“The ECOWAS Commission has made considerable efforts to ensure that women are at the heart of socio-economic development in the region”
UNOWAS Magazine spoke to Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Dr. Jagne tells us about the implementation of Resolution 1325 in the region and the achievements of his organization for gender equality.
What is your personnel assessment of the implementation of resolution 1325?
My assessment of Resolution 1325 are derived from the assessments carried out in the region by research organizations, Women’s Organizations and also and especially the ECOWAS Commission. Overall, we have noted very significant results in advocacy work for the participation of women in conflict prevention in the region. Women, Peace and Security Action plans have been developed and implemented in most of our Member States.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and commend the preponderant roles played by sectoral Ministries and Civil Society Organizations.
However, I also remained unsatisfied with regard to the involvement of women in decision-making bodies and the effective protection of their rights against all forms of violence.
Indeed, there is a paradox between the key roles played by women in household management, community management, the management of certain agricultural sectors, ingenuity in the informal sector and their status as subordinates or even minors in decision-making power, in their rights to property and transmission of assets, in individual freedoms and the protection of their physical and psychological integrity against all forms of violence.
The inextricable link between these rights and the preservation of peace and security is well established. We must therefore adopt a systemic approach to understand the interrelationships between gender inequalities and discrimination and issues of Peace and Security in the Region.
Enormous efforts have been made to support all Member States except for a few ones, to develop national action plans (NAPs) for the implementation of R1325.
On the other hand, enormous efforts have been made to support all Member States except for a few ones, to develop national action plans (NAPs) for the implementation of R1325.
However, due to resource constraints, many of these plans were just in papers and very little in terms of implementation.
What are the major achievements of ECOWAS for the last 20 years (in Women, Peace and Security)?
The ECOWAS Commission has made considerable efforts to ensure that women are at the heart of socio-economic development in the region. It is this political commitment at the highest level that made it possible to adopt in 2008 an ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework commonly known as ECPF.
ECPF includes fourteen components that constitute the chain of initiatives aimed at strengthening human security and integrating conflict prevention (operational and structural), peace-building activities.
ECPF Component 10, entitled Women, Peace, and Security, aims at facilitating the implementation of the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1325; relevant provisions of the 1993 ECOWAS Revised Treaty, in particular Article 63; and the provisions dedicated to Women and Youths in Articles 40, 42 and 43 of the ECOWAS Additional Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
To translate these gender policy documents into operational programs, ECOWAS, through its Center for Gender Development (EGDC) adopted the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and related ones, in 2010, thanks to the financial support of UNDP.
After adoption of this plan, in collaboration with UNOWAS and UN Women, ECOWAS supported the establishment of national action plans on Resolution 1325 in 13 ECOWAS Member States between 2010 and 2014. The Plans ultimate goal was to accelerate the efforts of ECOWAS Member States in the implementation of international, continental and regional commitments regarding Women, Peace and Security.
In 2017, ECOWAS also adopted an ECPF Action Plan for the Women, Peace and Security Component
In 2017, ECOWAS also adopted an ECPF Action Plan for the Women, Peace and Security Component. This Plan is the result of consultations with government mechanisms, civil society actors and technical and financial partners on the region’s priorities in terms of leadership and inclusion of the specific needs of women in matters of peace and security in the region.
We can also cite the establishment of an Early Warning System at the regional level with a component aimed at integrating the gender dimension into the alert system based on disaggregated gender data on victims, informants, the differentiated roles and impacts between women and men, the analysis of gender-specific needs, etc.
To this again, we can add the production of a Manual and Training Modules on the integration of Gender in the ECOWAS Early Warning System with a view to including gender into the different phases of early warning, especially in the collection and analysis of data as well as the formulation and implementation of appropriate responses.
The Social Affairs and Gender Department, through ECOWAS Center for Gender Development (EGDC) has also made additional efforts to promote peace and security in West Africa, by establishing regional mechanisms involving civil society organizations. Thus, working in the field of Women and Security, the Network on Peace and Security for Women in the ECOWAS Region (NOPSWECO) and the West African Network of Young Women Leaders (ROAJELF) were created EGDC in 2009.
Technical and financial support provided to the national branches of NOPSWECO and RAOJELF made it possible to develop awareness programs on Peace and Security and to combine these activities with economic programs with the Village Savings and Credit Associations (VSLAs) in order to guarantee lasting peace and promote the fight against poverty feminization.
ECOWAS has also transformed the Committee of Wise Men into a Committee of Wise Persons in order to enable the integration of women in the mechanism of preventive diplomacy in matters of peace and security for the West Africa region.
A Gender and Elections Action Plan was also adopted in 2017 to ensure the participation of women and girls in elections and their protection during electoral and post-electoral times.
Our interventions go as far as supporting victims of Gender-Based Violence and organizing awareness-raising campaigns on the fight against impunity and advocacy for legislation on zero tolerance for gender-based crimes, including rape.
In collaboration with UNOWAS, dialogue with decision-makers has also taken place through solidarity missions in conflict countries.
The partnership also continues through the contribution of ECOWAS to the Women, Youths, Peace and Security Working Group in West Africa and the Sahel, as a founding member of this group.
