UN tasks ECOWAS Parliament on policies to protect, recognise women in informal sectors

By Lizzy Okoji

Mrs Sangeteta Thapa, Deputy Country Representative, UN Women, in Liberia, has urged  the ECOWAS Parliament to come up policies to protect and recognise contributions of women in the informal sectors.

Thappa made the call, on Wednesday, at a Technical Session on “Strategies to Empower Women Working in the Informal Sector” at the ongoing ECOWAS Parliament delocalized meeting in Monrovia, Liberia.

According to Thappa, women in the informal sector contributed a lot to the economies of countries in the ECOWAS region but unfortunately, they are invisible and their contributions unrecognised.

Thappa urged  the ECOWAS Parliament not to limit their focus on women in the formal sectors but also push for policies that would protect and recognise women in the informal sector.

She said that UN Women had  been doing a lot to support Informal women Cross Border Traders in Liberia, recognising their huge economic contributions to trading activities in Liberia.

This,  she said,  related to the challenges Informal women Cross Border Traders faced,  even in other countries of the Sub- region.

“Women are economic actors and the importance of women in the informal sector cannot be overemphasised.

“They are the backbone of the society and their contributions are not formally recognised, but they have proven themselves to be economic actors whose contributions are not visible.

“So it is very important to formalise their role and to recognise them to have an identity so that their contributions are recorded in the National Account system.

“That is something that is not recorded and something that we really need to push.

“As a region, there should be a few things that can be done together; I think individually in each of these countries,  we need to take into consideration, the constraints and the recommendations.

“The ECOWAS Parliament should also recognise their roles in society and push for laws that will protect them and recognise their efforts.

“But as a regional body I think there should be a way to enforce mechanisms and monitor how they are implemented and how they are followed. And probably come up with a solution on actions to be taken if they are not monitored,”  Thappa said.

In her presentation, Hon. Salimata Ouatara, Chairperson, Gender, Social Action and Health Committee, Burkina Faso, said jobs in the informal economy in West Africa accounted  for 76 per cent of the working population.

She said it was the most feminised sector with 53 per cent of informal workers being women and it played  a very important role in the empowerment of women in the ECOWAS region.

Ouatara said it was important for Member States to take seriously, capacity building of women in their informal sector so as to support and strengthen their businesses.

‘As long as women, who are the majority in the population, are not, or poorly integrated into economic growth, the impact of our State’s efforts on development will be less visible in terms of enrichment of the whole population.

“There is therefore, a need to initiate and diversify inclusive, innovative strategies,  following the evolution of technology, that can contribute to the empowerment of women,” Ouatara said.

Dr Faye Ndoumbe, Programme Officer, Gender and Civil Society, ECOWAS Commission, said there was need to promote advocacy so that laws could be changed in favour of women.

“We have to think of the best strategies and a law within the West African region to promote and protect women’s rights, including those in the informal sector,” Ndoumbe said. (NAN)