By Victoria Ojeme & Fortune Eromosele
The Vice-President of Liberia, Jewel Taylor, and Senator Biodun Olujimi have berated the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Parliament on gender equality, urging the Parliament to push for appropriate implementation of the community protocol on gender and human equality across regional and local governments.
The duo made the request while concluding keynote addresses presented before the plenary at the official opening of the First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament sitting in Abuja.
According to Taylor, gender equality is a fundamental human right, adding: “Women are underrepresented in power and decision-making roles, women around the region do not fully experience equal rights and their potential as economic, social and sustainable change agents remains untapped.”
She maintains: “Today, as we induct new parliamentarians, this fact is more glaring. There are 115 members of this body with sadly only 20 females, while the principles outlined in the existing protocols direct that there should be a minimum 30% of females. This means parliament is short of 15 more women representatives.
“May I therefore request your indulgence to ensure by the rules guiding this parliament that the National representative to the ECOWAS Parliament send the requisite number of women in their delegation as a condition precedent for national teams to be seated. If this is taken, a number of women who would represent women across the region here in this August body will definitely increase.”
She explained that the issue of gender equality has been globally discussed at all levels in the sustainable development goals. “I believe that it is now a consensus among all stakeholders that women must be included in all governance frameworks.
“The reason is simple, if 50% of the world’s population is excluded from governance frameworks, you would have at your disposal only 50% energy, 50% of the innovation and 50% of the capacities for growth and development.
“I pray we will see a new thrust of gender equality in this era, for indeed, this Parliament is the direct representative of community citizens, it is the right body to drive national governance to fulfill the obligations that they have ascended to.”
Addressing newsmen, Senator Olujimi noted that a quota law of 30% representation of women in government would prove effective and promote nation- building.
She, however, highlighted Senegal as the only African country that has 41% women representation, lamenting that other counties are low on the graph.
In her words: “In West Africa, women are 53% of the population, if you now decide that the 53 % of this zone is not worthy of representation, then something is wrong.
“I believe, like the Vice-President of Liberia said, that the time has come for every country to insist that there must be this quota law in our electoral acts/ constitution that will ensure women are brought in. That’s the only way we can increase the numbers.