Breaking the Bias: “Politics Is For Women After All” – Vice President Taylor
MONROVIA – Liberia’s Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor, says though biases against women in politics still exist, the volume has reduced over the last 20 years. For this, she says every person in the struggle for women empowerment and leadership should be proud.
Report by Rita Jlogbe-Doue, Contributing Writer
The VP’s remarks are on the backdrop of her own personal encounters with barriers against women in politics, including from her own father, when she was just 17years old.
“I was 17 years old, out of high school, and going to the University of Liberia. This is 1981. One morning, my father asked me what I would do when I got to the University of Liberia. I told him that we would have orientation, and after that I would make up my mind on what to study. My father told me, ‘I’ll wait for you to come back and tell me what you decided.’ I walked out the door. Surprisingly, he called me back; and said ‘you cannot do political science. You know politics is not for women. Politics is a very difficult field; you may struggle to get there. You may not get there. So, find something else that we need to do without stress.
“See what my father did when I was just 17 years old. He warned me that there were certain fields that women were not supposed to get into, and politics is one. So, I didn’t do political science. I didn’t join any of the political parties on the university campus. I just went to school.
“But see where I found myself today, many, many, many, many years later. He died during the war. So, he didn’t get to see me become the politician that I ended up being: first Lady, then Senator, then Vice President of the republic.
“My father didn’t want me to be a politician, which was and still maybe the norm for typical traditional families in Liberia. Today, still, there are these barriers that prevent women from going into the political space. Of course, it’s a male thing – because you have brothers, uncles, other people saying this is not for you.
“I was lucky to have an uncle who thought otherwise. He was called Richard Flomo. He was one of the longest-serving Senators for Bong County. He came to me to say they wanted a younger person to take his space.
“So here is one father on the side that says politics is not for women. But then an uncle on the other side, saying ‘you can do this.”
The vice president’s full statement is contained in a short, exclusive interview commissioned by UN Women, under its Women Political Empowerment and Leadership (WPEL) Project, a four-year project funded by the Government of Canada.
Her interview is one of several interviews conducted with Liberian women leaders and young women who have influenced change that improved the situation of women in leadership. The interviews, done in short video documentaries, will be aired in the coming months using different communication channels.