No fewer than 790 scholarships are awarded to brilliant needy boys and girls by the 15 ECOWAS countries in the last one year, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
Buhari, who is current Chair of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, said this at the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN headquarters, New York.
Represented by Hajia Aisha Abubakar, Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Buhari shared the interventions, accomplishments and challenges of the 15-Member States.
He said with the scholarships, girls were now increasingly subscribing to scientific and technical subjects, such as agricultural research, biotechnology, molecular biology, mechanics, civil engineering and other technical and vocational courses hitherto dominated by boys.
“This programme has also significantly contributed to awareness creation on gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, child marriage and early pregnancy,” he said.
Buhari said the sub-region was in full expansion and resolutely committed to a successful integration of its peoples through ECOWAS Commission.
According to him, ECOWAS is actively working to fight against exclusion, inequalities and the generational transmission of poverty in order to accelerate change with a strong social impact.
He also listed the ECOWAS’ interventions and accomplishments to include programme of support on the reproductive health of women and girls.
“Through this programme, ECOWAS has successfully treated and reintegrated nearly 1,500 women and girls suffering from obstetric.
“This programme is made up of three components, namely surgical repair of the fistula, the rehabilitation of the cured woman through financial and technical support.
In the area of youth training, the Nigerian leader said 169 young people from the sub-region were trained in building electrical wiring.
He added that 577 in Agro-business and pastoral studies and 310 young people in automobile mechanics, refrigeration and air conditioning.
Buhari added that an ECOWAS Youth Fund had been established to enhance for youth employment through the provision of grants for projects and programmes initiated by the young people.
The Nigerian president said the ’50 Million Women Speak Platform’ project aimed to empower and help women entrepreneurs improve their skills to access financial and non-financial information.
“The introduction of passports and identity cards and the removal of customs barriers for all citizens of ECOWAS have greatly facilitated the free movement of people and goods at the regional level and reduced harassment at the borders, to which women were particularly exposed.
“ECOWAS also seeks to achieve integration through equal access to sustainable infrastructure. The ECOWAS Commission has a master plan for the realisation of regional infrastructure.
“This plan has made it possible to initiate important projects such as highways to connect ECOWAS Member States, the ECOWAS maritime company project, strengthening of the air transport system, and the energy interconnection programme, among others.
“All these efforts are aimed at achieving the regional common market with a particular focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment,” he said.
CSW is the largest annual gathering on gender equality and women’s rights.