The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), a Swedish agency for peace, security and development have, taken further steps to ensure gender equality in the region as well as increase the involvement of women in peace and security processes as stipulated by the United Nations (UN) resolution 1325.
Group picture of participants at the training in Abuja
In order to achieve this, a training for the Women, Peace and Security committee (WPS) of the ECOWAS Commission was facilitated by the FBA on “Gender Mainstreaming and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda” in Abuja, Nigeria.
The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the ECOWAS Commissions, General Francis Behanzin in his opening remarks of the training reiterated the Commissions’ commitment to gender equality, noting that his past two predecessors in the department were women.
This he said attests to the fact that women can and should play a key role in peace processes such as mediation and conflict resolution.
The Commissioner stated that violent conflicts affect men, women, girls and boys differently, citing the Boko Haram menace in the north east region of Nigeria as an example where women and girls have been subjected to sexual abuse, forced marriages and kidnap.
Also speaking during the opening session, the Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne highlighted that “women constitute less than 10 percent of negotiation delegations and on an average are fewer than 2 percent of signatories to peace agreements in the region”.
“When women are excluded, key issues such as women’s rights to land, their rights as refugees, or redress for sexual violence, are not dealt with,” she said.
However Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne noted that the initiative and partnership between the ECOWAS Commission and the FBA to support gender mainstreaming into women, peace and security will contribute to increase the engagement of women in the pursuit of peace reconciliation in West Africa.
The Ambassador of Sweden to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mrs Inger Ultvedt stressed the importance of the training, mentioning that it would help change the mind-set of people which is fundamental in achieving gender equality.
Also, in attendance of the training organized by the FBA were the representative of Nigeria’s Minister of Women’s Affairs, the United Nations women country representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Comfort Lamptey and the ECOWAS Commissions’ Directors for Political Affairs, Early Warning and Gender.