By Victoria Ojeme
The Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has condemned the low level of women representation in country-specific parliaments across the region.
The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis who spoke at the First Annual Kwara Gender Equality Conference said ECOWAS as an institution has made significant progress in addressing women issues and securing a participatory framework for women.
“Looking at the national percentages, women occupied only 421 seats in West African parliaments, representing 16.1 per cent of all lawmakers. In West Africa, 12 out of the 16 countries had averages that were below the world average of 23.3 per with Senegal being the notable exception having 42.7 per cent of its parliamentarians being women. We must change the trajectory and tap into the rich capacity of women,” he said.
He described the Kwara Gender Equality Conference as “a bold step that seeks to afford women across our region the chance to be granted an equal and full voice, participation and leadership everywhere and in every aspect and for making the case that we need the essential role of women to realize humanity’s noblest and vital projects of sustainable development, peace and security.”
He noted that Article 63 of the ECOWAS Treaty on “Women and Development” calls on the Member States to formulate, harmonize, co-ordinate and establish appropriate policies and mechanisms, for the enhancement of the economic, social, and cultural conditions of women.
“Cognizant of the engagement of mostly women in the informal cross border trade, ECOWAS adopted the Gender and Trade plan of Action 2015-2020, with the objective to increase women’s productive capacity and export competitiveness and to promote gender-sensitive trade policy development and implementation among Member countries,” Tunis said.
“Today, I share this stage with Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female Head of State. The story of her leadership is awesome.
“She led the Republic of Liberia for 12 peaceful years and brought significant economic and human development to a nation that was devastated by 14 years of civil unrest. During her tenure as Chairperson of the Authority of Heads of States of ECOWAS, I watched her mediate and secure a peaceful resolution to the political crisis in the Republic of Gambia.
“No doubt, there are many of her kind out there. All they seek is a platform to excel and be who they actually are. It is therefore the prerogative of regional and multilateral institutions like ECOWAS to provide the space for women development and participation,” he added.