Wednesday, June 16, 2021

ECOWAS Parliament will Ensure Women Issues are Fully Addressed – Speaker Sidie Tunis

By Clement Akoloh The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Right Honorable Mohamed Sidie Tunis, has given assurance that the West African regional Legislative body would...
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By Lizzy Okoji

Bong County (Liberia)- Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Tunis has been conferred with an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the Cuttington University, Bong County Liberia in recognition of his contributions to the ECOWAS Sub-region.

Tunis bagged the honorary doctorate degree on Saturday during the University’s 14th commencement convocation of its School of Graduate and Professional Studies.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the honorary doctorate was conferred on his by his Alma Mater for his contributions to the ECOWAS sub-region as Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament.

Speaking to Journalists, Tunis who was elated on the conferment of the honorary doctorate in said he will continue to do more to advance the cause of West Africa and its citizens.

He said that he will use his position as Speaker of the Parliament to bring ECOWAS Closer to the people and the community Parliament.

“I feel very happy. Apart from being Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, this is also my Alma Mater.

“I graduated from Cuttington in 1989 and today I have been given this honor and I thank the Almighty Allah for his blessings.

“When I took over as Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament in 2020 I said that I will bring the ECOWAS Parliament to the people.

“Ad with this honor today I will continue to ensure that ECOWAS reflects indeed that of the people’s parliament, that of the community parliament,” Tunis said.

Earlier in his commencement address, Tunis urged the grandaunts to see themselves as a tool for an intergrated Africa, stating that the youths are the future of Africa’s development.
He also commended their resilience for pushing through their academic year amidst the unique situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As you graduate today, see yourselves as a realisation of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s call for a more integrated Africa that is focused on attaining inclusive and sustainable development.

“The continent’s AU Agenda 2063 remains a shared aspiration for transforming our continent into a group of prosperous, equitable, and integrated nations.

“In your sundry contribution towards the collective future of the Great Republic of Liberia, your contributions are critical towards this shared continental aspiration especially in the post-COVID era.

“The new Africa will be led by young, innovative, and enterprising persons like you. You have the obligation to control the new economic scramble for Africa.

“By ensuring that you are active participants in the global economy and can therefore participate as equal partners.

“COVID-19 may have slowed down economies and altered lives and livelihoods but your graduation today is new cause for optimism that we will prevail over the worst and triumph with the best.

“An African renaissance is possible with young and agile minds like yours and we therefore must celebrate you today as an addition to that critical mass that will transform the future of our continent,” Tunis said.

President of the University, Dr Herman Browne while conferring the doctorate honors on Tunis said the institution was honoring him in recognition of his contributions to ECOWAS as speaker of the Parliament.

Brown however urged the speaker to continue in his good works and push towards the development and integration of the sub-region.

He commended Tunis for his contributions to global, humanitarian and national movements which has further earned him several recognitions and awards.

Speaking on behalf of the ECOWAS Parliament delegation, Mr Bertin Some, Direction of Parliamentary Affairs and Research congratulated Tunis on receiving the honorary degree.

Some said it was a well-deserved recognition as the Speaker has shown himself worthy of t through all he has done heading the affairs of the Parliament.

“This is a unique occasion and a wonderful occasion that we have today.

“We want to commend his efforts because it is the acknowledgement of all his efforts that made him get this recognition and the ECOWAS parliament is very proud of that.

“We want to encourage him to continue to do more in his tenure as Speaker”, Some said.

Source:parliamentnews360.com

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By Lizzy Okoji

Monrovia (Liberia), April 16, 2021 (NAN) Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of the Republic of Liberia has called on Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Sidie Tunis to continue in his effort s of championing the cause of West African women.

Sirleaf made the call when she received Tunis who led the delegation of the ECOWAS Parliament (ECOPARL) on a courtesy visit to her resident in Monrovia.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the visit follows the successful completion of the ECOWAS Parliament deocalised meeting of “Empowerment of Women in the West-African Sub-region”.

The meeting of the ECOPARL Joint Committee on Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment, Education, Science and Culture, Health seeks to proffer solutions to issues affecting women in the sub-region.

Sirleef however lauded all the efforts and initiative of Tunis in driving forward the cause of the West African women, to ensure their inclusion across all sectors especially increased representation in the ECOWAS Parliament.

“I am pleased to see many women in this gathering and that brings me to say that except for Senegal, our countries have not done well in politics and we need to do more.