As a regional organization, what can you do more to advance the cause of women and youths?
Today, despite the remarkable work carried out by ECOWAS in terms of advocacy and actions for the involvement of women in conflict prevention, their effective presence in decision-making and their protection in conflict situations and post-conflict are still major challenges. Women, girls, and children are the main victims of political and social violence. It is therefore necessary to promote the culture of peace and implement the action plan of the Women, Peace and Security Component of the ECPF to accelerate the regional integration of peoples and lasting peace in the region.
Women must be permanently involved in conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms
Women must be permanently involved in conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms. Indeed, as you know, in terms of security in West Africa certain countries are exposed to insecurity and the youth population have become targets for cross-border crime and radicalism, the rapid urbanization of the majority of its countries and the birth of terrorist and jihadist groups on the Sahel-Saharan strip have further compounded the situation. To this, we must add the challenges of governance and poverty. Indeed, of the 15 ECOWAS member states, 11 are among the poorest countries in the world.
This difficult context should push us towards more synergy by involving the 52% of the population which are women and 66% of the population who are young people in our region. They must be sufficiently involved in the decision making to prevent and alert on threats to peace and security and participate in peacekeeping.
Currently, my Department is mobilizing with other departments of the Commission and with United Nations and Civil Society partners to prevent the possible risks of conflicts and their impacts on women, youths, and children in countries going for elections by December 2020 and in 2021. An important emphasis will be put on advocacy and strong actions will be taken for peaceful and transparent elections, but above all for an effective and productive participation of women in these elections.
I must also add that after having trained women mediators to support peace initiatives in the region and contribute to the construction of viable solutions for countries in conflict situations, my Department is mobilizing today, in a continental dynamic set in motion by the African Union, to support the West Africa FEMWISE regional platform.
To support democratic governance in our countries, my Department also works to strengthen the participation of women in decision-making bodies through the promotion of laws on gender equity and laws for zero tolerance for sexual and gender-based violence in our member states, especially in the context of COVID-19.
The place of youths is also to be reconsidered in the construction of peace. I said earlier, speaking of ECOWAS achievements, that we have set up peace clubs in certain countries. This is very beneficial but does not however address the propensities for conflict and violence in public and domestic spaces.
An ambitious training program for young people to reduce endemic unemployment in the region, coupled with awareness-raising on peace and security, would certainly make it possible to fight against radicalism and violent terrorism, cross-border economic crime and sexual and gender-based violence. My Department is also working on that.
We remain convinced that the demographic dividend of Youths could also be realized in promising sectors such as the cultural and creative industry, backed by training and awareness programs on peace and security prevention.
My Department intends to rely heavily on its two operational levers which are the ECOWAS Gender Development Center (EGDC) based in Dakar and the ECOWAS Youth and Sport Development Center (EYSDC) based in Ouagadougou for the implementation of large-scale programs for the consolidation of peace in the region.
Today, we have a woman appointed Prime Minister in Togo and women candidates for the presidential elections in Burkina Faso and Guinea
In terms of participation, how do you see the future of women in WA?
The future of Women in West Africa is quite promising. Today, we have a woman appointed Prime Minister in Togo and women candidates for the presidential elections in Burkina Faso and Guinea. We also had, in the past, a woman President of a Republic. I mean Her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson SIRLEAF in Liberia. The law criminalizing rape has been passed in Senegal and quota and gender equity laws exist in countries like Cabo Verde, Guinea, Niger, and Senegal.
Experience has finally shown us that when the technical approach, I mean the capacity to develop good laws on women’s political involvement, is established and if it is paired with a political approach to maintain dialogue with decision-makers, we can achieve convincing results. Women’s and youth organizations are full of potentials that need to be released to support the social and economic transformations sought for the region.
In terms of women’s economic empowerment, thanks to the joint efforts between the ECOWAS Commission and its Member States, the contribution of women in the agricultural value chain has greatly improved. We have also set up a regional platform to interconnect women entrepreneurs in the region, thanks to support from the African Development Bank (50 Million African Women Speak).
Children were not left out; an important child protection program is being carried out in some ECOWAS countries thanks to the support of the Italian Cooperation and the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Support Project for the Protection of Child Victims of Rights Violations - PAPEV).
What message would you like to deliver to women/ youth organizations and governments in the sub-region?
First, I would like to deliver a message of comfort to all victims of the Corona virus pandemic. To all the families who have lost one of their own and to all those who are fighting against the disease, I express my solidarity and my compassion.
I would also like to express my gratitude to all the ministries in charge of Gender, Family and Women in ECOWAS Member States and the Women’s and Youth Organizations of the Region, for the remarkable work they are carrying out in West Africa to support ECOWAS humanitarian, social, and gender programs. As you know, the only reason for the existence of ECOWAS is to daily serve the populations of our Community. This work would not have been realized without the constant support of these Ministries and Organizations. This is therefore the moment to thank them and also to invite them to further build more synergy in order to accomplish the ambitious and vast project of regional integration especially for the benefits of women, youth and children.