By John Okeke
Speaker of the regional Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Parliament, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis has said that the election by direct universal suffrage of the Community’s Parliamentarians, which the parliament is committed towards achieving in the next legislature, should make it possible to definitively implement the provision of the Supplementary Act on Enhancement of the Powers of the ECOWAS Parliament, which requires each Member State to ensure that at least 30% of its parliamentary delegation is composed of women.
Tunis made this statement during his opening statement on the ECOWAS Parliament joint delocalised committees meeting on Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment; Education, Science and Culture; Health on the theme “Empowering of Women in the ECOWAS Region” currently ongoing in Monrovia, the Republic of Liberia from 13th-17th April 2021.
In his speech, the ECOWAS Speaker recalled that ECOWAS has made a clear commitment to prioritise gender equality and women’s empowerment in the frameworks of the regional integration process. He said 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. This instrument was adopted by the 47th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government held in Accra, Ghana, on the 19th May, 2015.”
Furthermore, the ECOWAS Parliament Speaker detailed 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, the Speaker said, “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.”
Speaker Tunis noted the social, political and cultural factors affecting women’s development in the ECOWAS Region and assured that the ongoing meeting of the joint committee, with the support of the experts will enable them to review the legal framework, compare their experiences, compare their institutional systems in order to highlight the obstacles to women’s empowerment and propose concrete measures adopted by the Community Parliament or brought forward by it to other regional bodies.
“With the excellent preparatory work that has been done and the high quality of the speakers, I have no doubt that this meeting will be a success. I already know that our deliberations will be rich and constructive. I shall be particularly attentive to the strategies that will be developed at this meeting to achieve our objectives,” the Speaker assured.
Meanwhile, on her side, the First Lady of the Republic of Liberia, Mrs Clar Weah, who in the presence of her husband His Excellency George Weah, delivered the keynote address at this opening ceremony called for long lasting and meaningful solutions and actions to end all forms of violence against women and ensure women empowerment across all sectors.
According to the first lady , despite the much improved awareness of women’s worth in society, a lot of work remains undone to ensure women across the ECOWAS region are given the proper recognition.
She however noted that now is the time when collective efforts needs to be taken to find long lasting solutions to issues that affect all women, and not just women in politics or business but all women in the region.
The session continues the coming days with expert presentations on issues revolving Women’s Empowerment in the ECOWAS region.