The ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC) is organizing a regional meeting of
Experts via videoconference, followed by a Ministerial meeting on: “Sexual and Gender-
based Violence and the Status of Girls’ and Women’s Rights during the Covid-19
Pandemic and Beyond” from 5 th to 9 th October, 2020.
This important meeting, organized
in partnership with the NGOs Plan International, UNICEF, World Vision, and the Office of
the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), brings together key
stakeholders in the gender sector and the protection of women and girls from the 15
ECOWAS Member States.
This meeting of experts was officially launched today Monday, 5 th October, 2020 by the
Honourable Siga Fatima Jagne, ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender
Affairs, after the welcome remarks delivered by Dr Bolanlé Adetoun, Director of EGDC,
subsequently followed by speeches delivered by the various partners including GIABA,
Plan International, UNICEF, World Vision, OHCHR and the Canada Regional
Development Program which have contributed to this crucial theme of sexual and gender-
based violence and the protection of women and girls in West Africa.
“Our meeting today will provide all the quintessence of ECOWAS reflections on
the fight against sexual and gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic
and proffer strong recommendations that will be submitted to the Ministers of
Gender and Women’s Affairs for adoption..…, we are convinced that you will utilize
your various experiences and expertise and thorough understanding of Gender
issues to provide us with enlightened solutions for our future interventions, to the
great delight of our populace, particularly Women and Girls”, The ECOWAS
Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender stated in her keynote address.
This series of ECOWAS ministerial and expert meetings have several objectives.
They include, among others, to review the effects of COVID-19 on women and girls, particularly
with regard to sexual and gender-based violence and child marriage, as well as
opportunities for the empowerment of women and girls; to call for renewed actions relating
to the implementation of the ECOWAS Roadmap on the prevention of child marriage; and
to share the experiences of ECOWAS Member States relating to their prevention and
response activities on various issues of sexual and gender-based violence prior to and
during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The experts will also discuss and make recommendations on responses designed to
address the escalation of sexual and gender-based violence observed during the COVID-
19 pandemic; discuss key advocacy issues on gender, women's and girls' rights and
responses to COVID-19, using the “Draft ECOWAS Action Plan on Gender-Sensitive Response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) ” as a guide.
They will also be called upon to proffer recommendations to reduce the exacerbated inequalities and
negative impacts of COVID-19 on the girl child during and after the pandemic, and to
review the terms of reference for the establishment of Member States’ stakeholders’
networks against sexual and gender-based violence;
Finally, the experts will review and recommend a key Declaration for Ministers of Women's
Affairs on “Sexual and gender-based violence and the rights of women and girls during the
Covid-19 Pandemic”; review and recommend a Draft Declaration for ECOWAS Heads of
State and Governments on zero tolerance to all forms of sexual and gender-based
violence, at all times and under any circumstance in the ECOWAS region.
It should be recalled that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the status of women and
girls, taking into account all parameters of human security – including economic, food,
health, personal, community, environmental, and political security. Conflict situations,
epidemics and pandemics have historically exacerbated gender inequalities and
discrimination, as well as escalation in gender-based violence – The COVID-19 pandemic
is no exception. Indeed, worldwide, there has been an alarming escalation in gender-
based violence, including in West African countries, and girls and young women have
been the most affected, especially in the area of sexual violence.