Regional experts on gender and elections have ended a two-day workshop in Accra, Ghana, calling on the ECOWAS Commission to intensify efforts towards gender mainstreaming across its operations, structures and systems, and to ensure equitable participation and representation of women in elections in the region.
In their recommendations, the experts, who validated a Baseline Assessment Report on Gender Mainstreaming in Elections by the ECOWAS Commission, urged the Commission to “develop, disseminate and implement its Gender Policy, as it relates to various ECOWAS normative frameworks, including the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance of 2001.
The Commission is further urged to adequately resource and strengthen the Department of Social Affairs and Gender and the ECOWAS Gender and Development Centre with financial and human capacity for effective tracking and/or monitoring of gender responsive actions within the Commission and in member States.
The Commission, through its Electoral Assistance Division (EAD), should also create and use Gender and Election Experts’ database, to enhance gender equity in the deployment of Short- and Long-Term Observation Missions, the workshop recommended.
In addition, the experts urged the Commission to work with gender focused Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to support ECOWAS political party development initiatives on gender mainstreaming.
Capacity should also be built around the ECOWAS Gender and Elections Strategic Framework (GESF), to secure the necessary buy-in and effective implementation.
The assessment Report, validated by the experts, 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. These include the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), and with the financial support by the European Union, under the EU-ECOWAS Peace, Security and Stability Mandate (EU-ECOWAS PSS) Project.
In her address to the opening ceremony of the 6-7 May, 2019 workshop, the ECOWAS 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 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.
In the address read by the ECOWAS Director of Social and Humanitarian Affairs, Dr. Sintiki Ugbe, the Commissioner said: “The purpose of the report is to increase ECOWAS’ accountability to integrating gender in key Peace, Security and Stability (PSS) Project result areas, in this case: Elections,” adding that “The rationale is that integrating gender… will strengthen the effectiveness of ECOWAS Conflict Prevention and Response at Regional and National levels.”
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.”
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 included 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 Election Management Bodies (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.