By Victoria Ojeme & Fortune Eromosele
The Vice President of Liberia, Jewel Howard Taylor, and Senator Biodun Olujimi have berated the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament on gender equality.
They are 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 seating in Abuja on Monday, May 31, 2021.
According to VP Taylor, gender equality is a fundamental human right, adding that “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 maintained that, “Today as we induct new parliamentarians, this fact is more glaring. There are 115 members of this body with sadly only 20 females, but the principles outlined in the existing protocols that there should be a minimum 30 percent of females. This means parliament is short of 15 more women representatives.”
She added: “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 therefore recommended that the body takes the political will to further implement the protocols which has been exceeded by demonstrating a full commitment to gender equality.
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.”
Madam Taylor stated: “The reasons is simple, if 50 percent of the world’s population is excluded from governance frameworks, you would have at your disposal only fifty percent energy, fifty percent of the innovation and fifty percent of the capacities for growth, for development.”
She said: “Permit me to say that I believe it is the same today as it was when I was growing up, for example, a score of fifty percent is just not good enough to pass, but our Parliament, our National government and our Regional bodies have agreed to a minimum of a thirty percent quota which is still not a pass mark, but a good starting point which is yet to be enforced.
“I pray we will see a new trust of gender equality in this era, for indeed this Parliament is the direct representative of community citizens, it is a right body to drive national governance to fulfill the obligations that they have exceeded to.”
Addressing newsmen, Senator Biodun Olujimi, noted that a quota law of 30 percent representation of women in government, would prove effective and promote nation building.
She however, highlighted Senegal as the only African country that has 41 percent women representation, lamenting that other counties are low on the graph.
In her words: “In West Africa, women are 53 percent of the population, if you now decide that the 53 percent 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 laws in our electoral acts, constitution that will ensure women are brought in. And that’s the only way we can increase the numbers.
“I just came back from one of the zonal meetings and I was shocked that 80 percent of the people that came to make presentations had gender equality on their documents. This means people have started thinking deeply about it, they are all asking for ways by which we can increase gender participation.
“And I believe with this huge number of people asking for that we will be able to do something a bit more precise in the constitution review.
“Most of these men have girls as children, some of them have only girls and they know that going forward they must be catered for and the time to do it is now. We are going to bring a few more bills for amendments so that we can all look at it, to ensure that gender becomes a great issue in the new constitution.
“All fingers are not equal, we are not competing with the men, but we are saying we must be given a chance to prove ourselves. From the biblical age we know that women are supposed to take the back seat, you can’t take the back seat and be looking for the front seat at the same time.
“We are looking for participation; we are asking that we would be partners in this progress. Anywhere you put a woman you get results and we are asking for results, we are asking for a peace process that will include women. If all we are doing includes women in ensuring security you will find out we will get over them faster than normal.”
Last year, the ECOWAS Parliament condemned the low level of women representation in country-specific parliaments across the region.
The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Mohamed Tunis 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.