh Weah for this privilege and the confidence reposed in me to serve. I am pleased to present on the “Steps taken by the Republic of Liberia to implement Article 63 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty on Women & their development”.
The ECOWAS Revised Treaty and its Article 63 set the basis for countries of the West Africa’s region to find solutions in eliminating the level of acute disparity affecting women and girl in all sectors across member states. Liberia as a member state of ECOWAS, held its democratic election in 2017 bringing to power, the Coalition for Democratic Change led-Government, which set its development agenda, the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD). The Government realigned the PAPD with all international development agendas and programs to include the Sustainable Development Goals, The African Union’s Aspiration, the ECOWAS’ Treaty and other International conventions and protocols and are mainstreamed into policy and programs at agencies and sectors levels.   
The issues of disparity against the female gender remains a priority of the Government of Liberia as well as the commitment itself to addressing the issues of disparity against women as enshrined in the national development plan - PAPD, and under Pillar-One-“Power to the People”. The Government has been working tirelessly with support from development partners, to ensure that protection, prevention and response mechanisms are strengthened and established in support of women and girls. To effectively address these issues, Liberia has increased her efforts through the following steps:
In the efforts to protect and promote the rights of women, Liberia has made progress in the development and revision of several policies and laws. Just to name a few:
• The Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, which is our national development plan has the goal to build more capable and trusted state institutions that will lead to a stable, resilient, and inclusive nation embracing its triple heritage anchored on its African identity; and to provide greater income security to additional one million Liberians, and reduce absolute poverty by 23 percent across 5 out of 6 regions in Liberia through sustained and inclusive economic growth driven by scaled-up investments in agriculture, infrastructure, human resource development, and social protection; 
• Additionally, the Revised National Gender Policy of 2018 promotes gender equitable, socio-economic development; enhance women and girls empowerment for sustainable and inclusive development; enhance gender mainstreaming in the national development processes; create and strengthen gender-responsive structures, processes and mechanisms for development  in which women and men participate equally, have access to, control and benefit from all country resources;
• The Land Rights Act of 2018 provides stronger protections for women’s land rights, including provisions for women’s participation on local land management committees.  The Law also provides spouses with equal rights to be members of land owning communities, an important safeguard for women; 
• To seek tighter punishment for perpetrators of domestic violence and protection for victims/survivors, the Domestic Violence Law of 2019 was passed and enacted to Law;
• Regarding Women, Peace and Security and as enshrined under the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, our country has developed and endorsed, through the cabinet, the “Second Phase of the Liberia National Action Plan (2019-2023) to ensure the full participation and inclusion of women and girls in the peace and security agenda of Liberia, which has already been launched;
• In order to provide the legal and regulatory framework for Decentralization and Local Governance reforms in Liberia, the Local Government Act enacted to Law in 2018 promotes better representation of women at all levels of local government, especially providing a mechanism to improve the gender balance within County Councils;
• In an effort to increase women’s political participation, the National Elections Commission revised the Elections Law in 2014 requesting all political parties to endeavor to have no less than 30% female gender for candidates’ listing from each political party;
• In 2016, the women of Liberia submitted an affirmative action bill called THE EQUITABLE PARTICIPATION AND REPRESENTATION ACT OF 2016 to the National Legislature requesting extra 21 seats in parliament exclusively for women, youth and persons living with disabilities. The House of Legislature passed a motion approving seven (7) new seats, which indicated that there would be five seats for women to be divided among five regions; while the youth and persons living with disabilities will have their respective seats. To date, this has not been implemented;
Economic Empowerment
• Significant efforts have been made to implement programs to empower women, girls and men living in rural communities in numeracy, literacy, vocational, and business development skills, as well as the establishment of village savings and loans associations to reduce poverty and increase women participation in decision-making. At-risk adolescent girls from five (5) economic disadvantaged counties have benefited from livelihood trainings for their empowerment;
• As a means of helping to reduce poverty in Liberia, an approximately twelve thousand (12,000) vulnerable households are to benefit from the Social Protection scheme through cash transfers supported by the World Bank and USAID of which 3,451 households have benefitted, with women accounting for 81.72% (2,820);
• In relations to the implementation of the National Gender Policy, the establishment of the Gender and Social Inclusion Units within Ministries, Agencies and Commissions to ensure the mainstreaming of gender issues within policies and planning implementations are ongoing;
• To improve the quality of life of all citizens for the promotion of inclusive development and equitable growth, the National Gender-Responsive Planning and Budgeting Policy has been developed and currently being implemented;
• The Government of Liberia has finally launched the 50 Million African Women Speak Platform, a digital platform that can be used by women entrepreneurs to exchange ideas, foster peer-to-peer learning, mentoring and the sharing of information and knowledge, enabling access to financial services and market opportunities between urban and rural communities and across borders;
• Under the “Sustaining peace and improving social cohesion through the promotion of rural employment opportunities for youths in conflict-prone areas Project”, Liberia is providing opportunities where young women have increased access to local conflict resolution mechanisms, with a focus on land disputes, and become active agents of peace; and to also provide women access to sustainable agricultural livelihoods, while addressing key drivers of conflict. About 46% of the beneficiaries are women;
• The Joint Program on Rural Women Economic Empowerment (2015-2018) with support from UN Women and WFP has improved the lives of two thousand seven hundred and fifty (2,750) women and men living in rural communities through capacity building and other entrepreneurial skill programs such as numeracy, literacy, vocational, and business development skills, as well as established eighty (80) village savings and loans associations to reduce poverty and increase women participation in decision-making with additional beneficiaries being identified by WFP for continuity;
• Through the Economic Empowerment Program for Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG), 4,500 persons have been trained in business development skills (4,300 girls and 200 boys) and placed into self- or wage-employments;
• While peace and social cohesion matters for Liberia and the region, the Government has established Peace Huts and Observatories across the Country to be used as a tool to promote women empowerment and conflict resolution whilst the observatory consists of community dwellers, who are volunteering to serve as community watch dogs/police alongside the Ministry’s County Gender Coordinators, for the purpose of preventing and reporting GBV cases;
• The Rural Community Finance Project implemented by the Central Bank of Liberia with the goal to contribute to the reduction in rural poverty and household food insecurities on sustainable basis targeting smallholder farmers, Female Headed Household, craftsperson’s and artisans, petty trader, local transporters, Food processors and disadvantaged youth among rural population. The project aims to reach 24,000 rural households with a focus on 50% women;
• The Office of the First Lady launched the “She’s U Movement” aimed at empowering women and protecting their rights from gender based violence; 
• Annually, the All Men Conference is held to bring men together to discuss issues affecting women and girls and identify solutions in bridging the gender inequality gaps, while men continue to sign up as He-For-She champions;
• To give young women and girls the platform to discuss their achievements, challenges and find solutions, an annual Young Women & Girls Conference is also convened.
