The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on Monday, called on Nigerian government to ensure that the number of women holding political offices as the country prepares for the 2019 General Elections is increased.
The Commissioner of Social Affairs and Gender, ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, gave the charge in Abuja at the First Session of the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA) Regional Summit.
The summit is titled: “ECOWAS Women’s Political Participation and Representation in Democracy and Governance in West Africa.”
Jagne, who noted that currently, Senegal has the highest female representation of 41.8%, disclosed that Nigeria has the lowest representation with 6.4% in national parliaments.
She said the statistics of female representation in the national parliaments of ECOWAS member states as at February , 2018, showed a regional average of about 14% parliamentary seats occupied by women in West Africa.
According to her, women representation will make a difference in the lives of people in West Africa.
She stressed that the launch of the ECOWAS Gender Election and Strategic Framework will further deepen the women’s participation in politics in the region.
Her words: “It is one of the most important thing we have been working in West Africa. If you remember in the speech we talk about this thing we have started since 2010 and it just finally coming into fruition.
“It is extremely important because we are at cross road in West Africa with a lot of problems and challenges. We feel that women participating in election and representing their constituents will make a big difference in the lives of people in the west Africa.
“We think that as long as women are lost out, we won’t get to where we want to go. We want to work hand-in-hand. We hope it will happen with the launch of this programme today for the ECOWAS countries .
“Senegal made a law to have fifty percent representation of women and fifty percent representation of men in parliament. And I think other countries in West Africa can take a cue from Senegal and do that .
“For Nigeria, we will urge them since they have low percentage of women to also work on legislation for the 2019 elections to ensure that women, if not 50%, at least move up from 6% they are to 25% and gradually take it to 50%.”
The President of ECOFEPA and a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Stella Odua, said it would be easier for member countries to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if there is a deliberate policy and action to include women in government.
In her speech, the Danish Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Mette Thygesen, said the summit will contribute to the construction of strong networks in West Africa where all the women can air their views.
“You are the strong voices of women throughout West Africa. And you are the ones who can help ensure that eventually, girls will enjoy the same rights and opportunities as boys,” she said.