A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Tuesday urged governments of ECOWAS to include more women in the management positions in the extractive industry to promote growth.
The CSOs said this while briefing journalists in Abuja on advocacy visit to ECOWAS by women organisations working in the extractive sector in West Africa and consultative meeting on women participation in extractive sector.
Mr Komlan Messie, Secretary-General of West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF), an NGO, observed that women often experienced negative impact than men in the sector.
He, therefore, called for holistic approach to ensure inclusive participation of women in the extractive sector, particularly mining to achieve the desired goal.
According to him, when mining and related extractive processes damage the environment, it undermines women’s ability to provide food and clean water for their family and increase their workload.
Messie said: “Women, who are here represent different organisation or people that are affected by mining exploitation.
“Constant exposure to toxic wastes and chronic diseases are some of the issues that are caused by mining activities and affect the ordinary man and not just people, who sit under air condition.
“We need you to relay CSO’s voice to relevant authorities on what is happening, not just to know about lead and metal poisoning from mining activities, to find solution.
“There is need for government authorities to not just know specific questions, but for them share benefits; provide platforms for the education and entrepreneurial development to assist women in the sector.
“We are calling on national governments and ECOWAS community to be fair to women by including them to participate in programmes that are beneficial in the extractive industry sector.
He mentioned that efforts are on by the CSO’s to work closely with national governments in the fights to encourage women to participate fully in the extractive industry governance process.
Speaking, Mrs Diarra Ndiaye-Sobel, Regional Coordinator of Extractive Industries Programme for OXFAM West Africa, said that the CSO’s advocacy sought to promote women’s right in the extractive sector operations.
She noted that 24 women-based organisations across 10 West African countries work in 111-grassroots community, in creation of awareness on the need for women to participate in the extractive sector activities.
“We are empowering community-based international organisations aimed at providing information and advocating for the rights of women, to enable them know what benefits are accrued to them.
“We are resolved to ensure that the extractive industry environments are conducive for women to not just work and live there, but to make community residents know their rights,” Sobel said.
For her part, Mrs Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, Associate Executive Director of WACAM, an NGO, decried low level of awareness by women about activities in extractive industry to hinder their participation in governance.
She urged women to take up challenges in tracking impacts of mining activities and to speak against such to achieve the desired goals.
“Mining began not only in Nigeria but West Africa without women knowing what it is all about; we are confronted with mining problems but only tried to mitigate it.
“Our efforts did not yield result; therefore, the need for us to teach women about their rights to hold extractive industries to stand up to their responsibilities,” Owusu-Koranteng said.
High point of the event was the CSOs call on ECOWAS member countries to adopt the mining act geared towards promotion of women participation in extractive sector governance at regional levels.
The ECOWAS mining act provides a general framework for the harmonisation of mining in the sub-region to ensure that countries with mineral resources derive optimal benefit.