Experts drawn from across the region are examining the Gender and Elections Strategic Framework of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The Two-Day exercise is meant among others, to bring to light, the challenges faced by the Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in the 15th ECOWAS Member States in promoting women participation in elections and fashion out strategies to address same using the developed questionnaire as the main tool of assessment.
Opening the technical meeting of the transformation team of the ECOWAS Gender and Elections Strategic Framework on the 11th of October 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria, the ECOWAS Director, Gender, Dr. Sintiki Ugbe noted that the EMBs are key to the implementation and enhancement of the Framework which came into being in 2017.
She said the meeting serves as a consultation platform enabling participants to look at the kind of questions to be sent to the EMBs so as to get a clear picture of what they are doing and to mainstream gender into their activities and programmes appropriately.
Dr. Sintiki further disclosed that a lot of issues have come up as work with the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) progressed which bordered on the nature, non-permanence, composition and operational modus of some of the EMBs .
She stressed that the meeting aims at adapting the Framework to gather necessary information that can be used as advocacy and even resource mobilization tools.
It is for this and other reasons, she maintained, that specialists in the meeting were selected to include gender, mediation, elections monitoring and communication experts give a critical look at these questions to see whether all of the arising issues are well covered.
The exercise before the experts, she noted, is akin to taking a snapshot to be present to the EMBs for a second look in order to check whether the identified essentials have been duly captured.
It was further disclosed that similar studies on gender have been done while there is a need to have realistic expectations once the tool is validated after engaging the EMBs.
“Now we are saying that peace and security is a major contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That is why there is no amount of money that you can give to the women in the North-East (of Nigeria) today that will solve their problem unless peace and security prevails in the area” Dr. Sintiki added.
The Head, ECOWAS’s Commission Electoral Assistance Division Mr. Francis Oke said the participants have been carefully selected to achieve envisaged result and wished them fruitful deliberations.
Presentations were made subject matter specialist Theophiluis Dowetin and gender and elections expert Antoinette Mbrou on assessing gender mainstreaming by the EMBs in electoral processes in West Africa.
The experts, specialists and resource persons including the Executive Director of Impact for Change and Development Dr. Naomi Akpan-Ita are interfacing against the background of the glaring state of gender paucity in election in West Africa with the relevance of political rights of women being often reduced to a dot point in election observer reports.
The ECOWAS Commission believes that although women and youth, make up the majority of the population and electorate, the electoral processes in most ECOWAS member States fail to sufficiently include women and youth thereby creating a need to deliberately pursue greater gender mainstreaming in electoral processes in the region.
The meeting is expected to do an update on the implementation of the ECOWAS Gender and Elections Strategic Framework.
The questionnaire (embodying 65 posers) being examined and improved upon are expected to be sent to the Focal Persons of the EMBs who have been categorized as primary sources of information.