No one in Liberia and perhaps out of the country had ever thought that the first democratic political transition here after 73 years would have been characterized by first elected female President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her male Vice Joseph Nyumah Boakai handing power over to an elected male president and first elected female Vice President.
But this is exactly what’s unfolding –Liberia is proudly championing women leadership in Africa with the election of first female Vice President Jewel “Cianeh” Howard Taylor, as it ends 12 years of leadership under a woman President, the first ever in Africa.
Turned 55 just last week, the ex-senator, who before the 2017 elections that brought her to the top post was serving a second term in the Liberian Senate, is on a mission to have more Liberian women participate in national politics.
The former Bong County Senator is proponent of an affirmative action bill aimed securing seats exclusively for women.“So, we’re trying to make an equal participation clause in our constitution real by finding additional seats for women; securing those seats that will be all women seats. So, at least this way we will have more women in the Legislature,” Sen. Taylor had committed while speaking on a local radio station in Monrovia.
According to her, women’s participation in government has dwindled despite the ascendency of the first female President of Liberia, noting that in the 53rd Liberian Legislature women had minority voice with 11 out of a total 103 Legislators being women. With her election as first female Vice President of Liberia, the former first lady has vowed to make this a priority as she sits as President of Liberian Senate, succeeding Joseph Nyumah Boakai.
She holds a graduate degree in banking and two bachelors' in banking and economics, coupled with a Law Degree from the University of Liberia, very impressive credentials and experience that could stand her up tall among others in any future election here for the presidency.
But one major drawback that she has consistently confronted and would perhaps continue to face, is excesses of her former husband, ex-president Charles Ghankay Taylor, currently serving a 50-year sentence in Britain for aiding and abetting former RUF rebels in Sierra Leone.
She suffered UN travel ban for ties with Mr. Taylor even after her election to the senate despite formally divorcing him in 2005 prior to the elections.
“Mind you, they were talking about Sierra Leone,” she said. “It was not a Liberian issue. I have never been to Sierra Leone before, I don’t I wasn’t here. So it was a little bit difficult for me”, Madam Taylor said during a Newsweek’s interview some time ago in Monrovia.
The Taylor factor showed up again before the campaign for the 2017 elections after Weah nominated her to be his running mate with news that the jailed former president was interfering in politics in Liberia.
It became discussion at every public forum after Weah himself admitted that he had spoken with Taylor from prison and they both exchanged pleasantries, nothing else.
-Story by Jonathan Browne