The issue of gender equality has been a subject of discourse for several centuries. In fact, a worldwide revolution arose from the advocacy. This is because women had at various times gone against the status quo. As for the issue of feminism, the worldwide revolt, it came in many waves and seems to be as alive as ever. So, organizations all over the globe and well-meaning prominent people use their influence to advocate against gender inequality, especially against womenfolk.
It is in this sense that the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA) challenged Nigeria and other West African states to enact legislations that would ensure gender parity. Dr. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, the speaker of the parliament, made the call at ECOFEPA’s townhall meeting in Abuja on May 6, 2023. Dr. Tunis said at the meeting that it was pertinent to create an atmosphere of equality in the countries of the sub-region for growth and harmony.
Speaker hopes other member states will emulate Sierra Leone.
President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone was appreciated at the meeting for his demonstration of commitment and political will. Recently, he signed into law the landmark Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Bill 2022. This bill guarantees the principles of inclusion, representation, participation, and a more responsive posture on gender. The speaker hopes that all other member states will replicate that action for the betterment of the womenfolk. “My sincere anticipation is that the days that have been allocated to this event would no doubt open a vista of hope for democracy West Africa,” he said.
He expressed optimism that the lessons learned at the townhall meeting will transcend the West African region and give good reasons to look up to the future with hope. The meeting was held under the theme, “Rejuvenate democracy by giving voice to the young people.” Coming at a time when the gains we have made towards strengthening democracy in the sub-region are being eroded by the sudden and unfortunate resurgence of unconstitutional changes of Government in some member states, the theme is particularly timely.
ECOFEPA meeting aligns with ECOWAS Vision 2050.
Strategically, the meeting aligned with the current ECOWAS Vision 2050, which places more emphasis on female and youth development in the region. One of its aims is to address some of the issues that have intensified gender inequalities in West Africa despite the progress made by most countries regarding women’s participation in several sectors. The ECOWAS Parliament, through the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association has been a strong promoter of scaling up the number of female representations in politics and decision-making bodies in the sub-region. Changes are doing this by emphasizing the importance of shared values and common policies as a basis for peace and sustainable development.
Indeed, one can assess the representation of females in legislative and executive arms of member states and deduce the inequality displayed by the numbers. Year 2022 data show that only five percent of the current lawmakers in Nigeria are female. Further, only 7.3 percent (8 of 109) of Nigeria’s senators are female, while only 3.6 percent (13 of 360) of the members of the House of Representatives are female. In the recently concluded election in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released a list containing all the candidates. Of the 4,223 candidates running for the 469 seats in the National Assembly, only 374 were women. This represents 8.85 percent of all the candidates.
Goodluck Jonathan Foundation director urged WA region to prioritize women.
Meanwhile, at the meeting, Executive Director, Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, Ann Iyonu, urged the West African region to prioritize female and youth representation in governance as a way of improving the countries. She emphasized that non-inclusive democracy cannot thrive and function well. Iyonu stated that women and the youth are major components of the society who should play critical roles in leadership and governance. She said that the townhall meeting aimed at giving voice to women and youth is timely but expressed disappointment over the low percentage of women elected into the next National Assembly of Nigeria. Also, the number of women and youth representatives, especially in the parliaments of West Africa, are very low compared to other regions in Africa where the gap has increasingly and progressively narrowed.