“We cannot do it unless you lead us. I will need to recognize the value and contributions of women to the peace, security and development.

“So I will call upon you as the head of the Parliament to be a champion for ensuring that as we go into elections in all of our countries, we have a minimum of 30 per cent representation of women.

“That we get what has been the ECOWAS standard, trying to conform with International Standard by the year, and that is that we seek to have minimum 30 per cent and we are not asking for too much.

“We like to see as women that we are equal in every way to men, we like to see that if we get that minimum then I think we will have so many women.

“And that we work very strongly through coalition and collaboration to help even push harder for the achievements of our development goals.

“I want to thank all the Parliamentarians for all you have done to keep the fire burning, to keep pushing all of our countries to meet the goals aspirations of ECOWAS.

“And as long as you continue to do that, you will get the support and I assure you that all the ECOWAS leaders will stand by you,” Sirleef said.

Sirleef note that ECOWAS today stands as one of the best performing regions in the continent in terms of its solidarity, in terms of its decisions to enforce those regulations for all, hence the need to work hard to sustain it.

She urged Parliamentarians to continue to work hard so that the West African continent remains an example to other regions of the continent.

Speaking Earlier, Tunis said Sirleef’s position as first female President in Africa is a precedent set by the West African region which must be sustained.

Tunis also commended Liberia for being a model of women empowerment to other African Countries.

The Speaker said that the resolutions from the delocalized meeting which was a success would be forwarded to Sirleef.

“We have been here for about a week now at the delocalized meeting with the theme empowerment of women in the ECOWAS Sub-region.

“We believe that your election as the first female President in Africa and just few years down the line the election of her Excellency Joy Taylor as Vice President demonstrates the fact that Liberia is already a model in women empowerment.

“You have already demonstrated it and throughout your tenure as President of Liberia you did everything possible to empower women and to promote women.

“So we believe that if we are having a meeting of such nature in Liberia our first point of call should be here.

“We waited to finish the session to bring the resolution to you as soon as that is done you will receive it.

“We have had a very fruitful meeting, the presentations from the experts were excellent and I must say we are very elated about that to chart a way forward to women’s empowerment in the sub-region,” Tunis said.

Source:parliamentnews360.com

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By Melvin Tejan Mansaray

Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have ended a delocalized meeting of the Joint Committee on Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment / Education, Science and Culture / Health, in Monrovia, Liberia.

The three days (13th 15th, April 2021) session focused on the theme, “Empowerment of Women in the ECOWAS Region,” was opened by the Speaker of the Liberian Parliament, Honorable Dr. Bhofal Chambers, featuring special addresses from the Liberian First Lady Her Excellency Ambassador Clar Marie Weah, her husband, Liberia’s President, George M. Weah and other top officials in the Liberian Government and also the ECOWAS Speaker, Hon. Mohamed Sidie Tunis among dignitaries.

During the deliberations, there were series of panel discussions on, “Lessons learned at the end of the African Union’s African Women’s Decade and ways to improve the next decade for women," moderated by Councilor Yvette Chesson-Wureh, Establishment Coordinator, Angle Brooks International Centre (for women's empowerment) and Co-Chair, Fem-Wise ECOWAS and also featured Madam Leyman Gbowee, Noble Laureate for peace-building and Madam Ceru Konah Garlo, Gender Specialist, the Carter Center, Liberia which was accompanied by an interactive session with discussants.

On the second day, Madam Salamata Konate Quattara, Gender and Social Affairs Specialist, Burkina Faso, delivered a presentation on, “ The best strategies to empower women working in the informal sector in West Africa,” with a perspective also given by a representative of the UN Women in Liberia.
Liberia’s Gender, Children and Social Affairs Minister Madam Williametta E. Saydee-Tarr however delivered a presentation on the theme, “Steps taken by the Republic of Liberia to implement Article 63 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty on Women and their Development,” which was conjoined with a perspective from Madam Oretha T. Dennis, Executive Director ECOWAS Civil Society Movement Liberia.

Another presentation on, “The Role of the Community Parliament in Promoting Women’s Political Participation and Empowerment,” was delivered by Madam Fatima Siga Jagne, Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, ECOWAS Commission, co-presented by Sen. Nyonblee Karngga-Lawrence, Chairperson, Senate Committee on Rules, Order and Administration and Political Leader of the Liberty Party.

The presentations however attracted an enlightening debate from Members of the Community Parliament's Joint Committee, which were followed by key recommendations to the ECOWAS Parliament, Commission, and the Member States.

