The concept of the Women’s Situation Room (WSR) was introduced by Liberian women peace leaders and activists and was first implemented under the leadership of the Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) during the Liberian 2011 Presidential and Legislative Elections. It started during the period leading up to the presidential and legislative elections as a non-political and non-biased election mediation process that was spearheaded by empowered women and youth to ensure peace in the country before, during and after the elections. Liberia was a young democratic state. This was it second election since the end of the 14 years of civil conflict, and the 2005 election in which Liberia made history by democratically electing Africa’s first woman president; H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Women and youth groups in Liberia have recorded a long-standing history of actively advocating for peace and democracy in their country. Having suffering the full brunt of the civil war in the country, women and youth came together under this unique peace and security umbrella to protect the peace of their country at all cost. The uniqueness of the initiative rested with these women who embraced the youth, specifically the disenfranchised, disadvantaged and unemployed who are mostly mobilised by the political parties to instigate violence, to intervene when and wherever there was conflict and resolved it. The women also adopted leading efforts to de-mobilize the youth from electoral violence through educational and sensitization activities before, during and after the 2011 election.
The Mano River Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET), Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were among some of the organisations that gave international support to the WSR during the Liberian elections.
During the elections, the WSR placed special focus on the inclusion of youth in the process. Women paid specific attention to the concerns of young Liberian citizens and assisted them in voicing these concerns through the appropriate channels. By giving young people access to the media, the youth were able to express themselves before and during the elections without having to resort to acts of violence. Civic education classes on electoral and constitutional law were provided to render the election process more transparent to young voters and to ensure their involvement at all stages.
The WSR was aimed at achieving long-lasting effects. Therefore, it did not end with the announcement of the election results but included important follow-up activities. It also intervened with the electoral commission to ensure that possible requests for the re-counting of votes were respected and that complaints were handled expeditiously. The women continued to support young voters in holding the new government accountable for promises it had made during the election process, thus demonstrating that concrete results can be achieved through peaceful elections.
The success story of the WSR was evident following the October and November 2011 elections with the outpouring of commendations from the international community. In January 2012, the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) of the African Union (AU) adopted the Women’s Situation Room as a “best practice” and asked for it to be replicated at all countries having elections in Africa. GIMAC at that AU Summit asked then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to be the Champion of the Room and she agreed to support its replication.
Following it endorsement, the first country to replicate the process was Senegal during it February 2012 elections.
Liberia 2011 News
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