ECOWAS and the UN Bring the BRIDGE Gender Equity and Elections Module to West Africa

The UN has had a long-standing relationship with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). As a continuation of this, the UN has been working with ECOWAS Member States and the ECOWAS Commission on the potential for further electoral partnerships between the two organizations including conducting BRIDGE modules.

As a first step, ECOWAS and the UN DPA/EAD co-organized an electoral BRIDGE workshop on Gender Equity in Elections for members of ECOWAS region electoral management bodies, civil society organisations, ECOWAS Commission, UNOWAS, UNWOMEN, the Indian Ocean Commission. The three-day BRIDGE Workshop was held from 27-29 August, 2018, at the Azalai Hotel, Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Thirty-nine participants from 15 countries in the region attended.

The facilitation team was Ross Attrill (Australia), Alexandra Hovelacque (Tunisia/France) and Theo Dowetin (Ghana).

The workshop commenced with opening remarks from Mr. M’Baye Babacar Cissé, UN Resident Coordinator, Côte d’Ivoire, His Excellency Babacar Carlos Mbaye, Special Representative of ECOWAS, Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Youssouf Bakayoko, Chair of the Côte d’Ivoire’ Independent Electoral Commission and Mr. Simon-Pierre Nanitelamio, Deputy Director, UN DPA/EAD.

The BRIDGE activities were complimented by a presentation by Dr. Sintiki Ugbe, Director of Gender and Child Development, Youth, Sports, Civil Society, Employment and Drug Control/ECOWAS on the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) 2008. This was immediately followed by a presentation on the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001) – Key Gender and Elections Imperatives by Kemealo Agathe, UNOWAS Gender Advisor. Evaluations indicated that the participants found both presentations useful and illuminating.

It was wonderful that Hassan Sesay from UN DPA/EAD could begin his journey towards Workshop accreditation by conducting one activity and an energizer. We were also lucky that workshop accredited facilitator, Ndyaie Coumba from Senegal also conducted one activity and an energizer. They are both proof of strong BRIDGE talent pool in this region.

At the end of day 3, the participants working in table groups were asked to provide guidance to the UN and ECOWAS on the following questions:

  1. Has this workshop been a valuable experience for you?
  2. Would you like to participate in such workshops in the future?
  3. What subject areas would you like any future interactions to have as their focus?

The participants unanimously agreed that it had been a positive experience. They hoped that there would be more workshops of this nature in the future. Many of the participants were also keen to become BRIDGE Facilitators. Each table developed a strategy for the rollout of future events.

Special thanks must also go to Malgorzata Wisniewska from UN DPA/EAD’s New York team and Francis Oke and Mariama Toure from ECOWAS Commission’s Electoral Assistance Division for managing all of the logistical work. Youkou Barou Y. Luther from the ECOWAS Commission was also a wonderful help in terms of organizing participants and helping set up activities. Their assistance was invaluable.

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