A three-day workshop to validate report on the Assessment of Gender Mainstreaming and Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region ended in Accra.
The report was validated and there were wide-ranging recommendations including a call on all EMBs to set up Gender Units.
The workshop, officially opened by the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr Siga Fatima Jagne represented by the Director for Social and Humanitarian Affairs, Dr Sintiki Ugbe, advocated that Gender Desks of EMBs should be well-resourced and possibly elevated to a department with sub-units to cater for issues related to youth and persons with disability.
“Each Gender Unit (should) start the process of developing long-term strategic plans for the purpose of advocacy within the leadership of the EMB and key electoral stakeholders,” recommended the workshop, attended by Focal Persons of EMBs.
The participants further called EMBs to develop an effective gender policy to assist in addressing the barriers faced by women in the electoral process.
EMBs should also work on providing during every election, gender dis-aggregated data of registered males and females, the voting pattern, and elected candidates, to allow for proper analysis, the workshop recommended.
It also called on EMBs to work with political parties, civil society, the media and other stakeholders to promote women’s participation and representation in politics.
Declaring the meeting closed on behalf of the Commissioner, Dr Ugbe urged the participants to return as strong advocates of gender mainstreaming in the political process of their respective countries.
She noted that the aggregation of positive actions at the national level would ensure the adoption of international best practices in gender mainstreaming and political inclusiveness at the regional level.
In her opening remarks, Commissioner Jagne had called on EMBs in West Africa to take concrete measures to enhance women’s political participation and representation and to make electoral processes more inclusive in the region.
“Election Management Bodies (EMBs) play an important and unique role in the consolidation of democracy and the promotion of human rights in our countries. They are, therefore, the bodies through which women’s rights can be effectively promoted,” she added.
ECOWAS has a Gender and Elections Strategic Framework and Action Plan, which was validated by regional experts and endorsed by regional Ministers in charge of women affairs in February 2017, and by the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, in June the same year.
The 10 thematic areas of the Framework or its strategic pillars have been designed into a five-year Action Plan (2017-2022), outlining some specific actions, including a mapping study on the Assessment of Gender Mainstreaming and EMBs in Electoral Processes in West Africa, which Report has now been validated by the Accra workshop.
The report highlights major impediments to gender mainstreaming in politics in West Africa, including women’s low literacy level, as well as financial and socio-cultural barriers.
It also recommends key actions to scale up the participation and representation of women and other vulnerable groups to ensure inclusiveness in the electoral process, such as an adequate representation of women at EMBs and political parties and proper funding of Gender Units at EMBs.
This validated report will be finalised by ECOWAS and ECONEC will form the basis for an Action Plan for the enhancement of gender mainstreaming within EMBs in the ECOWAS region.
Among the workshop attendees were Maria do Rosario Goncalves, Chair of Cabo Verde’s National Electoral Commission, who is also deputy Treasurer of the ECONEC governing board, Amada Aladoua, Vice-Chair of Niger’s National Electoral Commission and staff of the ECONEC Secretariat.