Director of the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC), Mrs Sandra Oulaté Fattoh has applauded the Government of Ghana for its tireless efforts towards achieving gender equality and women empowerment.
Mrs. Oulaté indicated this at a meeting of gender experts of ECOWAS member states for the Validation Workshop of the Strategic Plan 2023-2027 of the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC) in Accra.
The meeting which is being organised by the ECOWAS – Cedeao Gender Development Centre is under the theme: “Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls: An imperative for the Achievement of Sustainable Development and Effective Regional Integration in West Africa.”
The four days programme brought together experts and representatives of civil society organisations seeking to “discuss, review and finalize the draft of the EGDC Strategic Plan 2023-2027, prior to its validation by the meeting of ministers responsible for Gender and Women Affairs and subsequent adoption by other statutory bodies of ECOWAS.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Sandra Oulaté said that, between 2003 and 2023, her outfit worked on developing gender policies, culminating in the period 2015-2021 with the adoption of the Additional Act on Equal Rights between women and men for sustainable development in the ECOWAS region.
She further stated that the Act has become a legal instrument of reference for 15 Member States.
“New forms of terrorism, extreme violence involving women and girls, and migration problems arising from internal conflicts between countries are leading to gender-based violence, as well as cross-border begging, trafficking of children. These are all problems that are hindering the progress of the region toward a just, equitable, and prosperous society,” she noted.
She emphasised the need for why the four days meeting must conclude with a functional document, by calling on participants to lay bare their “insights and expertise, to make proposals that are realistic and achievable proposals that can be implemented in the next years” to address the challenge.
Giving the keynote address at the opening ceremony, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection Dr Afisah Zakaria, identified some major challenges hindering the call for gender equality in the sub-region.
“To achieve gender equality and empower women and girls in West Africa, we need to address several key issues. This includes the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, including harmful cultural practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. There is also the need to promote gender-sensitive legislation and ensure that perpetrators of gender-based violence are held accountable for their actions,” she stated.
Dr Zakaria furthered that, education is a major component in economic growth as well as social development and a concerted effort is needed to ensure that girls have equal access to education and are not forced to drop out of school due to early marriage or other cultural pressures.
She charged the ECOWAS member states to collectively achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the sub-region.
In addition, she urged member states to ensure that women are represented in decision-making positions at all levels of government and civil society, women’s voices and perspectives should be an integral part of all planning processes for effective governance and policymaking.