Gambian Lawmaker, Hon. Fatmata Njai says the ECOWAS Parliament can achieve 30 per cent representation of women in parliament only if it rejects nominations from countries not meeting the criteria.
Njai expressed this thought while speaking with journalists during the Fifth Legislature’s Delocalised meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament holding in Monrovia with the theme, “Empowerment of Women in the ECOWAS Region.”
Njai said it was pertinent to note that some countries lacked female representation in the Conference of Bureau in the ECOWAS Parliament, a trend which she said was in disregard “of the ECOWAS Rules of Procedures.”
“The Rules of Procedures mentioned that each member country should have a female representation at the Conference of Bureau.
“Each country has three members in the Conference of Bureau, so, each country can at least have one female member which will be thirty per cent representation.
“I think if we are to preach something, we should be seen acting what we preach.
“We can ask countries to send 30 per cent and we must enforce that as well.
“But if countries say that they do not have 30 per cent, what is stopping them from having 30 per cent?
“It is not that they do not have females in these countries. They have them and they have competent women as well, but why are they not winning elections?
“I think that is the question,” Njai said.
The Gambian lawmaker urged countries in the sub-region to create a level-playing field for all genders in order to be able to address the question of why women are not winning elections.
“When I first joined the ECOWAS Parliament, we were 25 women in number. We have lost some of the women and I think now we are 18 in number which is something that should be addressed.
“Why are women losing elections, and why are countries not sending the 30 per cent as stipulated and is required from them by ECOWAS.
“I think that if countries send a list that is short of 30 per cent, the ECOWAS should reject that list,” Njai added.
She urged women not to just sit down, fold their arms, and wait until they were “given the ball to play.
“We should actually demand it or grab it ourselves. So, I don’t see that as a problem. I see us women being our own enemies because like somebody mentioned, if a woman wants to run for office, it is the same women that would refuse to vote for them, and for us being in the majority why should that happen?
“We should vote for our fellow women and be at the table where the men are.
“I implore my female counterparts not to give up. It might be difficult but it is not impossible, that is what I always say.’’ the Gambian lawmaker said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the First Lady of Liberia, Mrs Clar Marie Weah, also reminded ECOWAS Parliamentarians of some of the challenges confronting women and girls across the sub-region
Mrs. Weah spoke during the opening ceremonies of the 5th ECOWAS Parliament’s delocalized meeting of the joint committee on Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment; Education; Science and Culture; and Health at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town.
Mrs. Weah, who named the increased wave of sexual gender based-violence (SGBV), female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, teenage pregnancy and limited access to sexual and reproductive health rights as some of the challenges charged the regional parliamentary body’s utmost attention to find lasting solutions.
She noted that even where there has been progress in peace-building and security across member states, over the last ten decades, “this has not been translated into actions to eliminate violence against women and girls,” she said.
According to the Liberian First Lady, the meeting’s theme, “Empowerment of Women in ECOWAS Region.” was indicative of the need for a common approach to ensuring that no girl or woman in the region is deprived of any opportunity on the basis of her gender.
Ambassador Weah told participants at the meeting to ensure that their deliberations and quest for women and girls’ empowerment be inclusive of all women and not a few groups.
“The broad scope of the theme on empowerment of women in the ECOWAS region, speaks of the lofty goals and targets that we all need to set our eyes on over the coming days of talks, discussions and deliberations.
“We should not just be discussing about the empowerment or elevation of a certain class of the women folk in ECOWAS, or women in politics, public space or the private sector; we should not just be talking about women in business or in boardrooms, we should be talking about all women, of all races and from all walks of life.
“Across every sector and in every corner of our region, we are here to talk about taking serious steps to ensure that every woman and every female in our region has access to all that she needs to ensure that she fulfils her potential and contributes to the development of her society,” she said.