On the third day, the ECOWAS Speaker, Hon. Tunis and delegation paid a courtesy visit to the Government of the Republic of Liberia, and later in the day, the Joint Committee members and participants converged at the Ministerial Complex to consider and adopt a draft report on their deliberations.

In its draft adopted report’s conclusions and recommendations, the Joint Committee said that ECOWAS Member States: “ Need to design educational programmes for both the girl-child and the boy–child so that no child is left behind. Carry out advocacy campaigns on the need for education. The need for inter-member state cooperation and coordination on the issue of child marriage especially in cases of children who are smuggled from one country and forced marriage, etc.”

The draft report which is to be adopted by the plenary session of the Community Parliament also, recommends that the ECOWAS Commission, “Organise a regional conference on FGM to develop a strong regional policy on the matter that includes measures that criminalize its practice and contain the punitive measures to be taken if caught.”

The Joint Committee however recommended that the ECOWAS Parliament is to: “ Develop a regional affirmative bill or a regional common approach on gender parity that is fair and balance. Ensure that there is at least one woman from every country's delegation represented in the Bureau of Standing Committees to ensure that women can take part in the decision-making process. Organize sensitization mission to be undertaken on the need to build the capacities and self-confidence of women. Advocate for the elaboration of a community test on gender parity. Organization of an urgent meeting with the Ministers in charge of Gender and the Department of Social Affairs and Gender, ECOWAS Commission to discuss the issues of women's participation in politics and, Institute regular border visits to oversee gender issues and discuss with women informal cross border traders.”

The Joint Committee members however made a few minor corrections to the draft adopted report, for which the Director of Parliamentary Affairs ECOWAS Parliament said they will be duly reflected upon the submission of the draft Joint Committee report to the plenary session of the Parliament.

In his closing remarks, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Mohamed Sidie Tunis said that it is gratifying to witness the successful end of the all-important meeting, adding that “ the meeting by every standard was educative, inspiring and enriching.”

“ This is due to the topical nature of the theme as well as it is important to the well-being of our people because whatever affects our women, affects our children, and will subsequently affect our future. I am happy to note that this meeting had a beautiful opening ceremony, which was graced by the President of Liberia, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah and Madam First Lady, Hon Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ministers, and other officials of the Liberian Government, Members of the Civil Society Organizations as well as Members of the Fourth Estate.”

H.E. Hon Tunis however profoundly thanked the several experts and resource persons for their highly educative and enlightening presentations made, adding that, "the deliberations that followed were thoroughly enriching, provided important insights that are expected to lead in inform working actions and positions to let us address issues affecting women.” He commended the efforts of colleague MPs for demonstrating a commitment to address the gender disparity that exists in West Africa.

“The frank exchanges from all participants has helped us identify issues affecting women's economic and political empowerment and the role that the Parliament can play in their economic and political empowerment. Furthermore, key recommendations emanating from this meeting will be forwarded to line institutions through the ECOWAS Commission to aid Member States in implementing Article 63 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty which empowers the ECOWAS Member States to take charge in addressing women’s issues and their development,” assuring that, “ the ECOWAS Parliament working with all stakeholders will endeavor to ensure that women's issues are addressed to the fullest.”

In her vote of thanks, Hon. Laadi Agii Ayamba, MP PusiaddresByng, East Region, Ghana thanked the Liberian people for their legendary hospitality, commended the ECOWAS Speaker's efficiency and commitment in the execution of his mandate, appreciates the participant's unfailing mobilization, support staff, interpreters translators for their active contribution. She commended the resource persons for their presentations and expressed gratitude to all including the Liberian Speaker of Parliament and Head of Delegation, Sen. Edwin Melvin Snowe, and paid tribute to the President of Liberia

However, the Community Parliament continues its work on Friday when the ECOWAS Lawmakers and delegations are to take a field visit to Gbarnga, Bong County to interact with market women on their economic empowerment, and on Saturday 17th April, for an excursion.

Source:parliamentnews360.com

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By Lizzy Okoji

Monrovia (Liberia), April 15, 2021 (NAN) Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidie Tunis has pledged the commitments and actions of the ECOWAS Parliament to address all issues against women in the ECOWAS Sub-region.

