The Representative of the Mano River Union (MRU) in Cote d' Ivoire, Angui T. Assouakon, has called on Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), particularly women of the subregion to work in unity and collaborate with one another if they which to make progress for the 30% quota of female representation in national decision-making and politics.
Mr. Assouakon said CSOs need to work hard through collaborative efforts, partnership and networking to achieve the 30% quota, Resolutions 1325 and 1820 to give women a voice in a male dominated decision-making African society.
The Cote d'Ivoire MRU Chief noted that while it is true that women have been pushing for 30% quota in politics and national decision-making over the the year, they need to apply more efforts.
"You need to do more awareness and publicity; you need to be proactive and organized," he told a seminar of about 50 participants of CSO representatives from the four MRU countries, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and host Cote Ivoire
He observed that the lack of coordination and harmonization in the work of CSOs was a challenge that needs to be addressed if their advocacies must make impact.
The drive to promote women in decision-making positions worldwide gained momentum during the 1980s and early 1990s through a series of international conferences.
Further impetus came from the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, in 1995, which called for at least 30 per cent representation by women in national governments.
In September 2000 at the UN Millennium Summit in New York, world leaders pledged to "promote gender equality and the empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable.
In 2000, the United Nations Security Council formally acknowledged through the creation of Resolution 1325 the changing nature of warfare, in which civilians are increasingly targeted, and women continue to be excluded from participating in peace processes.
UNSCR 1325 addresses not only the inordinate impact of war on women, but also the pivotal role women should and do play in conflict management, conflict resolution, and sustainable peace.
Passed in 2008, Resolution 1820 recognizes that conflict-related sexual violence is a tactic of warfare, and calls for the training of troops on preventing and responding to sexual violence, deployment of more women to peace operations, and enforcement of zero-tolerance policies for peace-keepers with regards to acts of sexual exploitation or abuse.
Making her presentations on day-two of the Seminar, Madam Marie-Genevieve-Ehinon of the UN Office in West Africa (UNOWA) admitted that more needs to be done to sensitize policy makers and the public on the relevance of the two resolutions and the 30% quota.
Women themselves for whom the resolution are intended have challenges of capacity building, lack of willingness to get involved and requisite education in relevant areas, but said the trend was changing gradually with increasing women participation in national issues in the recent past.
She noted that continous collaboration and working would help the process, and hailed Liberia for setting an unprecedented record for the election and re-election of a woman president
Madam Ehinon said the issue of 30% is not and has not been a demand, but a suggestion to increase women's participation in making national decisions, the impact on their lives and the well-being of the entire society.
The head of the Liberian delegation, Madam Amelia Ward, said Liberians have indeed made significant progress in the empowerment of women, but more needs to be done. She said the government has increased support to female education, while the civil society, including her organization, MAWONET, has taken awareness of women roles in many parts of the country.
Another Liberian delegate, Roosevelt Woods, of FIND said if the issue of 30% must make impact, women in leadership, should be the ones to enforce and influence it, else, it would fail.
According to him, President Sirleaf, who many admired during the conference, needs to do more, insisting that she need to appoint more females in government than she has done.
The four-day conference of the Civil Society Organizations of the MRU kicked-off Monday in the post electoral violence, but peaceful Ivorian capital of Abidjan, with the issues of cross border security ranking high on the first day's discussions.
About 50 participants (including five Liberians) are attending the seminar.
They Discussed issues including the 15th MRU Protocol; impunity, justice and human rights under the Bamako Declaration and the strengthening CSOs role in the implementation of the protocols. Participants and presenters noted that cross-border issues were of major concern.
In his presentation, the head of the MRU office in Cote d' Ivoire, Mr. Angui A T. Assouakon said cross border issues were of major security concerns to the Union and everyone needs to play a role in addressing it--both the government and civil society including the locals who live in border communities.