Mainstreaming Women Empowerment Principles – a Path to a Gender-Equal Future

On Wednesday, July 8, 2020, Liberia was greeted with the sad news of the passing of Representative Munah Pelham-Youngblood, Montserrado County District District 9 lawmaker of the governing party. Born September 22, 1983, the late Munah became one of the youngest lawmakers ever in the country’s history when she won her first term in 2011, a feat she repeated in the heavily contested district in 2017. She was an inspiration to women and girls and her influence straddled politics, entertainment, and education. In a heavily male-dominated legislature, Madam Youngblood’s passing is indeed a great loss for women, and this article could not be written without eulogizing her.

The improvement of education across the board is one of the most important factors in driving gender equity. In fact, I consider education as a most significant equalizer. World Bank and UNESCO Liberian data shows almost an equal ratio of males to females in our primary school enrolment. We should be proud of this as Liberians, it is a start. However we look at the women in our lives and communities and know that it is not enough. If gender equity must be achieved to the fullest, then we must empower women and demand that all organisations in our society focus on doing so.

The United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles is a good way to show our focus. Formulated by the UN Global Compact and UN Women, the “Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) are a set of Principles offering guidance to organisations on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace and community.” The UN WEPs “are informed by international labour and human rights standards and grounded in the recognition that organisations have a stake in, and a responsibility for, gender equality and women’s empowerment.” This should be automatically embedded into all organisations and societal cultures but until it is, the principles offer a good guide.