Tunis made this known on Thursday during the closing of the delocalized meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament Joint Committee on Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment, Education, Science and Culture, Health in Monrovia, Liberia.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the delocalized meeting with the theme “Empowerment of Women in the West African Region” was held to proffer solutions to factors limiting women in the sub-region.

Tunis gave the assurances that the fifth legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament under his leadership will work with all stakeholders to ensure that women issues are addressed to the fullest.

“It is gratifying to witness the successful end of this all important meeting of the Joint Committees on Social Affairs, Gender, and Women Empowerment, Education, Science and Culture and Health.

“The meeting, under the theme “The Empowerment of Women in the ECOWAS Sub-region” had by every standard been educative, inspiring and enriching.

“This is more so due to the topical nature of the theme, as well as its importance to the well-being of our people because, whatever affects our women affects our children and will subsequently affect our future.

“The frank exchanges from all participants has helped us identify factors mitigating women’s economic and political empowerment in the ECOWAS region and the role Parliament can play in promoting their economic and political empowerment.

“Furthermore, key recommendations emanating from this meeting will be forwarded to line institutions through the ECOWAS Commission, to aid Member States in implementing Article 63 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty.

“Which empowers Member States to take charge and address women issues and their development.

“Permit me at this juncture to give the assurance that the ECOWAS Parliament, working with all stakeholders, will endeavor to ensure that women issues are addressed to the fullest.

“We are aware that it requires our genuine commitment and actions, hence the onus is on us to prevail on our States to take bold steps at tackling those issues that deprived women the opportunity to excel and be heard.

“We are optimistic that we will prevail over gender inequalities, fears and vices that hinder the peace, happiness and prosperity of our States”, Tunis said.

Tunis however commended Members of Parliament, for the countless hours of hard work they have put in, stating that it is a clear demonstration of their commitment to addressing the gender disparity that exist in our region.

Source:parliamentnews360.com

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By Clement Akoloh

The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Right Honorable Mohamed Sidie Tunis, has given assurance that the West African regional Legislative body would ensure that member states give maximum attention to women issues in order to empower them to take up top leadership positions.


The Speaker gave the assurance in his closing remarks at the Fifth Legislature’s delocalized meeting of the Joint Committee on Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment / Education, Science and Culture/Health, currently holding in Monrovia, Liberia from 13th-17th April 2021.

The meeting which was held under the theme: “The Empowerment of Women in the ECOWAS Sub-region” was characterized by several presentations on women empowerment from Resource Persons and Experts who outlined various positions and points of view on challenges confronting women in the continent and the way forward.

According to the ECOWAS Parliament Chairperson, the deliberations that followed the presentations were very enriching, and provided important insights that are expected to lead to forward-thinking actions and put the Pan African Parliament in an informed position to address issues concerning women.

“Permit me at this juncture to give the assurance that the ECOWAS Parliament, working with all stakeholders, will endeavor to ensure that women issues are addressed to the fullest. We are aware that it requires our genuine commitment and actions, hence the onus is on us to prevail on our States to take bold steps at tackling those issues that deprived women the opportunity to excel and be heard,” said, Hon. Sidie Tunis.

The Speaker intimated that, the frank exchanges from all participants has helped the MPs to identify factors mitigating women’s economic and political empowerment in the ECOWAS region and the role Parliament can play in promoting their economic and political empowerment.

“Key recommendations emanating from this meeting will be forwarded to line institutions through the ECOWAS Commission, to aid Member States in implementing Article 63 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, which empowers Member States to take charge and address women issues and their development,” he indicated.

Source: parliamentnews360.com

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Member representing Askira Uba and Hawul Federal Constituency in the Nigerian House of Representatives and delegation member to ECOWAS Parliament, Hon Haruna Mshelia has identified Culture, Religion and lack of Education as the major bane of women empowerment in the West African sub-region.

Hon Haruna Mshelia gave this insight, Wednesday, at the ongoing Delocalized meeting on Women Empowerment in Monrovia, Liberia. According to the Borno born lawmaker, women and men possess the same capability but Religion and cultural barriers have been used to suppress the female gender.

"Studies have shown that men and women possess the same mental capacity to lead. So, where is the male dominance coming from? Certainly, from Religion and negative cultural practices, which have relegated women to the background.

"In many countries in Europe, women have taken up challenging leadership roles and have in most cases, out performed men. In Germany Angela Merkel have been there for almost two decades. Same in New Zealand etc.

The lecturer turned politician further explained that the current arrangement confers automatic advantage on men, saying culture and religion has done more harm to women aspiration than any other known factors.

