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ECOWAS Commits To Prioritizing Gender Equality

By Bill W. Cooper
The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis says ECOWAS has made a clear commitment to prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment in the framework of the regional integration process.
According to Speaker Mohamed Tunis, the Sustainable Development Goals which is a roadmap to better and more sustainable future for all, set the promotion of gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, and the defence of their economic, political, and social rights as the fifth priority for the world.
The ECOWAS speaker noted that the Supplementary Act on Equal Rights between Men and Women for Sustainable Development in the ECOWAS Region, serves as a strong legal tool that can be used to champion women development.
He said the instrument was adopted by the 47th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government held in Accra, Ghana, on 19th May, 2015.
According to Speaker Tunis, socially, women’s fundamental rights are still being overlooked and added that in many of the countries, women are still unable to exercise their freedom, including the right to live without the fear of violence, the right to education, the right to family planning, the right to own land and the right to choose their own destiny. He further said, “With all the above in mind, it seems to me that we must now go beyond proclamations and it has become urgent to move from words to action.”
He added, “The election by direct universal suffrage of the Community’s Parliamentarians should make it possible to definitively implement the provision of the Supplementary Act on Enhancement of the Powers of ECOWAS Parliament, which requires each Member State to ensure that at least 30% of its parliamentary delegation is composed of women.”
The ECOWAS Speaker made the comments during the official opening of the Fifth Legislature of the ECOWAS delocalized meeting of the Joint Committee on Social Welfare, Gender and women empowerment, education, science culture and health held on Tuesday at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town.
According to Speaker Tunis, “I am happy to announce that, at its just concluded 2021 1st Extra-Ordinary Session, held in Freetown, Sierra Leone, from 29th March to 2nd April 2021, the ECOWAS Parliament considered and adopted its Strategic Plan for the 5th Legislature, this Plan identified the enhancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment as a major strategic area under the Parliament’s participation programme; this, if pursued vigorously, would make the ECOWAS Parliament gender responsive and I pledge to do my best to ensure the achievement of that feat within the period of my mandate; all these reflect a political will clearly affirmed by all on the need to improve the status of women in our States and to ensure equal opportunity for women and men; however, it is clear that there is still a range of institutional, economic, and socio-cultural barriers to women’s empowerment.
The ECOWAS Speaker noted that politically, women are still not involved in all the decisions that affect the future at all levels, both local, national and regional.
Speaker Tunis said women are not significantly represented in all the elected bodies and assemblies where these decisions are made noting that more than twenty-five years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in China, which he said was supposed to be an unprecedented step forward for women’s rights, while women’s representation in the world’s parliaments has only increased (on average) from 11% to 23.5%.
The Speaker doubted, “At this rate, when will we achieve parity in the under-developed economies, the vast majority of women about 70% work in the informal sector? “This part of the economy is largely dependent on social interaction and does not offer the capacity to absorb economic shocks; it was, therefore, only natural that women have paid the highest price for the global health crisis, which has subjected us to movement restrictions and social isolation measures imposed to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Speaker added.

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