The Department of Social Affairs and Gender of the ECOWAS Commission has established a Regional Partners/CSOs/Non-State Actors Working Group Against Gender Based Violence/Violence Against Children (ECW-RPWG-GBV/VAC) on Monday, 12th of October, 2020 in fulfilment of the President of ECOWAS Commission’s directive towards stamping out Gender Based Violence/Violence Against Children (GBV/VAC) in the region.The purpose of the Intervention is to use ECOWAS’ convening mandate to galvanize immediate action across the ECOWAS region towards eradicating SGBV and ensuring that every child and woman are protected now and beyond the COVID -19 Pandemic.
According to a statement by the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, the Working Group will also enhance the capacity of the ECOWAS Commission, Member States, Development Partners and major Stakeholders including Civil Society Organizations and Non-State Actors in responding to GBV/VAC.
Speaking during the inauguration of the Working Group, the Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne, stated that Gender Based Violence including Violence against Children is a pervasive human rights concern that keeps growing especially in times of economic uncertainty, civil unrest, disaster and pandemics like the COVID-19 pandemic.
She regretted that despite the Constitutional provisions on the principle of equality between men and women in the Member States and other policy frameworks and documents adopted at the international, continental, regional and national levels, GBV/VAC continues to be widespread and present in all the ECOWAS Member States, in familiar and new forms.
Hence the need to establish the Working Group as other existing similar structures do not and cannot address SGBV adequately since their main areas of focus are limited. She therefore charged the members of the Working Group to interface with other related structures/ networks at both national and regional levels to ensure that concerted response by Member States and other actors towards the total elimination of GBV/VAC in the ECOWAS region; is achieved.
According to the Commissioner, in order to ensure that the Working Group works in concert with Member States, the Department of Social Affairs and Gender is deploying a two-tier Platform approach and will also establish an ECOWAS Member States Network of Focal Institutions Against GBV/VAC (ECW-MSN-GBV/VAC); whose membership would be drawn from Trafficking in Persons Focal Institutions, National Human Rights Commissions, Ministries of Women and Gender, the Police and the Judiciary of all Member States.
In their Goodwill messages during the inauguration, the UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa Office Ms. Marie-Pierre Poirier, the UN-OCHA Head of Office for West and Central Africa Ms. Julie Belanger as well as the Secretary of the Regional Working Group on Child Protection (GRPE) Mr. Aime Bada, agreed that GBV is a protection issue especially for women and girls in emergency situations. They recommitted their organisations’ support to ECOWAS and to mobilizing other regional actors on GBV towards the total eradication of the menace in the region.
In her presentation on the Terms of Reference for the Working Group, the Head of Human Security and Civil Society Division, Hajiya Raheemat Momodu, stated that the Group is expected to be engaged with support to research, advocacy, the provision of both financial and non-financial resources and technical support to Member States in combatting SGBV; including in-country direct interventions.
Furthermore, the Group is expected to support ECOWAS and its Member States to mainstream prevention and management of GBV/VAC in National Development Plans during the COVID- 19 Pandemic and beyond; as well as provide an avenue for ECOWAS to promote closer cooperation between Member States and partners and mobilize resources from partners to support Member States.
The Working Group’s membership is drawn from the ranks of Development Partners, INGOs, Civil Society Organizations and other Non-State Actors including the Private Sector and the Media within the ECOWAS region. In their closing remarks, the representatives of WACSOF, FEWACCI and AfDB commended the ECOWAS Commission for the initiative and reiterated their commitment to the Group.
In her closing remarks, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, Director Humanitarian and Social Affairs on behalf of the Commissioner, thanked the participants and appreciated the resilience of West Africans in the fight against Covid – 19 pandemic.