To redress this anomalies, Dr Mshelia suggested "Affirmative Action backed by law from the level of ECOWAS Parliament. A level playing ground must be created for men and women by abolition of negative cultural practices."

It is said that when people go through education, the law governing his/her thought will change. Hence, on how to leverage on education to empower women, Dr Mshelia advocated that women should be given advantage like Affirmative Action, pending when they will catch up with their male counterpart.

He urged ECOWAS Parliament to talk less and do more, saying talks has been on for too long without necessary back up actions.

Source:parliamennews360.com

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By Lizzy Okoji

Monrovia (Liberia), April 15, 2021 (NAN) Hon. Laadi Ayamba, Member of the ECOWAS Parliament from Ghana has recommended that Member States adopt and implement a regional binding law to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.

Ayamba made this known in an interview with journalists on Thursday during the ongoing ECOWAS Parliament delocalized meeting in Monrovia, Liberia.

According to Ayamba, Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage are some of the oldest cultural practices that violates the right of a girl child.

Ayamba said that Ghana as a country has made FGM a punishable offence under the law but unfortunately, some parents send their children to neighbouring Member States to get the procedure done.

This she said can be stopped if all countries of ECOWAS make FGM a punishable offence under their national laws, explaining that if a defaulting parent is caught in one country they can be arrested in another country.

“My constituency is one of the highest place where FGM is practiced and after the President has put in the issue of imprisonment of anybody who is found culpable, they started crossing borders again.

“They go to neighboring countries like Burkina and Togo to go and do these things so by the time you realize the girl is not around and when you ask around and dig you will realize they have been sent to be mutilated.

“There is no particular tribe that has been able to come out and tell us that this is the economic sense for which we have been doing this ting or it helps the girl.

“The only thing we come to hear is that they are doing it for the girl child to be preserved for the husband to be and to show that she is brave.

“I am saying that we should ensure that we do a regional or a cross country linkage to make sure that if in Ghana it is a law against the practice, in Togo it should be the same thing, in Burkina it should be the same thing,

“And all ECOWAS country should have the same law against female genital mutilation so that if you are arrested in Ghana and running away from Ghana, if you come to Liberia you can still be arrested for breaching the law for the same crime

“And if we do that it would help us a lot as a region to end Female Genital Mutilation”, Ayamba said.

Ayamba said it is also important to have a law to stop child marriage, another impediment on the development and empowerment of the girl child.

“In the early years, right from the nursery to the class three, you have a very high percentage of girls in class, 60 per cent as against 40 per cent in enrolment for the girl child.

“But when the girl gets to class three you have a lot of problems, the girl child would have been getting to the ages of nine, ten so they are economically viable.

“Their parents then use them for other activities, going to the market to sell then bring in money, all is not for any other reason but because of poverty.

“If there is education and continuous talk, parents will understand that if the girl child is educated she will able to get the parents more money”, Ayamba added.

Ayamba said it is time for ECOWAS, especially the gender committee to go out on a senstitization campaign to communities to enlighten parents on the dangers of FGM and child marriage.

“ECOWAS should go out itself, we should stop the talking, we should do the working. Let us get to the ground, let us get people to go out there to talk”, Ayamba added. Watch video interview here. https://fb.watch/4VJB2_kbyu/

Source:parliamentnews360.com

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By Melvin Tejan Mansaray

The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Affairs, Republic of Liberia, Williametta E. Saydee Tarr has said that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) can help Liberia and its Member States by ensuring that sustainable projects are implemented by donors and international partners.

She was speaking on the second day (13th-17th April 2021) of the Community Parliament’s delocalized meeting of the Joint Committee on Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment / Education, Science and Culture / Health, currently holding in Monrovia, Liberia's Ministerial Complex, on the theme, “Empowerment of Women in the ECOWAS Region.”

Minister Tarr in her presentation said, “Steps taken by the Republic of Liberia to Implement Article 63 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty on Women and their Development,” highlighted the major successes, challenges, and way forward on the issues affecting women in her country and the Community.

