ECOWAS Women’s Forum pledges to accelerate women empowerment, ensure gender equality

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Group photograph of some participants at the event held at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Abuja, Nigeria.

By Mark Longyen

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice Women’s Forum has pledged to accelerate the empowerment of women and ensure gender equality within the subregional bloc.

President of the Forum, Mrs Frances Ibanga, made this known at the 2024 International Women’s Day celebration organized by the Forum with the theme, “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” in Abuja on Friday.

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Ibanga said that the occasion underscored the fact that women were active participants in their relentless march towards gender equality and not just mere spectators of history.

She said: “This moment calls for more reflection and, more importantly, a demand to take action.

“It is a declaration to dismantle barriers, defy stereotypes, and propel women’s empowerment and investment to new heights.

“International Women’s Day is a day to recognise and honor the invaluable contributions of women to society, to acknowledge their triumphs in the face of adversity, and to reaffirm our commitment to empowering and investing in them.

“In a world where gender disparities persist, and women continue to face systemic barriers, International Women’s Day serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration.

“It reminds us of the long and arduous journey towards gender equality and the urgent need to accelerate our efforts.”

The Forum’s President described the theme of the 2024 IWD celebration as apt, saying it served as a guiding light, illuminating the path towards a future where every woman, regardless of her background or circumstance, would blossom.

She said that the theme emphasized the importance of inspiring women, promoting diversity in leadership positions and fostering environments, where women from all backgrounds are empowered through education.

Ibanga noted that, with educational empowerment, for instance, women could overcome obstacles, reach their full potential, and amplify their diverse voices and experiences on screen through the entertainment industry.

“Women need access to financial resources to meet their basic needs and pursue entrepreneurship, but they often face barriers, such as limited access to land, information and technology.

“In today’s world, where many women face numerous threats, such as gender-based violence, conflict and food insecurity, the key strategies to promote gender equality includes the adoption of laws and policies that support women empowerment and the repeal of discriminatory laws and legal frameworks.

“Gender inequality in earnings costs the world more than twice the value of global GDP in terms of human capital wealth,” she said.

While reeling out the group’s achievements since its formation in 2014 as the first women’s forum among all ECOWAS institutions, the Forum’s President said it established a soap-making factory for indigent women in Aso-Pada, Nasarawa State.

She said the Forum also engaged in philanthropic activities, including assistance to orphanages, old people’s homes, and mentoring programs in schools, where young minds are guided about career paths and integrity, among others.

Ibanga recalled that since the inception of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, the court has entertained several cases instituted by women from member states relating to the protection and promotion of their rights, where the court made bold pronouncements in their favor.

Also speaking in a keynote address, Dr Victoria Akai, a former Director General, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, noted that investing in women was crucial for accelerating all round progress in the society.

According to Akai, such investments should be a collaborative effort by both the male and female parents of the girl child, as well as others in the society.

Justice Dupe Atoki of the ECOWAS Court, who is also the Matron of the Forum, in a remark, concurred with Dr Akai, stressing that the right time to invest in women is in the early stage of the girl child’s life.

This, she said, could be achieved by teaching them attributes such as “self confidence, can do spirit and self assurance, among others.”

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was spiced with a presentation on “mental health, stress management and work balance integration” by Mrs Jummai Olowoleni, a business strategist, human resource expert and family coach. (NAN)

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