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New ECOFEPA Bureau Vows to Curb Plummeting Women’s Representation

By Melvin Tejan Mansaray, Abuja-Nigeria, Tuesday 7th December 2021

Members of the newly elected Bureau of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Female Parliamentary Association (ECOFEPA) have vowed to put together a binding document for National Assemblies to send in more women to the Community Parliament.

This disclosure was made on Tuesday 7th December 2021 at Room No.9, International Conference Center, Garki, Abuja-Nigeria, just after the conduct of the ECOFEPA Executive election for a new Bureau to replace the Hon. Isa Filomena Pereira Soares Da Costa (Cabo Verde) – led executive .

The newly elected ECOFEPA Bureau comprises, Hon. Woraye Sarr (Senegal) President-elect, Hon. Biodun Christine Olujimi (Nigeria) 1st Vice President-elect, Gabriela Alfredo Fernadez (Gunea Bissau) 2nd Vice President-elect, Hon. Moussokoura Chantal Fanny (Cote d’Ivoire) Secretary-General and Hon. Laadi Ayii Ayamba (Ghana) Treasurer.

The honorable Members of the ECOWAS Parliament (MEPs) of the new Bureau replaces, Hon. Isa Filomena Pereira Soares Da Costa (Cabo Verde) President, Hon. Kaboule Reine Bertille Sakande Benao (Burkina Faso) 1st Vice President, Hon. Biodun Olujimi (Nigeria) as 2nd Vice President and, Hon. Guiro Oulimata (Senegal) was appointed to serve as Secretary-General while Hon. Fatoumatta Njai.

Responding to a question posed by this Writer, on what the new Bureau’ plan to reverse the seeming plummeting trend of women’s participation in the Community Parliament which saw a drop from 25 female MEMs in the previous Community Assembly and now, 21 in the current Fifth Legislature of 115 MEMs, the First Vice President-elect, Hon. Olujimi said, “ it is what the newly elected President will have to bring on board.”

She added: “We have never had a clear cut arrangement on how many women should be brought to the Community Parliament by each country, but we will sit down and we will have a document that will be binding on all the Member States so that we can bring in at least thirty percent or forty percent of women into the ECOWAS Parliament.”

Hon. Olujimi confirmed that for now there is no plan on the number of women that should be sent to the ECOWAS Parliament by countries, noting that, “ but we will have to work on it. We have already missed the mark but there is no way we won’t work on it because most of the countries of West Africa believe in gender parity and so we don’t have a choice other than to work on that. Nigeria is the biggest country, amongst thirty-five MEPs we have only two women.”

In her farewell message to members of the ECOFEPA, outgoing President of ECOFEPA, Hon. Isa Filomena Pereira Soares Da Costa (Cabo Verde) thanked the leadership and support of the Community Parliament, citing the Speaker Hon. Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis for his dedication to advancing the course of women. She congratulated the new Bureau bidding farewell having served in the Parliament since 2002.

“I have been attached to this Parliament and I will continue to fight for the course of women and girls for social development in the areas of agriculture, politics, etc,” She said, registering her best of wishes for the new Bureau in their quest to fight against child marriage, sexual and gender based violence, female genital mutilation and the rights of women to own properties.

In her submission, Hon. Kaboule Reine Bertille Sakande Benao (Burkina Faso) congratulates the new Bureau and wished them well in their undertakings. She however pledged support to the incoming Bureau and their vision to defend women’s issues not only at the ECOWAS Parliament but also in other National Assemblies.

“I call on the new Bureau to make the thirty percent women’s representation a reality,” paying tribute to Hon. Olujimi for her gifts and efforts towards ECOFEPA.

ECOFEPA was established in the year 2002 to support and encourage ECOWAS Community programmes that promote the social, economic, and cultural development of the peoples of West Africa, bringing a parliamentary and political approach to the ECOWAS gender mainstreaming and towards the execution of the ECOWAS gender policy.

However, among the ECOWAS Parliament’s Standing Committees, is that of the Committee on Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment.

The Committee is responsible for matters relating to: Development of an ECOWAS policy on equal opportunities, including equality between men and women concerning employment opportunities; Harmonization of labor laws and legislation on social security; Promoting the exchange of skilled manpower among Member States, Promotion of literacy, professional training, and employment; Protection of the children’s rights and other vulnerable groups; Development of appropriate measures for the protection and assistance of children and other vulnerable groups; Monitoring the local integration of ECOWAS citizen refugees under the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Rights of Residence and Establishment; Considering issues causing humanitarian emergencies and their impact on ECOWAS Citizens; Harmonization of legislation on social protection; Solidarity building at the community level; Removal of all constraints that inhibit women from maximizing their contributions and benefits in the sub-regional integration effort; Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, including customary practices; Harmonization of associations of West African Women’s organization with relevant bilateral, multilateral and governmental Organizations.

The new ECOFEPA Bureau members will be sworn into t office any time soon to hit the ground running in ensuring that they live up to the expectation and notion that charity begins at home with more women at the Community Parliament which can then be cascaded to other spheres of the Community Institutions.

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