Gender disparities are still prevalent in West African countries. Closing the gender gap and enhancing women’s participation in development is essential not only for building a just society, but also a pre- requisite for achieving political, social, economic, cultural and environmental security among people on a sustainable basis. Although some member States of ECOWAS have made some progress towards achieving development guided by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), gender in-equalities continue to limit women’s capabilities and constrain their ability to participate fully in and contribute to the economies of their countries.
The Parliament has a crucial role to play in contributing to the development processes and addressing critical issues that affects its constituents. The Parliament has an important role to play in recognizing and enforcing gender-based laws such as CEDAW, UNSCR 1325; and also by passing gender responsive laws; parliament can ensure governments adopt policies that addresses the needs of both men and women.
The 1st West African Women’s Policy Forum held in Accra, Ghana on December 2 to 3, 2008 signaled the need for a comprehensive gender strategy for the implementation of key issues in the policy. The forum brought together over 50 participants from West Africa including women’s groups, networks, women in government, gender machineries, and ECOWAS. Women from other parts of the African continent and the world were also represented. Among key deliberations the forum offered sixteen (16) key policy recommendations to enhance the involvement of women in leadership and decision making processes across the region.