Adoba Echono, Abuja*
The Vice President of Liberia, Jewel Howard-Taylor, has advocated for increased women participation in politics and governance in West Africa.
Dr Howard-Taylor made the call while addressing the meeting of the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS’ Female Parliamentary Association (ECOFEPA), at the sidelines of the ongoing 2021 First Extra-Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja, Nigeria.
Howard-Taylor said that gender equality is a fundamental human right, yet women are underrepresented in power and decision making roles in the region.
She noted that in the region’s national governance systems, women are only in the second and the third tier levels while female leadership in political parties in the region is almost non-existent.
Dr Howard-Taylor encouraged women to get involved in politics and overcome all forms of fear and intimidation.
“There are women everywhere, there are women everywhere, let’s go and find them, let’s encourage them, women are trained, women are educated and have experience but they are afraid of the political process because of all the threats, all of the violence, all of the negativity that comes with women standing in her space.”
“So we must encourage one another that we can’t continue to stand down, we must fight.”
The Liberian Vice President encouraged women to join political parties as a platform to participate in governance.
“So the grassroots work we have to do is to encourage women to get involved in political parties first.
“Many women are not members of political parties and if you are not a member of a political party, then your journey is one hundred steps behind because it is under the political party’s framework that the democratic space is created.”
The Vice President of Liberia also challenged the ECOWAS Parliament to push for appropriate implementation of the community protocol on gender and human equality across regional and local governments.
Dr Howard-Taylor called on the Community Parliament to reject any list from countries that are short of thirty per cent women’s representation to the Parliament.
She advocated that ECOFEPA be made one of the strongest arms of the ECOWAS Parliament. Howard-Taylor also called for adequate budgetary allocation to ECOFEPA for it to be effective.