ECOFEPA: West African women pledge to continue push for Affirmative Action
By, Adoba Echono
Women in West Africa have been urged not to relent in their agitation of political power-sharing opportunities to meet the United Nations directed thirty-five per cent Affirmative Action so they don’t fight with men for inclusion in politics, governance and decision making.
The Pioneer Secretary General of ECOWAS Parliament, Halima Ahmed, who played a key role in the formation of ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association, ECOFEPA, made the call in an interview with Voice of Nigeria at the end of two days Town Hall meeting organized by ECOFEPA in Abuja, Nigeria.
Mrs Ahmed who was former ECOWAS Commissioner for Finance and also former Commissioner for Political Affairs Peace and Security in the Commission called on women in the region to keep pushing for more opportunities to be giving to women in governance and the political sphere.
“The pressure should continue on governments for affirmative action because, over the years, we have been talking about getting women elected it’s just not just possible, the member states that have made progress in getting more women into parliament is through affirmative action, so I think we should lobby our governments to do that, to pass the necessary laws.”
“Eventually, we want the women to also be on equal basis with men by getting elected by giving them the necessary wherewithal, the economic environment for them; because these days, politics is about money and very few women have the money to go into politics, so we need these two-pronged approach, affirmative action and working towards election of women.”
The First Vice President of ECOFEPA and a member of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Biodun Olujimi, also in an interview with Voice of Nigeria called for special quota for women in governance and politics.
“The parties need to be deliberate and insist that there should be a particular quota for women; we are at a point where we should look for special seats for a period, not for ever, for a specific period, whereby more women can come in and that will encourage all others, “according to Senator Olujimi.
“I believe with education, with participation with integration we will be able to do a lot better but we need to do more.”
Senator Olujimi who expressed disappointment over the low percentage of women elected in the next National Assembly of Nigeria, commended Senegal for its Gender Parity law.
She also commended Sierra Leone for recently signing into law the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment bill 2022 that guarantees the principals of inclusion, participation and more responsive posture on gender.
She expressed hope this will be replicated in all member states.
The National Coordinator Aspire Young Women Forum, Kahdija Bamali, noted that mentoring and capacity building programs for young women is crucial in closing the gender gap in leadership positions.
According to Bamali, “investing in skills development and capacity building programs for young women is crucial to closing the gender gap in leadership positions. “
“These programs can provide young women with the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to take on leadership roles. They can also help women overcome the barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential.”
“Through mentoring, younger women can build their confidence, develop essential skills, and gain access to new opportunities.”
“It is essential that we establish mentorship programs and networks to support the next generation of women leaders and ensure that they have the support and guidance they need to succeed.”
Over 350 women and young people across the region participated in the Town hall meeting as a way of rejuvenating democracy by giving voice to Women and Youth with the theme: “Stimulating a regional Dynamics for Mentoring the Next Generation of Decision Makers”.