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The need to evolve a level-playing ground and equal opportunities for aspirants and candidates contesting elections has been advocated.
Making the call was the president of ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA), Stella Oduah, in an interview on the sidelines of the ongoing Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja yesterday.Oduah urged that more women should be given the chance or supported for elective and appointive positions.
She said the segregation of women in politics should stop, stressing that it was unfair to tag a woman as a “woman leader” while a man in a similar position is regarded as a leader without the prefix.
“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 the regional bloc so desires,” she said.
Oduah also said that the participation of women in the politics of West Africa was still very low and needed to change because women hold the key to development of the West African region.
She added that women constituted the larger population in the sub-region and could not be left out in developmental moves.
Oduah 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.
She said: “West Africa cannot attain its intended developmental strides without the involvement and participation of women in politics and policy making and implementation.
“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 Abuja. The school will impart 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.