President of ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA), Sen. Stella Oduah has said that the level of women participation in politics and appointment into positions in West Africa was still low.
Speaking in an interview on the sidelines of the ongoing Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja on Monday, Oduah urged that more women should be given chance or supported for elective and appointive positions.
Oduah said that women constituted the larger population in the sub-region and could not be left aside in developmental moves.
She stressed that women were capable of contesting and holding any political office in the sub-region adding that women should not play second fiddle but must rise up to the occasion and participate in politics to developing Africa.
The ECOFEPA President stressed that it did not make sense to disrespect or disregard women who constituted about 60 per cent of the population of the sub-region.
“West Africa cannot attain its intended developmental strides without the involvement and participation of women in politics and policy making and implementation.
“You lose their strength, their brilliance, their contributions and you lose their participation.
“If the women who make up more than half of our population do not participate in developing West Africa, it means that we are using less half of our strength.
“Women do not have to beg to be allowed to participate, we constitute the larger population. We must participate because governance belongs to the people not to a particular gender,” she said.
The ECOFEPA President disclosed that the association was set to build a school for Women Leadership Training in the capital city of Nigeria, Abuja.
She said that the school will impart in its trainees, leadership skills which is a requirement for emerging women leaders.
Oduah added that ECOFEPA was currently collaborating with other international agencies to anchor national and community development of women.
“Involvement of women in both elective and selective offices is cardinal to the goals of ECOFEPA,” she said.
Speaking further on the role of women, Oduah who runs a woman-empowerment programme in her constituency, said that it is a show of inadequacy on the part of any man who stands in the way of a woman.
She therefore charged fellow female parliamentarians as well as the male counterparts to be advocates of women participation in their respective countries.
She said that the ongoing segregation of women in politics should be stopped, stressing that it was unfair to tag a women who is in leadership as a “woman leader” while a man in a similar position is regarded as a leader without the prefix.
She called for level-playing ground and equal opportunity for aspirants and candidates contesting elections.
“When that happens, the best of the women will emerge; women and men will vote for the female not because she is a female but because she is the right candidate for that job.
“Women are saying give us equal opportunity, give us equal right: we want gender parity.
“Until this is done, West Africa remains a long way to the development that is so desires,” she said.
Oduah said that even in the area of Agriculture, women held the power to navigate the continent away from hunger.
Exemplifying with her constituency project, teh ECOFEPA President said that women whom she had empowered in various fields of agriculture now earn a living on their own.
She added that out of the 1000 people she had empowered in her constituency, women constituted the larger number because of their importance in building the family and the nation.
“We must all take into account the role of women in development in the family and the nation.
“When we recognise this and allow them the enabling environment which they deserve, only then we will experience the much desired development.