Goodluck Jonathan Foundation wants special seats for women in ECOWAS region to increase women and youth representation in political offices, especially in parliament, to inspire and encourage more women and young people in politics
The Executive Director of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, Ms Ann Iyonu, has called on members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to prioritise women and youth participation in governance as a way of balancing the alarming percentage of this category of persons in the sub-region.
Ms Iyonu made the call during the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA) ongoing Townhall in Abuja, Nigeria, with more than 350 women and youths drawn across the sub-region to participate and network as a way of rejuvenating democracy by giving a voice to Women and Youth on the theme ‘Stimulating a regional Dynamics for Mentoring the Next Generation of Decision Makers.’
Positing that democracy cannot thrive if it is not inclusive of women and youth, she called for conscious and deliberate effort in changing the status quo of women and youth through education programmes that will boost their knowledge and skills through civic engagements, politics, leadership and public speaking through mentorship and networking opportunities.
She said the Townhall is aimed at giving voice to women and youth, which is timely but expressed disappointment over the low percentage of women elected in the next Assembly of Nigeria.
“Women and youth representatives, especially in the West African Parliaments of the West Africa region, are very low compared to other regions in Africa where the gap has increasingly and progressively narrowed.
Only 15.7 per cent of the average proportion of seats held by women in the national Parliaments, which means the region is lacking behind other Parliaments in Africa like East Africa with 30.8 per cent, Central Africa 21.7 per cent, North Africa with 20.3 per cent,” she noted.
Iyonu, who said the adoption of technologies in politics will attract women and youths to participate in politics, further called for special seats to be dedicated to women and youth to increase the numbers, “this might not be something we like to hear, our various governments will not like to hear it but one of the measures which we can use to increase the participation of women is to dedicate special seats to increase representation of women and youths in political positions especially in parliament to inspire and encourage more women and young people in politics.”
In her welcome remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA), Hon. Worayr Sarr, said that the activity is strategically tied to the ECOWAS Vision 2050 shared value and a desire to have a common future, adding that the objective can be realised if, women are given more importance. Sarr said that with over 350 women and youth gathered across the sub-region, it was hoped that the number would increase to 10,000 by 2030.
On the increase of women’s participation in politics, the Sierra Leonean Parliamentarian further urged that various governments and Members of Parliament (MPs) in the region to be proactive and progressive in the implementation of the 30% quota in their respective parliaments and delegations.
In the same vein, the regional chairman of the West Africa Youth Assembly, Emmanuel Chea, called for the establishment of the ECOWAS Youth Parliament, incorporation of West Africa Youth Assembly as part of the ECOWAS Parliament and ECOWAS Commission Election Monitoring Team, and the establishment of the ECOWAS Youth envoy. Chea lauded the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, for being a man of the youth and women.
In her goodwill message, the Country Representative of United Nations (UN) Women, Beatrice Eyong, while thanking the Speaker for giving a budget for the activities of ECOFEPA, also bemoaned the low representation of women in politics, stressing the domination of the political space by one gender cannot continue to be encouraged especially, with the increased number of women and youth in the region.
In his opening remarks, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, said the ECOWAS Parliament considers empowerment of the demography a major key in ensuring smooth democracy in the sub-region.
Tunis said the meeting provides an opportunity for constituents to have one-to-one interactions with their representatives, adding that it is the first in the history of ECOWAS to bring over three hundred and fifty women and youth under one hall for the purpose of sharing experiences and ideas that are geared towards complementing regional integration, women and youth development and progress in West Africa.
“Permit me to also use this opportunity to acknowledge and commend the very important steps being taken by ECOWAS Member States to address Gender issues. Of particular note is the demonstration of commitment and political will exhibited by President Julius Maada Bio of the Republic of Sierra Leone, who recently signed into law the landmark Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Bill 2022, guaranteeing the principles of inclusion, representation, participation, and a more responsive posture on gender. We are hopeful that similar action will be replicated in all our Member States.
My sincere anticipation is that the days that have been allocated to this event would no doubt open a vista of hope for democracy in our region. I am optimistic that the lessons learned at the end of this town hall meeting, would transcend our region. With our ambitious and vibrant young population, we have good reasons to look up to the future.”
Dr Tunis also noted that the allocation of a budget line to the ECOFEPA in the ECOWAS Parliament annual budget has facilitated the empowerment of women and strengthened the fight against Gender-Based discrimination.