By Ifeanyi Nwoko
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Monday stressed that plans were in top gear with other partners to curb the high rate of fistula in the sub-region by 2025.
At an event to mark the International Women’s Day and celebrate women, the sub-regional body held that fistula was one of the direct results of discrimination against women in Africa.
The event which hosted staff members of all ECOWAS institutions and other guests highlighted the need for gender parity and the need to ensure education of the girl-child.
The 2020 celebration has as its theme: “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights.”
ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender Mrs Fatima Siga speaking after a drama on fistula expressed dismay that millions of women were suffering from fistula with many of them in hiding.
She said that ECOWAS was working closely with other institutions to curb fistula in the sub-region through treatment of victims and girl-child education aimed at preventing new cases.
She noted that the ECOWAS community planned to curb fistula within the next five years, saying that the enabling laws had already been passed by many member-states.
The commissioner, however, said that the challenge facing the sub-region was the failure to implement laws already passed.
She spoke of the need to educate the girl-child so that they would be at least 18 years of age before they could leave school.
“A bird has to fly with two wings and if the women are not a part of the government we are going nowhere because the bird cannot fly.
“We have over 400 women who have been treated and have returned to their communities and we treat them ever year.
“We are partnering with UNFPA to ensure that all the West African countries are covered because right now we are just in six countries.
“We are also looking at a regional plan of action for ECOWAS to continue the fight against obstetric fistula.
“We are hoping that in five years we can reach all the women that are affected, most of the time, the women are not coming out and we have trained doctors in all the countries,” she said.
Earlier, guests were entertained and educated via a drama showing how fistula in women led to discrimination against women and caused them so much suffering.
It portrayed how fellow women were used as willing tools to punish and stigmatise other women suffering from fistula.
The drama pointed out certain things that can cause fistula in women including prolonged labour, rape, early marriage, female Genital Mutilation.
It emphasised that fistula was treatable and that the message should be spread to encourage women to seek medical help rather than remain at home and suffer grave stigmatisation.
President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Mr Edward Asante who delivered the keynote address emphasised the need for West Africa to strive to rid itself of gender discrimination.
Represented by Mrs Franca Offor from the court, Asante noted that no country in the World had so far completely rid itself of gender inequality, stressing that it was not just about woman but about development.
“Gender-based discrimination permeates all spheres of life: our schools, offices, market places and even on the roads where women drive.
“This years theme is very apt and its aimed to galvanise individuals to bring about global gender parity realising that gender inequality permeates the very fabrics of life,” Asante added.
He said that women made up more than half of the world’s population and as such discrimination against them would affect the world all round.
Asante said that on the part of the ECOWAS Community, effective laws to address the issue had been passed by many member-states, noting that lack of implementation was still hampering the goal of gender parity. (NAN)