Article 63 (Women and Development) of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty falls under the rubric, (CO-OPERATION IN HUMAN RESOURCES, INFORMATION, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL AFFAIRS), states that: “Member States undertake to formulate, harmonize, coordinate and establish appropriate policies and mechanisms for the enhancement of the economic, social and cultural conditions of women. 2. To this end, Member States shall take all measures necessary to: a) identify and assess all constraints that inhibit women from maximizing their contribution to regional development efforts; and b) provide a framework within which the constraints will be addressed and for the incorporation of women's concerns and needs into the normal operations of the society; 3. At the Community level. Member States shall: a) stimulate dialogue among themselves on the kinds of projects and programmes aimed at integrating women into the development process; b) establish a mechanism for co-operation with bilateral, multilateral, and nongovernmental organizations; and c) promote and develop mechanisms to encourage the exchange of experiences and information between the Member States.”

In an interview with this Reporter, Minister Tarr began by highlighting the steps being taken by her country in the implementation of Article 63 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, updating that: “ We have passed laws and especially within the context of the Geoge Weah-led Administration, we have passed the Land Right Act that protects women and ensures that women can own properties, especially female spouses of men who are deceased because back in the day, we had situations were either the brothers or the family members will come and take over. We have passed the Domestic Violence Law which talks about ways in which we can see people who are violating these laws be put to jail or at least go through the court system to ensure that women and girls are protected. We continue to provide economic support to women through my own Ministry. We have the Liberia Social Safety Net Programme that is supported by USAID, UKAID, and a loan from the World Bank where we focus on getting monies to the poorest of the poor part of our country, where we have the focus on the female head of households to ensure that they get whatever stipends that we are giving out so that they can ensure that their families are protected and have access to education which is an accompanying measure, and health. We work directly with UN Women and the Government of Canada on women's political participation. We are working with our Legislators and our National Elections Commission to ensure that we can have laws put in place where women will be protected. At this point, right now the discussion is about the mandatory thirty percent representation of women when it comes to candidates going to the ballot, you know when we get to electioneering periods and we are hopeful; that with Legislators, of course, we are very dependent on our He For She Champions in our Legislature. We want to be sure that they will be supporting that bill at the end of the day so that we will have that protection and viability for women to enjoy.”

In her statistical appraisal of the progress made so far by Liberia in women’s empowerment, Minister Tarr said, “ at this point, in empowering women we are at maybe forty-five percent mark. We need to cross that hill to get to fifty percent and then, move forward for even more.”

On the secret behind Liberia’s election of the first female President in continental Africa, Minister Tarr said it took the collective effort of women.

“Women came together and correlate and decided to support Madam Sirleaf as the candidate and this is what it is. That is why we say even when it comes to local elections, those are the things that we need to do. We need to be able to say we will not be scattered. We need to come together and join because when we solidify, we are stronger. Like the broom analogy, if you straw the broom on the ground all the strands will scatter, but if you come and tie it together you can do a whole lot of good; so that is it. If we stand together, we would be able to achieve this same result we got in 2005 with Madam Sirleaf's election because why, if women hold together, and say we are going to push this one candidate, instead of being scattered or say I don’t like that lady or I am going to support this man and support the females, we see those female candidates get the support that is needed, we will see more female wins,” Minister Tarr said.

Questioned on how can the Liberia experience be cascaded to other West African countries, Minister Tarr said, the holding of such a gathering as being done by the ECOWAS Parliament is one way to go.

She said: “We just need to continue talking, as I said earlier in my presentation, COVID-19 is something that has shown us that we can talk virtually within seconds. We need to take advantage of that and talk a little bit more, coordinate and collaborate a little bit more and I am sure we will be able to share experiences that we all can enjoy and benefit from.”

Put to her that records have it that even with Liberia’s enviable record in electing the first female President, the country still has a low number of female representatives in its House of Representative, Minister Tarr said: “ Well, empowering women and ensuring that women are represented politically are two different things.”

“You can empower women with everything you have, if the political setup is not there for women to be represented in the Senate or the House of Representatives then they would not have it. Again, it comes back to the conversation I just had with you on women holding together to vote women in and getting more He for She Campaigners so it will help support that that happens,” she said.

Asked about what is Liberia not getting right that ECOWAS can offer, Minister Tarr said regional collaboration.

“Well, ECOWAS can help us afford the support that ensures that all of us as nations within the region, we know we have donors, international partners, so we want to be sure that we have one voice as in regards to them coming into our countries and making sure that they are supporting sustainable projects and not just things that they are just going to be checking off to say we did this Africa, but things that are applicable to the local content, applicable to what we need as people and to ensure that they are listening to what we need and not bringing in what the West wants to see happen,” Minister Tarr said.

