ECOWAS engages with regional group against gender-based violence
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission’s Department of Social Affairs and Gender has engaged with the Regional Partners Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and National Security Agencies (NSAs) working Group Against Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Violence Against Children (VAC) in its third online engagement.
In a two-day meeting held from August 16 to 17, 2021, with the theme: “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health” (2021 theme for International Youth Day), ECOWAS said it contributed to improve human security in the region by coordinating and providing strategic direction for the effective use of capacities and resources of relevant stakeholders towards stamping out GBV/VAC and ensuring that every woman and child is protected now and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
The third engagement discussed emerging issues, the mapping of members of the Working Group’s competences, areas of focus and the development of guidelines and procedures for the operationalisation of the working group as well as the rational and efficient use of regional/national/local resources in the fight against GBV/VAC was highlighted.
The meeting also shared best practices, lessons learnt, challenges and experiences in responding to the identified gaps in combatting GBV/VAC, and the various peculiarities from different state and non-state actors.
According to the Commission, the Regional Working Group was established on October 12, 2020, by the ECOWAS Commission through the Department of Social Affairs and Gender in response to a call for action, made by Jean-Claude Kassi BROU, President ECOWAS Commission, on June 22, 2020.
He made the call when he addressed the unprecedented increase of GBV, especially sexual abuse on children as a shadow pandemic to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for all state actors to galvanize immediate action across the West African region towards eradicating GBV/VAC.
In her opening remarks, the Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa-Ugbe, who was represented by the PPO Human Security and Civil Society Division, Hajiya Raheemat Momodu, emphasised the need for all hands to be on board to fight the dangerous menace of GBV/VAC, which had spiked within the COVID-19 pandemic.
Momodu briefed the meeting on the ECOWAS Integrated In-Country High-Level Advocacy, Coordination and Capacity Building of Multi-Stakeholders on the implementation of ECOWAS IHL, TIP, GBV and Child Rights, which had already been carried out in The Gambia and Sierra Leone, remaining Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria for the year 2021.
In his opening remarks, the Nigeria permanent representative to ECOWAS, Ambassador Musa Sani Nuhu, called on citizens to embrace farming and agriculture in addressing the endemic poverty and high rate of youth unemployment in the region.He said: “We must make agriculture enticing enough for the younger generation.”
He reiterated the commitment of Nigeria to ECOWAS in fighting against GBV/VAC. Plan International in their keynote address, read by the Director of Regional Influencing, Partnership and Business Development, Mian-Djangone Rachelle on behalf of the Regional Director West and Central Africa, Mr. Rotimy Djossaya, highlighted the plight of the girl child across the region with emphasis on child marriages and out of school children.
She also drew attention to the lack of female representation in key roles and positions across the region; and called for support in using the movies and short stories to sensitise the populace on GBV/VAC[RM1] .
“Rewrite her Story: How film and media stereotypes affect the lives and ambitions of girls and young women. Some of the best practices shared by Plan International towards youth empowerment and capacity building include the Youth Challenge Fund and Girls Get Equal: Zoom in on Nollywood,” she said.
The PPO Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Kennedy Barsisa, who represented the Director, ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre, Ouagadougou Mr. Francis Chuks Njoaguani, highlighted ECOWAS efforts towards youth development/empowerment.
He gave an insight into the ECOWAS Youth Volunteer Programme, Capacity and Entrepreneurship Development and Sports amongst others with participation from youths between the ages of 21 and 35 years across the 15 ECOWAS Member States.
The meeting ended with an agreement to work towards greater coordination in the enhancement of collective capacities for prevention and response to GBV/VAC.
In addition, ECOWAS Commission reiterated its commitment to continue to provide strategic direction and coordinate the implementation of actions of Partners, INGOs, CSOs and other stakeholders in promoting and mainstreaming protection and human security approach in Member States National Development Plans and Actions to address GBV/VAC.
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