The Traffic Lights of Gender Equality are Stuck on Red!

The city of Monrovia has been taken over by post 2015 fever — roads are being blocked off, schools closed and traffic lights, a novelty to Liberia’s post-war population, made a show. Hotels, including the New Royal, almost touching the Monrovia, are overbooked. Liberians, old enough to remember the country’s hosting of the Organization of African Unity meetings in 1979, liken the current ambience to the period. For women civil society organizations-this is the space where our future is secured-not only by High Level Panel members but also by ourselves.

Civil society organizations, involved in the process, are moving their agenda from New York to London and now Monrovia. ActionAid is one of dozens of Liberian, African and international civil society organisations who want to make sure our views are heard loud and clear when we meet with the High Level Panel on Post 2015 as its members gather in town later this week.

Women leading discussions so far include Gender and Development Minister at opening the session, again setting great example for other countries, of having women in key decision making roles. Gender Minister Cassell, clear and unequivocal of priorities, highlighted the inclusion of adolescent girls/women, VAWG, access to sexual health and reproductive rights, and economic transformation of women in a new development framework post 2015.

While there has been important progress in recent years, gender inequality is still a challenge to women human rights in Liberia, across Africa and indeed across the world. Violence is not the only but surely the most vivid evidence of deep inequalities. Endemic, pervasive, in private and public spaces, violence against women have been a major barrier to women attaining gender equality and participating in the development of their countries.

That is why there is a clear message coming from the Gender Minister, UN Women and women’s rights organisations in Africa and other regions, all united in calling for a gender equality goal post 2015; and ActionAid is fully behind them. And here’s why: The current MDG3 is vitally important to Liberia. However, there must be genuine political momentum and actions; increased resources and accountability to support women’s rights organisations important position to have transformative targets and expanded indicators on women economic rights and on the overall, gender equality.

Clearly what is at stake is the possibility of having a new development framework that presents no goal on gender equality. If there is no goal, this will be a major step back for women, girls and the rest of the world’s population. We need to build on the current set of MDGs and make them better. Professor Gita Sen in her opening remarks stated that, ‘we need to invest effort and resources over the long term’. No gender goal would be saying to the world: we don’t think this is important. It would be saying to girls, young women that they will grow up like their mothers, trapped without rights to live free from fear, equally.

Although the HLP and UN consultation teams claim to be listening to southern voices, but it is far from clear that they will reflect the clear call on a gender goal. This week, President Sirleaf, the first elected African head of state, will speak to CSOs. Will she confirm demonstrated leadership and show commitment on women being at the core of transformation in Liberia, and globally? Half of the world’s population will be watching Monrovia this week and our attention will not be on the ‘beautified’ city or new traffic lights!

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Contact: Korto Williams, Country Director, ActionAid Liberia; Tel: +231777748078