Minister Tarr however wrapped up the interview by noting that budget is Liberia’s biggest impediment in the empowerment of women, adding that, “ we just have to make sure that we have the finances to make it happen.”

“We already have the political will, we need the finances and we also need that coalition of women coming together to support each other first and foremost before we reach across the aisle to the men,” she said, expressing that she feels extremely happy about her country hosting ECOWAS.

Madam Tarr said: “I am very happy, it is wonderful to have this happen here. I know that the team is still here throughout the end of the week but just to have the President (George M. Weah) at the highest level to come and be here in the room with the First Lady, and have the team of local Legislators and the team coming from outside, it brings highlight. For me personally, it does not only highlight women's issues but it puts the icing on the cake.”

Source:parliamentnews360.com

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By Melvin Tejan Mansaray

A Gambian Lawmaker, Honorable Fatmata Njai has said that she thinks that if countries send lists that are short of thirty percent women’s representation, the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Parliament should reject it.

She was speaking in an exclusive interview with this Reporter following the official Opening Ceremony of the Fifth Legislature’s delocalized meeting of the Joint Committee on Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment / Education, Science and Culture/Health, currently holding in Monrovia, Liberia (13th-17th April 2021) on the theme, “ Empowerment of Women in the ECOWAS Region.”

According to Hon. Njai, it worth noting the fact that some countries lack female representation in the Conference of Bureau in the ECOWAS Parliament which she said, “ is disregarding the ECOWAS Rules of Procedures.”

“The Rules of Procedures mentioned that each member country should have a female representation at the Conference of Bureau. Each country has three members in the Conference of Bureau, so each country can at least have one female member which will be thirty percent representation. I think if we are to preach something, we should be seen acting what we preach. We can ask countries to send thirty percent and we must enforce that as well, but if countries say that they do not have thirty percent, what is stopping them from having thirty percent. It is not that they do not have females in these countries, they have them and they have competent women as well but why are they not winning elections. I think that is the question,” Hon. Njai said.

She continued by saying that countries should be asking themselves if there is a level playing field and try to know why women are not winning elections, adding that it is not a question about the women not being educated because there are women as educated as men, “ but what are the things that are stopping women from winning elections .”

Hon. Njai said: “When I first joined the ECOWAS Parliament, we were twenty-five in number. We have lost some of the women and I think now we are eighteen in number which is something that should be addressed. Why are women losing elections, and why are countries not sending the thirty percent as stipulated and is required from them by ECOWAS. I think that if countries send a list that is short of thirty percent, the ECOWAS should reject that list.”

On how much of a significant impediment is language barrier to women’s empowerment, Hon. Njai said she mentioned this issue during the panel discussion because one of the participants cited Senegal which is doing very well in women’s empowerment with a forty-four percent female representation.

“The fact is that Senegal speaks their local language (Wallof), this might be a problem and that is why I pinned on that, that we need to revisit the language that we speak in parliament because if the people cannot speak the language, they cannot come forward and most women are illiterate and they do not speak the languages that we speak in parliament, be it English, French or Portuguese. I mentioned that because Senegal speaks Wallof in their parliament and I think and believe that is the reason why there is a large female representation.”

Hon. Njai also noted in her submission during a session facilitated by Ms. Sakandel Benao Reine, Chairperson of the Gender, Social Affairs, and Women Promotion Committee's deliberation on, “ The best strategies to empower women working in the informal sector in West Africa,” noting that women must empower themselves.
When questioned on how can women empower themselves in a patriarchal society such as that of West Africa, Hon. Njai said: “I mentioned that because one of the speakers said that Islam deters women.”

“Islam does not discriminate against women. Islam empowers women. I think it is the inclusion of culture that discriminates against women and that is why I said that we should ignore that and empower ourselves. Women must go and grab it. If we do not have chairs on the table let us build our own chairs and seat.”

Hon. Njai also said that the biggest missing element in women’s empowerment can be corrected if the fact that women accepting the fact that they should not just sit and wait to be given the ball to play, “ we should actually demand it or grab it ourselves, so I don’t see that as a problem. I see us women being our own enemies because like somebody mentioned, if a woman wants to run for office, it is the same women that would not vote for them, and for us being in the majority why should that happen. We should vote for ourselves and be at the table where the men are.”

In concluding the interview, Hon. Njai implored: “My female counterparts, don’t give up. It might be difficult but it is not impossible, that is what I always say.”

Source: parliamentnews360.com

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