A two-day experts’ workshop opened in Accra, Ghana on Monday, 6th May, 2019 to validate a Baseline Assessment Report on Gender Mainstreaming in Elections by the ECOWAS Commission.
In her address to the opening ceremony, the Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, ECOWAS Commission, Dr Siga Fatima Jagne, said the meeting was part of efforts to “introduce a gender monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the consistency in the implementation of the Action Plan of the ECOWAS Gender and Election Strategic Framework,” which was endorsed in 2017 by regional Ministers in charge of Women Affairs and the ECOWAS Council of Ministers.
The assessment Report was commissioned in January, 2018 with inputs from the ECOWAS Departments of Social Affairs and Gender, and Political Affairs, Peace and Security, specifically, the Electoral Assistance Division, and other ECOWAS Commission Institutions, national structures and stakeholders, including the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), with financial support by the European Union, under the EU-ECOWAS Peace, Security and Stability Mandate (EU-ECOWAS PSS) Project.
“The purpose of the report we are here to validate is to increase ECOWAS’ accountability to integrating gender in key PSS Project result areas, in this case: Elections. The rationale is that integrating gender… will strengthen the effectiveness of ECOWAS Conflict Prevention and Response at Regional and National levels,” the Commissioner said, in the address read by the ECOWAS Director of Social and Humanitarian Affairs, Dr Sintiki Ugbe.
She thanked the EU for its support, adding that the assessment “is to identify gaps, challenges and best practices relating to gender and election issues in the region,” and to also “define in a systematic way a Work Plan that can further strengthen the work of the Electoral Assistance Division, and which can be used for advocacy to mobilise the needed resources.”
The Commissioner therefore, urged participants including election and legal experts, representatives of Election Management Bodies (EMBs), ECOWAS, ECONEC, EU-ECOWAS PSS Project, and civil society, “to work with us in defining our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and to identify areas where the work of the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division and Gender can enhance women’s participation and representation in elections.”
Specifically, she reminded them to apply the ten strategic pillars of the ECOWAS Gender and Elections Strategic Framework and Action Plan “to interrogate the various issues and challenges underpinning ECOWAS efforts and strategies to improve the integration of gender equality perspectives in political parties’ governance processes, structures and systems.”
The Commissioner called for a thorough review of the report and its recommendations, and validation of “the findings that can serve as reference and guide to strengthen gender mainstreaming in the electoral process in West Africa.”
In his remarks, a representative of the EU-ECOWAS PSS Project Mr Juvenal Turatsinze described the workshop as timely, coming at a time of advanced conversation for the extension of the implementation period of the PSS Project.
“Gender is not only about democracy but also development,” he said, noting that this was part of the first steps in the enormous work required towards the realisation of gender mainstreaming and political inclusiveness in the ECOWAS region. He noted that gender mainstreaming and electoral assistance remain a priority of the PSS Project.
The workshop attendees include Madam Maria do Rosario Goncalves, Chair of Cabo Verde’s National Electoral Commission, who is also deputy Treasurer of the ECONEC governing board, Madam Genevieve Boko Nadjo, Vice-Chair of Benin Republic’s National Electoral Commission, Madam Amlan Victoire Alley, a Commissioner at Cote d’Ivoire’s National Electoral Commission, and Staff of the ECONEC Secretariat.
The meeting followed a just-ended similar workshop, also in Accra, which validated a separate Assessment Report on Gender Mainstreaming and EMBs in West Africa, which among other recommendations, urged EMBs to set up well-resourced Gender Desks to promote women’s participation and representation for enhanced political inclusiveness.