“To reach gender equality, training and commitment is needed”

To commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, FBA presents its support to ECOWAS, Economic Community of West African States, and how it has led to organizational change and a commitment to actively push the work for gender equality.

Bekaye Coulibaly is head of the civilian component at the Department for Political Affairs, Peace and Security at ECOWAS. He is also a gender focal point and a key actor in promoting gender mainstreaming within ECOWAS.

– In 2017, our department created a committee with the responsibility to oversee the implementation of the UN agenda for women, peace and security. As a member of this committee, I work closely with my colleagues and the director of gender equality, Bekaye Coulibaly says.

He sees a clear shift since the establishment of the committee.

– Colleagues who previously were reluctant to these ideas have changed their reaction and way of thinking. Today, I get contacted by colleagues in need of support and as a gender focal point, I often get asked for advice about gender equality issues. Since I completed the FBA course for gender advisers in November 2018, I feel more equipped to assist them.

FBA has offered gender mainstreaming and inclusive peacebuilding training for all staff belonging to the Department for Political Affairs, Peace and Security at the ECOWAS main office in Abuja, Nigeria. All women, peace and security committee members have also participated in FBA’s gender adviser course in Sweden.

The aim is to bring about sustainable institutional change by establishing support structures for gender mainstreaming, such as gender focal points. However, it is important to remember that gender focal points are there to provide strategic advice and build organizational capacity. The work needs to be driven top-down by ordinary managers.

Bekaye Coulibaly has met some challenges, as not all staff instantly understand what type of change that is required. Applying a gender perspective onto the work processes of the organization is about identifying and addressing gender inequalities and drawing attention to the different needs, opportunities and perspectives of women, men, girls and boys in the effort to manage and resolve armed conflict.

– I think we must create commitment to these issues and that training is needed in order to reach necessary insight, Bekaye Coulibaly says.

He welcomes continued investment in capacity building with regards to gender mainstreaming.

Bekaye emphasizes advice that he has appreciated and brought with him as a concrete tool from the FBA gender adviser course, with five different skills to keep in mind. FBA’s course mentor Fabrice Ramadan calls it the five Ks:

  • Knowledge about yourself and your weaknesses, what upsets you and what you prefer
  • Knowledge about the organization, its mandate, staff and the resources at your dispense for gender equality work
  • Knowledge about the country you are working in, its history, geography, economic politics and statistics regarding development, of course broken down in sex-disaggregated data
  • Knowledge about your co-workers and partners, your colleagues, the board and local and international contacts
  • Knowledge about priorities – where is a suitable place to start the work on gender mainstreaming?

FBA’s efforts for gender equality are governed by both international and national frameworks: the UN Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security as well as the Swedish national action plan on women, peace and security.

Also of importance is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and other international human rights documents. They establish that all peace and security work should be implemented with a gender perspective and that the participation of women is imperative to achieve sustainable international peace and security.

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