Women’s Political Representation: A review of frameworks and quotas in West Africa

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) pursues the promotion of good governance, peace and security and free, fair and credible elections in member states through a combination of direct involvement and diplomacy. The Commission, with a mandate derived from the ECOWAS Treaty, has developed legal frameworks such as the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security (1999), and the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001) to guide its interventions. In line with its legal instruments the Commission has deployed institutional organs such as ECOWAS StandbyForce (ESF), Early Warning System, the Mediation and Security Council, Offices of the Special Representative, the Council of the Wise (CoW) and Special Mediators to successfully prevent and resolve conflicts in the region. ECOWAS has successfully intervened in civil wars and political crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Guinea, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso.

These interventions represent some of the concrete examples of ECOWAS’ ability to apply legal and institutional frameworks to promote peace and security in the region. However, it is also true that often these successes have been
marred by incidences of human rights violation including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Generally, women are still at the margins of the political, economic and social development agenda, and continue to face
enormous challenges in exercising and fulfilling their fundamental human rights in peace and conflict situations. The 1979 ECOWAS Revised Treaty adopted by member states, specifically Article 63 on Women and Development, directs the ECOWAS Commission to formulate, harmonize, coordinate and to establish appropriate policies and mechanisms for the enhancement of the economic, social and cultural rights of women in West Africa. This has
driven decisions to transform the West African Women Association (WAWA) into the ECOWAS Gender Development Centre, to set up an ECOWAS Technical Commission on gender and to adopt the ECOWAS Gender Policy in 2005. All were intended to provide the legal, institutional and policy frameworks to engender the regional integration agenda.

This report explores the regions’ progress towards addressing gender inequality by focusing on the analysis of women’s representation in the political space in West Africa. It highlights examples of positive
affirmative action measures that have advanced women’s political representation. The report also identifies some of the barriers in the electoral processes that are impediments to women exercising and enjoying their electoral
rights. It concludes with practical suggestions on ways to bridge the gap. The analysis draws from the findings of a series of gender and election workshops held with over 300 participants (85% women) in nine ECOWAS
member states -Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Nigeria, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Gambia – from 2015 to date, as well as the Report of Assessment on Gender Mainstreaming in Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) in Electoral Processes in West Africa (2019) prepared by the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division, the Directorate of Gender of the ECOWAS Commission, and the Secretariat of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC).

Author: Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe

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