By Melvin Tejan Mansaray
His Excellency President George M. Weah, Liberia’s President has on Tuesday 13th April 2021 in a special address to delegates and guests of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia appealed to the Community Parliamentarians to adopt resolutions that will go a long way to advance the course of women’s empowerment in the West Africa sub-region.
President Weah made this call during the opening ceremony of the ECOWAS first delocalized meeting (13th -17th April 2021) of the Joint Committee on Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment/Education, Science and Culture/Health on the theme, ‘Empowerment of Women in the ECOWAS Region.’
The Liberian President said: “I am very happy that the ECOWAS Parliament is holding the delocalized committee meetings of its standing committees in Monrovia, Liberia.”
In his welcome address, Head of Liberia’s delegation to the Community Parliament, Senator Melvin Edwin Snowe, thanked the ECOWAS for hosting the occasion in his country, noting that President Weah from the onset was pleased to host the event in his country. He described the Liberian President as a Women’s empowerment champion and welcomed the Community Parliamentarians and other dignitaries to the occasion.
In his appeal to the Community Parliament members, President Weah said: “As many of you are aware, I am a former member of the ECOWAS Parliament while I represented Liberia as a seating Senator. I have fond memories of the time that I spent in Abuja doing the people’s work. As I look around today, I see several old faces and new ones. I will like to welcome you all to Liberia and wish that your deliberations here will be fruitful. I am informed that your discussion is centered around the empowerment of women in the sub-region. This is a matter that is very closed to my heart. As Liberia’s Feminist-In-Chief, I deeply delegated and promoted Liberian women in all aspects of our society but particularly in leadership. I pray that the resolutions that you will adopt here in this Joint-Committee sitting will go a long way to advance the course of women’s empowerment in our region. I want to say to you again, welcome.”
Before President Weah’s brief special remarks, there were several goodwill messages, Madam Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Affairs, Republic of Liberia, among other things cataloged the progress and challenges facing her country, citing rife violence against women and girls. She said stringent actions are needed to forestall this negative trend not only in her country but the sub-region.
Liberia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Dee-Maxwell Saa Kemayah Sr. extended heartfelt condolences on the passing of Tanzania’s President John P. Magufuli, Hon. Hamed Bakayoko, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ivory Coast commending the Community Parliament for its continuous commitment and resilience towards realizing the founding principles and overarching objectives of the ECOWAS irrespective of the numerous challenges facing it and the sub-region including, the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic recession, terrorism and violent extremism among other things. He described President Weah as a Feminist-In-Chief who is making frantic efforts to make gender mainstreaming a matter of urgency.
Hon. Dr. Rosanan G.D.H Schaack, Chairperson of the Female Legislative Caucus of Liberia in her synopsis gave statistics and talked about low female participation in the Liberian Parliament, urging the Community Parliament to work the talk by ensuring the inclusion of more women among its ranks and member states.
“With half of Liberia’s population being female, we need to increase the representation of women where decisions are made,” she said, adding, “ women are still challenged with tradition and a culture of patriarchy, and a low level of support from other women to vote them into elected positions coupled with the challenge of economic constraints.”
Her sentiments were however shared by Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Chairperson, Rules, Order and Administration Committee, the Liberian Senate.
In her statement, Liberia’s First Lady, Her Excellency Ambassador Clar Marie Weah said: “Your deliberations, Honorable Members, could not have come at a more opportune time or your sitting take place in a more relevant location,” adding that: “However, despite the much-improved awareness of women’s worth in society, there is still a lot of work that remains undone, to ensure that women across the ECOWAS region are given the proper recognition that they require to engage and contribute meaningfully to the growth and development of our nations.”
“ The theme of empowerment of women in the ECOWAS region, speaks of coming together to agree on a common approach for ensuring that no girl or woman in our region feels abandoned or deprived of any opportunity by her gender,” Madam Weah said, furthering that: “I am personally committed to seeing true empowerment for women in our region, across Africa and all over the world, and as I welcome you all to Liberia, I ask you all to truly commit to seeking actionable answers and plans to ensure that we begin the process of achieving the theme of the meeting here in Liberia,” she said.
However, Hon. Mohamed Sidie Tunis, Speaker ECOWAS Parliament in his statement underscored the need for thirty percent safe seats to be given to women as a giant first step.
“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’s 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.”
“With the excellent preparatory work that has been done and the high quality of the speakers, I do not 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 ECOWAS Speaker, Hon. Tunis said.
The Speaker House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia, Right Honorable Dr. Bhofal Chambers in his opening of the ceremony speech, highlighted the strides of the government of Liberia with the legislation of relevant laws but also underscored the need for more actions to be taken to achieve the set target of empowering women in the sub-region and wished the Community Parliament a wonderful deliberation.
A group photograph of participants was taken in climaxing the opening ceremony which was later followed by a session of presentations.