From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
As the world commemorated the International Women’s Day (IWD) yesterday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission Women Forum, lamented the imbalance in the management positions within ECOWAS.
President of the ECOWAS Commission Women Forum, Hajiya Raheemat Omoro Momodu, while speaking during a virtual event to mark the 2021 International Women’s Day, said the management positions in ECOWAS had become a boys club.
Momodu noted that this year’s celebration of the IWD came on the heels of the glorious and sweet triumph of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first female and black Director-General of WTO and Mrs. Kamala Harris as the first female Vice President of the United States of America.
Momodu said: “As charity begins at home, let’s relate this message to ECOWAS. Sadly, this statement is true of ECOWAS as ECOWAS remains mostly a ‘boys club’ in terms of representation, especially in management and decision making spaces.”
Momodu also said a quick peep showed that ECOWAS had three female out of 16 statutory appointees at the Commission, which was 18.75 percent and seven female directors out of 45 directors in all ECOWAS institutions, amounting to 15.5 percent, including two female special representatives who were temporary staff.
“This means we have two female special representatives out of 14 (14.2 percent). And please, let no one tell me that representation is only numbers and does not matter.
“Representation matters and counts, if not, lets flip the situation. The ECOWAS Commission should lead by example to the member states so as to be in the position to insist the member states comply with the beautiful ECOWAS Gender Equality texts we have developed,” Momodu also said.
Momodu further lamented that 46 years after the birth of ECOWAS and its principal institutions, there was absence of a Gender Mainstreaming Strategy and Gender Equality goals/targets for internal purposes.
“It is time that we conduct a gender audit of the entire ECOWAS Community Institutions to inform a transformative Gender Mainstreaming Policy which will contain a Strategy and Implementation Practical Guidelines/Standard Operational Procedures. Another important step in this regard is a gender sensitive Staff Rules and Regulations,” Momodu added.
On her part, the Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Mary Ekpere-Eta, said the International Women’s Day was another opportunity to take time out to reflect on the situation of women and girls, assess progress made and take appropriate steps to advance their cause and provide relevant remedies.
Ekpere-Eta who spoke at a press briefing organised by the NCWD in Abuja to mark the IWD, hailed all women and frontline respondents across the world for their immense tenacity and contributions towards raising their voices and making a choice to challenge existing discriminatory structures, policies, programmes and fight against Gender Based Violence that increased at an alarming rate during the heat of the covid19 pandemic lockdown.
“As we celebrate this day, I would like us to spare a thought for the many women and girls in our country who have endured inequalities, suffered hardships and in some cases, have paid the supreme sacrifice to ensure that our communities move on. Today, we salute the courage and resilience of the Nigerian woman who has stood firm in her resolve to produce a great nation and choose to challenge all existing gaps and discrimination.
“On this note, I call on all stakeholders to join the National Centre for Women Development in choosing to Challenge: Sexual/Gender Based Violence, Patriarchy, discrimination against women, etc,” Ekpere-Eta said.
Also briefing journalists in Abuja, the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs (NAWE), said the Nigerian society was patriarchal in nature which was a major feature of a traditional society.
It added that the country was a structure of a set of social relations with material base which enabled men to dominate women.
National President of NAWE, Barrister Vera Ndanusa, said Women were discriminated upon from, in most cases, acquiring formal education, mistreated and perpetually kept as house-help.
Ndanusa stated that the average Nigerian woman was seen as an available object for prostitution, forced marriage, street hawking, instrument of wide-range trafficking and a misfit in the society.
“Thus, the purported irrelevance associated with the status of women in society has merely reduced an average woman to an inferior commodity.
“The patriarchal society sets the parameters for women’s structurally unequal position in families and society. This explains even why many women are still under represented even in politics, economic and social aspects of life through out the Nigerian society,” Ndanusa said.
Ndanusa however said women of the world wanted and deserved an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes and violence; a future that is sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights and opportunities for all.
“To get us there, the world needs women at every table where decisions are being made,” Ndanusa also said.
In his message made available to Daily Sun in Abuja to commemorate the IWD, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, joined the global community to celebrate the remarkable roles that women play in all spheres of development.
Onyeama applauded their leadership, vision, courage, and tenacity in making the world a better place.
He said through the efforts of women, the country made tremendous progress with COVID-19 response.
Onyeama particularly celebrated the women at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), who have been leading the coordination of response activities, expansion of laboratory services and efforts to ensure continuity of the economy.
Onyeama specifically celebrated Mrs. Nwando Mba, Director of the NCDC National Reference Laboratory, who is leading a team that is responsible for the rapid scale up of the nation’s lab services and providing testing services to Nigerians.