The Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis has called for action to increase women’s representation in politics at a two-day symposium of the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association on women and youth representation in politics in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
The symposium, which kickstarted on Friday at the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Academy, is aimed at sensitising the public on proportional representation of women in politics: scaling up a political partnership between men and women.
It also intends to unleash the potential of women and youth in politics and entrepreneurship. Participants, including Honorable Touma Njai of Banjul South, women from different walks of life and students, are expected to engage in more strategic thinking to explore workable solutions that can uplift the status of women and youth in political leadership and inclusiveness.
Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis, Speaker of Ecowas Parliament, expressed appreciation to President Maada Bio and the Government of Sierra Leone for their commitment to championing women’s issues.
He said the Ecowas Parliament has strong beliefs in scaling up political partnerships between men and women as the right step, hoping that the symposium will inspire more governments to enact laws that ensure women occupy their rightful place in politics.
Honourable Woraye Sarr, President of ECOFEPA, said her organisation is committed to empowering women and youth by providing opportunities for their diverse participation in politics. Compared to developed countries, she said there is low political representation of youth and women in the sub-region. And it is hoped this symposium would deepen the understanding of the critical role of women and youth in politics.
While many have recognised the important role of women and youth in nation development, these groups however continue to be marginalized in our society, hence the need for practical actions to change the status quo.
Honourable Veronica Sisay, Women’s Caucus Leader of Sierra Leone’s Parliament and a member of ECOFEPA, added that the symposium is part of efforts to resolve the problem women and youth face. She encouraged all political parties to consider nominating women for key electoral positions in the subsequent general elections in Sierra Leone.
“It is even hoped that we [Sierra Leone] will exceed the Rwanda percentage, considering the enthusiasm of the sitting President Julius Maada Bio that he has for gender issues. The accomplishment of a 30 per cent quota reserve for women in Government and all levels of decision-making guarantees that women are going to be represented equally,” said Honorable Sisay.
She believes that women’s involvement is meaningless without proper representation, which is only possible through legislation that promotes this cause.
In common with previous several speakers, including Bindi Hindowa, Sierra Leone’s Acting Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs; Pa Lamin Beyai, UNDP Country Representative; and Manuel Muller, EU Ambassador, believe such an interactive forum will further promote leadership and empowerment of women and youth on the African continent, which ECOFEPA had and continues to advocate.
They all thanked and commended ECOFEPA for organising the event.
In the ECOWAS region, the first, and so far, only elected female head of state has been Liberia’s, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
For the Ecowas Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA) members, there is a need to bridge the gap by initiating the conversation to change the political narrative. The current group of Ecowas female parliamentarians is making sure the issue is not pushed to the back of the collective agenda.