Wives of leaders of West Africa and the Sahel states are rising up to be counted as a force in their own right in the fight against child trafficking, exploitation, child labour and other forms of violence against children. At a workshop to that effect from October 17th and 18th, 2017 under the auspice of Mrs. Dominique Quattara, the First Lady of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, they have arrived at a consensus on three key documents to underpin their planned intervention.
A 14 point communiqué of the workshop is also binding the First Ladies to support efforts by their respective Government to abolish child trafficking, exploitation, child labour and related forms of violence against children. Additionally, it is to contribute to improving children’s access to free and quality basic education as well as mobilisation through Public and Private Partnership for funding of child protection services, agencies and interventions. They are also poised to support awareness and communication activities via dedicated campaigns and commemoration of the child statutory days
The Declaration has outlined five areas in the area of prevention, two in the area of protection and care of victims and survivors; three in the area of Regional and Sub-regional cooperation and on resources mobilisation, three on advocacy along with government to increase budgetary allocation for the implementation of the Action Plans and Strategies on child protection. Developing accountability mechanisms to monitor and report annually on the commitments is also part of the package in addition to the organisation of an annual meeting to follow-up on the implementation of the resolutions.
In attendance were the First Ladies of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, the Gambia and the representatives of the First Ladies of Chad, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria and Benin. Others were a number of ministers of labour and child protection of countries of West Africa and the Sahel, the Organisation of Trade Union of West Africa, (OTUWA), the International Labour Organisation, (ILO), the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency, Marcel A. Desouza, Mrs Fatoumata N’Diaye, Deputy Executive Secretary of UNICEF and Mr Moussa Oumarou, Director of Governance and Tripartism Department of the ILO, the workshop was also had a total of 62 experts.
Sixty two experts drawn from the countries of the ECOWAS and the Sahel region, and from trade unions and employers as well as international organizations such as UNICEF and the ILO, and the United States Department of Labour had spent three (3) days to deliberate on documents presented to the First Ladies from which the final communiqué emerged
At the opening ceremony at the Sofitel HotelIvoire, Abidjan were Mr. Robert Mambe, Governor of the District of Abidjan; Mr. Jean-Claude Kouassi, Minister of Employment and Social Protection of Cote d’Ivoire. Mrs Tanya Rassa, Representative of US Department of Labour and the President of ECOWAS Commission, H.E Marcel de Souza, each of whom made remarks. His Excellency, Daniel K Duncan, the Vice-President of Cote d’Ivoire addressed the workshop on behalf of the president who was on a state visit to Ghana. Thereafter, Mrs Domninique Quattarra, First Lady of Cote d’Ivoire and president of the National Oversight Committee for Fight AgainstTrafficking, Exploitation and Child Labour, gave her welcome address.
Two major papers spoke to the workshop. These were Mrs N’Diaye, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director’s paper on “First Ladies’: Implication for Acceleration of Progress on the Protection of Children of West Africa and in the Sahel’’ and Mr. Oumarou, the ILO Governance Department Director on ‘‘First Ladies’ Action to Combat Child Trafficking, Exploitation and Child Labour’’.