Abuja - Nigeria — WOMEN EMPOWERMENT The Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Women, Madam Michelle Bachelet has commended ECOWAS for its role as "a driving force for gender equality and women's empowerment in West Africa."
Speaking at a meeting in Abuja on Thursday 10th January 2013, with officials of the ECOWAS Commission led by its President, His Excellency Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, Madam Bachelet, Chile's former President, also commended ECOWAS for recognising the importance of women's participation in peace-building, including in its Conflict Prevention Framework.
"ECOWAS can play a role in enabling women to make their full contribution to economic development, and to take their place alongside men as decision makers and leaders," the Under-Secretary General said, adding that women should also be put at the "centre of political dialogue, recovery and rebuilding." Madam Bachelet shared with ECOWAS officials her concerns over the situation in Northern Mali and stressed that women's full participation is fundamental to building a sustainable future in that country. She updated the meeting on the work of UN Women, including its support for the implementation of the UN Secretary-General's Seven Point Action plan on Gender- Responsive Peace-building in Liberia and Mali, as well as many other countries worldwide.
"While the Seven Point Action plan is focused on the UN, UN Women encourages ECOWAS to adopt plans with similar concrete targets for allocating resources to women and girls in post-conflict contexts," Madam Bachelet canvassed. In his response, President Ouédraogo congratulated the UN Women Chief on the quality of her leadership, which he described as exemplary and inspirational. He briefed the meeting on the Commission's various programmes and activities promoting gender equality and women's empowerment.
Apart from having a full fledged directorate on Human Development and Gender, ECOWAS also has a Gender Development Centre based in Dakar, Senegal, whose operations feed into the wider regional initiatives for the empowerment and improvement of the lot of women in West Africa. To achieve the organization's overarching goals of socio-economic development and regional integration, the President said that strong emphasis was being placed on the development of human capital, including the training of women to enable play a meaningful role in the society. Madam Bachelet is on a two-day official visit to Nigeria, part of a three-nation West African tour that had already taken her to Mali and Senegal.
She was accompanied on her visit to the ECOWAS Commission by Nigeria's Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zainab Maina, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr. George Ossi, the First Lady of Nigeria's Ekiti State, Erelu Bisi Fayemi and Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Joy Ogwu among others. On the Commission's delegation at the meeting, included the Vice-President of the Commission, Dr. Toga McIntosh, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, and the Director, Gender and Child, Youth, Sports and Employment, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe.