By Lizzy Okoji
Ms. Sangeteta Thapa, Deputy Country Representative, UN Women, Liberia, urged the ECOWAS Parliament to develop policies to protect and recognize the contributions of women in the informal sectors.
Thappa made the call on Wednesday during a technical session on “Strategies to Empower Women Working in the Informal Sector” at the relocated ECOWAS Parliament meeting underway in Monrovia, Liberia.
According to Thappa, women in the informal sector have contributed a lot to the economies of countries in the ECOWAS region, but unfortunately they are invisible and their contributions unrecognized.
Thappa urged the ECOWAS Parliament not to limit itself to women in the formal sectors, but also to push for policies that would protect and recognize women in the informal sector.
She said UN Women had done a lot to support informal cross-border women traders in Liberia, recognizing their enormous economic contribution to business activities in Liberia.
This, she said, was linked to the challenges that informal women cross-border traders faced, even in other countries in the sub-region.
“Women are economic actors and the importance of women in the informal sector cannot be overstated.
“They are the backbone of society and their contributions are not officially recognized, but they have proven to be economic players whose contributions are not visible.
“It is therefore very important to formalize their role and to recognize them as having an identity so that their contributions are recorded in the system of national accounts.
“It’s something that is not being recorded and that we have to really push.
“As a region there should be several things that can be done together; I think that individually in each of these countries we have to take into consideration the constraints and the recommendations.
“The ECOWAS Parliament must also recognize their roles in society and push for laws that protect them and recognize their efforts.
“But as a regional body, I think there should be a way to enforce the mechanisms and monitor how they are implemented and how they are monitored. And probably find a solution on what to do if they are not monitored, ”Thappa said.
In his presentation, the Hon. Salimata Ouatara, Chairperson of the Gender, Action Sociale and Health Committee, Burkina Faso, said that jobs in the informal economy in West Africa represented 76% of the workforce.
She said it was the most feminized sector with 53 percent of informal workers being women and that it played a very important role in empowering women in the ECOWAS region.
Ouatara said it was important for member states to take seriously the capacity building of women in their informal sector in order to support and strengthen their businesses.
“As long as women, 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 the enrichment of the entire population.
“It is therefore necessary to initiate and diversify inclusive and innovative strategies, following the evolution of technology, which can contribute to the empowerment of women,” said Ouatara.
Dr Faye Ndoumbe, Program Officer, Gender and Civil Society, ECOWAS Commission, said there was a need to promote advocacy so that laws can be changed in favor of women.
“We need to think about the best strategies and a law in the West African region to promote and protect the rights of women, including those in the informal sector,” Ndoumbe said.
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