The ECOWAS Commission’s Department of Social Affairs and Gender held its 3rd Online Engagement with the ECOWAS Regional Partners/CSOs/NSAs Working Group Against Gender Based Violence/Violence Against Children (ECW-RPWG-GBV/VAC) in a two (2) day meeting 16th – 17th August, 2021, with the theme: “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health” (2021 theme for International Youth Day).
This is part of ECOWAS‘ contribution to improve human security in the region by coordinating and providing strategic direction for the effective use of capacities and re-sources of relevant stakeholders towards stamping out GBV/VAC and ensuring that every woman and child is protected now and beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic.
This 3rd engagement discussed emerging issues, the mapping of members of the Working Group’s competences, areas of focus and the development of Gudielines and Procedures for the operationalisation of the Working Group.
The rational and efficient use of regio-nal/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 identified gaps in combatting GBV/VAC, and the various perculiarities from different state and non-state actors.
The Regional Working Group was established on the 12th October 2020, by the ECOWAS Commission through the Department of Social Affairs and Gender in response to a call for action, made by H.E. Jean-Claude Kassi BROU, President ECOWAS Commission, on 22nd June, 2020 when he addressed the unprecedented increase of Gender Based Violence (GBV) espe-cially 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 towa-rds eradicating GBV/VAC.
In her opening remarks, the Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa-Ugbe, who was represented by Hajiya Raheemat Momodu, PPO Human Security and Civil Society Division, emphasized 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.
Ms. 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.
Ambassador Musa Sani Nuhu, Nigeria Permanent Representative to the ECOWAS, in his Opening Remarks, called on citizens to embrace farming and agriculture in addressing the endemic poverty and high rate of youth unemployment in our region. According to him, “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 Mian-Djangone Rachelle, Director of Regional Influencing, Partnership and Business Development 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 sensitize the populace on GBV/VAC. “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”.
ECOWAS Efforts towards Youth Development/Empowerment was highlighted by Mr. Kennedy Barsisa, PPO Youth and Sports Development who represented Mr. Francis Chuks Njoaguani, Director, ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre, Ouagadougou.
He gave an insight into the ECOWAS Youth Volunteer Program, Capacity and Entrepreneurship Development and Sports amongst others with participation from youth between the ages of 21yrs-35yrs 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.
Participants at the meeting were from ECOWAS Institutions and Agencies, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, UN Agencies, IN-GOs, , FEWACCI, Regional and National CSO Networks and other State and Non- State Actors.