Security Sector
• Within the Security Sector, women are being provided leadership positions gradually. As of 2019, the overall strength of women in the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) was eighty-two (82), which represented 4%. Of the 82 female military personnel, seven (7) of the female military personnel, including the Deputy Chief of Staff, are occupying senior military and leadership positions. In the Liberia National Police (LNP), 915 are women accounting for 19% while 8.3% are in leadership roles including a female Deputy Inspector General for Administration; 
• The overall strength of the Liberia Immigration Service is about 2,619 including 630 female personnel, which accounts for 24.1%. The Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation has a total staff of 515 of which women constitute 115, accounting for 22.3% of the staff and 1.9% women in senior management positions. 
• As a means of empowerment for young women & girls and to improve the quality of early childhood education, the Ministry of Education (MoE) have trained 210 young women and girls through the support of the World Bank Early Learning Partnership Program under Early Childhood Development and Business Development Skills and 60 % of these young women and girls are currently employed in early childhood institutions; 
• In addition, the Ministry of Education (MoE) through its World Bank funded project, “Improving Results in Secondary Education (IRISE) - Component 2” which focuses on increasing opportunities for girls to transition to and complete senior secondary education is targeting 3,000 girls in Counties with low transition rates from junior to senior secondary level and this is making impact;
• The MoE’s ‘Getting to Best Education Sector Plan 2017-2021’ Program with the goal to measurably improve the equity, quality and relevance of teaching and student learning in early childhood education, basic education, secondary, alternative education, TVET and higher education to ensure improved students learning outcomes and that young people have the necessary skills for livelihoods and employment is rolling out in full swing;
• To provide training for female gender teachers and gender focal points in public schools for gender-based interventions, the MoE has established a Program with funding from the World Bank.
• The Government has created a platform for both candidates and electorates across Liberia to provide opportunity for voters to assess female candidates’ platforms and promote gender equality and women’s rights; 
• To build partnership, solidarity and strategically engage other women to mobilize for an inclusive political participation at national, subnational, local and national development priorities, the Women Dialogue is convened annually;
• We have established the ‘Women National Consensus Building Forum’, which is a platform that provides opportunities for women to reduce the proliferation of women candidates in one locality during elections;  
• The Ministry has established a program that engages men and boys and community leaders on issues of social norms that are against the promotion of gender disparity and building the capacity of grassroots women’s leaders and organizations in order to challenge and change attitudes and behavior towards women, their value, roles and responsibilities;
• The Government collaborates with other stakeholders to annually hold national events relating to support women’s economic and political participation, such as, the International Women’s Day, the National Women’s Conference, the National Rural Women’s Conference, and the Women’s Dialogue Conference, which gather women from various sectors to discuss the women’s agenda and work towards involving more women in politics and leadership positions;
• In 2017, Liberia established a Gender and Security Sector National Taskforce (GSSNT) to create a gender-responsive security sector by enhancing the inclusion of women’s perspectives in reform processes of the security sector. The GSSNT regularly conduct nationwide awareness in schools and rural communities to sensitize female to participate in the security sector.
Despite the many successes recorded by our Dear Country, Liberia, there are some challenges associated with the delivery of its programs and services to women and girls.  Some of these challenges include but not limited to the followings:
• Limited budgetary support towards programs and projects that provide services to women and girls as a result of the declined of our economy;
• Short term projects without exit strategies by development partners;
• Lack of sufficient and quality data to inform policies, plans and decision makings;
• Cultural and political constraints to eradicating Harmful Practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.
Way Forward
• While the Government of Liberia welcomes the tremendous contributions of development partners, who continue to assist significantly in the delivery of programs and services to the Liberian people, we would like to encourage all development partners and donor institutions to support and or engage in long-term activities.  In this light, we are soliciting support to reactivate dormant projects and continuous support to existing projects geared towards the improvement of socio-economic empowerment, livelihood and political participation of women and girls;
• We would like to encourage the ECOWAS Committee for its Treaty to provide support for women political participation in countries of the region; and
• Finally, the Government also welcomes partners and well-wishers to consider supporting institutional strengthening and capacity building in terms of data collections and storage to enable accurate reporting and dissemination of information that inform development planning and decision making.