On the draft strategies for combatting gender-based violence and sexual harassment
Gender experts from ECOWAS Member States are meeting in Dakar, Senegal, from 11 to 13 October 2021, to examine the draft ECOWAS regional strategy for the prevention of and response to gender-based violence; and that of sexual harassment in the workplace and in educational establishments. The regional meeting, convened at the instance of the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre (EGDC), precedes a meeting of ECOWAS Ministers in charge of Gender and Women Affairs on 15 October 2021.
This regional meeting of ECOWAS Gender experts was officially declared open in Dakar, on 11 October 2021, by Mrs Astou Diouf Gueye, the Director for Gender Equality and Equity, representing Senegal’s Honourable Minister for Women Affairs, Family, Gender and Child Protection, Mrs Salimata Diop Dieng. In attendance were Dr Siga Fatima Jagne, ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr Bolanle Adetoun, Ag. Director of the EGDC, Mrs Aïssatou Gueye Lo, representing the ECOWAS National Office in Senegal, representatives of ECOWAS Member States, partner institutions such as UNOWAS, UNICEF, Plan International, Laboratoire GESTES of the Université Gaston Berger, Saint-Louis, Senegal, and the regional civil society (RESPFECO, ROAJELF, WILDAF, FOSCAO, CLVF, etc…)
In her remarks during the opening ceremony, Commissioner Siga Fatima Jagne, on behalf of the ECOWAS Commission President, H.E Jean Claude Kassi Brou, noted that sexual and gender-based violence, in their various forms, constitute a violation of the human rights of the victims, who are mainly women and girls: “Such violence portends disastrous consequences on individual and societal well-being, peace and socio-economic development. Consequently, the governments and the society must engage in a concerted effort to hinder sexual and gender-based violence, and thereafter provide an adequate and effective response to cases that occur”.
She added that the ECOWAS Commission was pleased to have developed the draft regional strategies on the prevention of and response to gender-based violence as well as sexual harassment in the workplace and educational institutions in West Africa. The said documents would be submitted to the ECOWAS Ministers in charge of Women Affairs and Gender for adoption.
In her formal opening address, Mrs Astou Diouf Gueye, on behalf of Hon Minister Ndeye Salimata Diop Dieng, expressed her country’s joy to host such a crucial meeting of ECOWAS Experts and Ministers in charge of Women Affairs and Gender. She thereafter reiterated the fact that violence, in any form, is neither acceptable nor tolerable as it constitutes a blatant violation of a person’s fundamental human rights and leads to consequences that are detrimental to their health and dignity.
Before formally declaring the Dakar meeting open, on behalf of Hon Minister Ndeye Salimata Diop Dieng, the Director for Gender Equality and Equity pointed out that the regional meeting marked a significant and decisive phase in the fight against inequalities facing women across all levels of society: “adoption of this strategy will undoubtedly respond to the need to consolidate Member State efforts to end violations of the rights of women and the girl child in the ECOWAS region”.
It should be recalled that this meeting of ECOWAS Gender Experts aims to actualise the commitment made in January 2021 by the Heads of State and Government in the “Declaration on Zero Tolerance for Sexual and Gender-based Violence and the Elimination of all forms of Violence against Women and the Girl child at all times and under all circumstances in the ECOWAS region”. This is to be achieved through a regional strategy and action plan to prevent and combat sexual and gender-based violence in West Africa, as the Declaration urges the ECOWAS Commission to provide Member States with such documents for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and the girl child in the region. The Gender Experts meeting comes ahead of the meeting of ECOWAS Ministers in charge of Women Affairs and Gender.