The Economic Community of West African Female Parliament Association (ECOFEPA), on Monday called for 30 per cent women representation in governments at all levels, to address gender disparity.
The President of ECOFEPA, Sen. Stella Oduah, made the call in her address at a two-day seminar organised by ECOWAS Commission, in collaboration with DANIDA and UN Women, in Abuja.
The seminar on the theme “strengthening participation and representation of ECOWAS gender policy in democracy and governance” was on the sideline of activities to mark the First Ordinary Session of ECOWAS Parliament.
She said the call had become important because of the need to ensure active and sustainable female representation in legislative, judicial and executive quarters, for good governance in West Africa.
According to her, in the face of dwindling women representation across West Africa, collective effort must be made to ensure that our gender gets more representation in governments.
“Women constitute an expansive block of the electorate in Nigeria; this is the case in some countries within the sub-region, they often take the lead in voting in elections.
“In the 2015 election general election in Nigeria, 45,888,984 registered voters were women, while 22,944,984 were men. In spite of being the larger block of the electorate, women occupy less than 7 per cents of positions in government (elective and appointive) in the country.
“Based on the statistics, it clear that women are not where they ought to be in terms of representation in government. It is for this reason we must demand at least 30 per cent representation at all levels of government and we must push this advocacy with vigor and finality,” Odua said.
She said although some women had broken barriers to successfully participate in politics, most of them in rural areas were burdened by inadequate financial resources and political party discrimination.
She, however, decried failure on the part of the National Assembly to pass the proposed ‘gender parity bill’ into law, to contribute to socio-cultural and economic limitation against women.
Speaking, the Speaker of ECOWAS, Mr Moustapha Cisse Lo, assured of continuous parliamentary support to bridge gender gaps and also provide equal rights and opportunity for women in politics.
The Speaker promised to make efforts through parliamentary budget to assist the association carry out its activities.
According to him, I urge you to continue to facilitate programme that could enhance gender integration in the activities of the ECOAWAS Parliament.
Cisse Lo said “the theme of this conference is apt because it is in continuation of our determination to defend rights of the people you represent, in particular mothers and children.
“It is hoped that the discussion on issue of improving the wellbeing of women in our community will engender more female in-decision making processes.
“ECOWAS as a parliament will support all activities to ensure equal opportunities between men and women in politics and also sustain fights for preservation of their rights.”
In a remark, Amb. Mette Thygessen, Permanent Representative of Denmark to the African Union, commended increase in national and regional gender policies, to expand women’s economic opportunity, in the sub-region.
According to Thygessen, this is an ambition that has the full support of Denmark, as women in West-Africa and many other parts of the world remain underrepresented in political sphere.
“Women occupy 421 seats in West African Parliaments, representing 16. 1 per cent of all law makers, most countries in the region have average below the 23. 3 per cent globally.
“Senegal is a notable exception and an aspiration to us all, with women making up to 42.7 per cent of its parliament.”
The two-day seminar which commenced from May 21 to 22, featured discussion on boosting women’s participation in politics and decision making.
The high points of the seminar were unveiling of the ECOWAS gender election and strategic framework, presentation synopsis of gender election, musical interlude and group photo shots.
NAN also reports that the First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament started from May 10 and would end on May 30. (NAN)