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International Women’s Day, March 8, 2021 “Women’s leadership: For an egalitarian future in the Covid-19 world “Tribune of the President of the West African Development Bank

Cyril Bailleul-7299 (2)The special day of March 8, commemorated around the world in support of women’s rights, gives me the opportunity to pay a heartfelt tribute to all the brave women : wives, mothers and daughters the world over, and particularly those in our sub-region.

Women face socio-cultural burdens and often social and economic exclusion ; but they continue to show resilience and bravery by taking it upon themselves to improve their living conditions and those of their households. In this battle, the responsibility of men is a structural lever for change.

The following observations illustrate the relevance of the theme of this commemoration :

  1. In sub-Saharan Africa, 59% of women aged between 25 and 34 are among the extremely poor, according to a UN global study on the role of women in development[1]. The study recommends that gender equality and unpaid care and domestic work be given top priority in the development of poverty eradication and sustainable development strategies.
  2. In West Africa, gender inequalities are very deep, to the detriment of women, as measured by the UN’s average inequality index [0,61 sur 1], reflecting the persistence of discrimination. The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately widened this gap, and women’s rights, including those relating to physical integrity, have been trampled underfoot.

COVID also shows us that it is an absolute necessity for society to rely on those who make it exist, whether in their homes or in economic structures. All this calls for action to promote female leadership ; and to support, through our financing, the emergence of women entrepreneurs as key players in economic growth.

So the Bank’s response to the pandemic is not just about rectifying long-standing inequalities ; it’s about helping to build a resilient world in the interests of all, where no woman is left behind. This is why the Bank is stepping up its interventions in member states to ensure that women benefit from the creation of economic opportunities and jobs.

The above shows the coherence and relevance of this year’s evocative international theme. The future will be brighter when women are fully involved in decision-making bodies, so that their practical and strategic needs are effectively taken into account. As a sustainable development institution, BOAD has a central responsibility in promoting and achieving the emancipation of women. That’s why, through our Djoliba 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, we are committed to ensuring inclusive financing for women.

Internally, the Bank has placed particular emphasis on strengthening women’s skills and leadership, and improving the rate of women’s participation in the Bank’s governing bodies. Of course, there’s no difference in pay : women and men receive the same pay for the same job.

In terms of governance of the institution, in addition to the directors already in post before my appointment, I recently recruited a cabinet director and promoted a woman to the position of Secretary General of the BOAD. Over and above the importance I attach to gender issues, the choice of these two women to occupy highly strategic positions is in line with the commitments I made to the highest authorities of the UEMOA when I took office, and is amply justified by the competence they have demonstrated. 

I would like to welcome the appointment of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as head of the WTO, as well as all those women whose merits and expertise have earned them high positions in our countries, companies and institutions. Women’s leadership is not wishful thinking, it’s a necessity for development; and I dare to hope that these appointments will open up and strengthen the emergence of women’s leadership in Africa, the only real path to sustainable and equitable human development.

I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the States of the Union who are joining in these efforts to promote female leadership. A world is emerging in which women and men contribute to and benefit equally from the fruits of the development of our societies and economies. It is a source of pride and a duty for me, as President of the BOAD, to be able to contribute to its development.

Serge EKUE

Chairman of BOAD

[1] https://undocs.org/fr/A/74/111. This study is presented to the Second Committee of the United Nations General Assembly every five years.