The Directorate of Humanitarian and Social Affairs engaged virtually with ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), Women Leaders, ECOWAS Election Assistance and Democracy and Good Governance Divisions, Civil Society Organisations and Independent Experts to fashion ways to increase effective engagement, participation and inclusion of women in the electoral processes and representation in Political and Governance processes in the ECOWAS region in general.
The interaction took place during the Second ECOWAS Annual Gender Policy Dialogue on Women Participation in Peace and Political Processes with the theme: Increasing Women Participation in Electoral Processes in the ECOWAS Region. The meeting had in attendance Heads and Representatives of Member States’ Electoral Commissions from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Senegal, Liberia, Togo, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
At the Opening Ceremony, the Commissioner, Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, represented by Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs welcomed the participants and congratulated Member States that have successfully held their General Elections in 2019 and 2020. She specially thanked the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU) for the new partnership and collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission and the Swedish Government for funding the activity.
She expressed delight that Constitutional and Multiparty Democracy is being firmly rooted in the region despite numerous challenges. She reiterated that lasting peace can only be guaranteed in the region when Democratic Institutions have representation reflective of the different groups in the society. She stressed that inclusive election and democracy are key to peace and stability in the region.
She therefore charged participants to use their networks and continue to advocate for equal inclusion and representation of women, non-violent election as well as adherence to and respect for Code of Conduct Provisions as contained in the African Charter on Elections, Democracy and Good Governance during and after elections.
In his Remarks, the Sweden Ambassador to Nigeria, H. E Carl-Michael Gran, represented by the Deputy Head of Mission in the Embassy, Ms. Anna Rääs, thanked the ECOWAS Commission and the UNOAU for a successful collaboration and also congratulated the Republic of Ghana for a successful General Election. She affirmed the Government of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy and commitment to promoting programmes that ensure the increased participation of women in Peace Operations and other Processes through its Agency for Peace, Security and Development – the Folke Bernadotte Academy. She reiterated that sustainable peace can only be achieved in the society by including women, who make up to half of the population in every Election and Peace process.
In her Remarks on behalf of the UNOAU, Ms. Elizabeth Eilor appreciated the new partnership between the ECOWAS Commission and the UNOAU. She calls for adequate funding of Women, Peace and Security programmes in the continent. She added that with excellent collaboration with Non State Actors and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) like ECOWAS, meaningful impact would be made for women inclusiveness in every Conflict Prevention, Peace and Mediation Process.
During the Panel Discussion on Best Practices and Policy Spaces and Opportunities for Accelerating Women’s Participation in Electoral Processes at National and Regional Levels; the meeting agreed on critical measures in furthering women participation and inclusion in electoral processes: including adoption of Gender Policy and the creation of Gender Departments within Member States Electoral Commissions, inclusion of more females in ECOWAS long and short term election observation missions, sustained advocacy to Member states using the Gender and Elections Strategic Framework (GESF) and working with the Transformation Groups established by ECONEC, greater coordination and synergy of ECOWAS and partners working in the area of Women, Peace and Security and the use of Monitoring frameworks like the Continental Results Framework (CRF) on WPS to track and measure progress.
In closing, the ECOWAS Commission and the UNOAU reiterated their commitment to implementing programmes geared towards the inclusiveness of women in all levels of Peace and Security Architecture in the region. The Partner organizations in attendance include UNOAU, FemWise West Africa, WANEP, WACSI, ECONEC and Independent Experts.