People of the Commonwealth: Critical Conversations

Equality and Justice in Covid-19 Responses

Jump to Guests
Guests
Hilary Gbedemah
Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr Obe, Sierra Leone
Musu Bakoto Sawo, Think Young Women, The Gambia
Joyce Bawah Mogtari, Ghana
REP Nnena Elendu Ukeje, Nigeria
Hon Nourane Foster, Cameroon
Fatmata Sorie, L.A.W.Y.E.R.S, Sierra Leone
Comfort Mussa, SisterSpeak237, Cameroon
Nana Afadzinu, West Africa Civil Society Institute, Ghana / Regional
Date & Time
2:00pm, 25 February 2021 - 3:30pm, 25 February 2021
Location
About the event

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in governance throughout the world—from health service provision to international aid.

Lessons from past epidemics confirm the importance of incorporating a gendered analysis to mount an effective and inclusive response. For example, during the 2014–16 West African Ebola outbreak, gendered norms meant that women were more likely to be infected by the virus, given their predominant roles as caregivers within families and as front-line health-care workers. And, as they were less likely than men to have decision-making power regarding the response, their needs remained largely unmet.

The Covid-19 pandemic appears to be playing out in a similar way with clear indications emerging that women are experiencing the pandemic differently to men—despite a relatively lower mortality rate. Overall, the vulnerabilities that reflect women’s gender roles and unequal social status are exacerbated. We see the results in higher rates of violence, faster economic decline and continued exclusion from decision making and policy development.

The issue of differentiated needs arises between as well as within countries. Responses to Covid-19 have largely been ‘boilerplate’—a one-size-fits-all approach that reflects both the urgency and the novelty of our situation. But it is becoming clear that policies and approaches which might work well in one part of the world will not necessarily work well elsewhere. For example, support to the informal economy may be a minor policy issue in a developed country but is a critical question of human survival—one with special resonance for women—in many developing countries. How do we make sure that these differences are recognised and taken account of?

This Critical Conversation will bring together a range of stakeholders to discuss responses to the pandemic so far, the challenges these reveal, and the ways in which we can ensure more just and equal responses to Covid-19 and future crises.

This event has taken place. You can watch it here:

Guests
Hilary Gbedemah Moderator
Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr Obe, Sierra Leone Panellist
Musu Bakoto Sawo, Think Young Women, The Gambia Panellist
Joyce Bawah Mogtari, Ghana Panellist
REP Nnena Elendu Ukeje, Nigeria Panellist
Hon Nourane Foster, Cameroon Panellist
Fatmata Sorie, L.A.W.Y.E.R.S, Sierra Leone Panellist
Comfort Mussa, SisterSpeak237, Cameroon Panellist
Nana Afadzinu, West Africa Civil Society Institute, Ghana / Regional Panellist
Moderator
Hilary Gbedemah

Hilary Gbedemah is a lawyer of 44 years with extensive experience in private legal practice, advocacy, academia, and international and national policy. In 2019, she was recognised by Apolitical’s Gender Equality as one of the world’s top 100 most influential people in global policy.

Internationally, she is a member of the UN CEDAW Committee with expertise in its Convention’s 16 thematic areas and was its Chair for the two–year period from (2018-2019). For a year within that period, she was Chair of the Chairs of the UN Treaty Bodies. On the CEDAW Committee, she was Chair of the Working Groups on Education, which produced General Recommendation 36 on the Right of Girls and Women to Education, and Chair of the Working Group on Inquiries under the Optional Protocol. Additionally, she was Follow-up Rapporteur. She was also on the Committee’s Working Groups on Access to Justice which produced CEDAW’s General Recommendation 33 and Disaster Risk Reduction in the context of Climate Change which produced General Recommendation 37.

At the national level, she has been involved in advocacy on legislative Bills relating to Domestic Violence, Property Rights of Spouses, Inheritance, and Affirmative Action. A trainer and facilitator, she is currently the Rector of The Law Institute in Accra, Ghana.

Panellist
Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr Obe, Sierra Leone

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE was sworn-in in May 2018 with a commitment to transform Freetown using an inclusive, data-driven approach to address challenges in the city. The 3-year Transform Freetown plan details 19 concrete targets across 11 sectors and covers issues ranging from tackling environmental degradation to facilitating the creation of jobs in the tourism sector.

A finance professional with over 25 years of private sector experience in strategic planning, risk management consulting and project management, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr’s public sector engagement began with her work during the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic and her subsequent role as Delivery Team Lead for the second phase of a multi-stakeholder programme to drive socio-economic recovery in Sierra Leone post Ebola.

Mayor Aki-Sawyerr is a Chartered Accountant and holds an MSc in Politics of the World Economy from the London School of Economics and a BSc Hons in Economics from Fourah Bay College. She was recently recognized in the BBC 2020 100 Women list.

Panellist
Musu Bakoto Sawo, Think Young Women, The Gambia

Musu Bakoto Sawo is a women rights advocate in The Gambia and the national Coordinator of Think Young Women; a non-profit organisation promoting women and girls’ active participation in society. The organisation’s work focuses heavily on ending violence against women and girls, child marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM). After having experienced FGM as a child, at the age of 9 years she began advocating for the rights of women and girls. She is a lecturer in international human rights law at the Faculty of Law, University of Gambia, and provides pro bono work to individuals and organisations.

She is the winner of the 2020 Daily Trust African of the Year award for her dedicated commitment to ending violence against women and girls, the winner of the Vera Chirwa Award (2017) from the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, Commonwealth Points of Lights for The Gambia from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (2018) and one of the 100 most influential young persons in West Africa according to the Confederation of West African Youths (2018). She is the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Gambia Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission and was Women Deliver Youth Leader in 2018.

Panellist
Joyce Bawah Mogtari, Ghana

Joyce has advised extensively on financial transactions, corporate acquisitions, mergers, and amalgamations and has represented Ghana at several Diplomatic Conferences and meetings and advised extensively on the adoption of International Maritime Transport Instruments, Regulations and Conventions, and participated actively in the Working Group on the development of the Rotterdam Rules from 2008 to 2012. She has also served as an expert for the Ghanaian Admiralty Court.

She is an experienced mediator and has mediated several cases, both locally and internationally.

Joyce is a member of the Ghana Bar Association, the African Women Lawyers Association and the Women in International Shipping and Trade Association (WISTA) and an alumnus of the US- International Visitor Leadership Programme.

She holds a Master of Arts Degree (MA) in International Peace and Security from the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Institute, a Master of Laws Degree (LLM) in International Maritime Transport Law from the IMO’s International Maritime Law Institute, Malta, a Qualifying Certificate in Law (QCL) from the Ghana Law School, an LLB Law Degree from the University of London, Holborn College.

Joyce served as Deputy Minister for Transport from May 2013 to January 2017. She was responsible for the formulation and dissemination of Government transportation policy for implementation by the fifteen (15) Transport sector agencies. Within the Ministry, Joyce had oversight responsibilities for Aviation, Maritime & Inland Waterways, Railways and Road Transport Services.

Prior to her appointment as Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Transport in May 2013, Joyce was the Head of the Legal Department and Solicitor Secretary of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority.

She has served on various Boards, including the Ghana Shippers’ Authority, the National Lotteries Authority and the PSC Tema Shipyard Company Limited.

Joyce is a Special Aide to John Dramani Mahama, a former President of the Republic of Ghana.

Panellist
REP Nnena Elendu Ukeje, Nigeria

Rep.  Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje is a politician and a former three-term member of the House of Representatives who represented Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State between 2007 and 2019. During her tenure, she served as Chairperson, House Committee on Foreign Affairs (2011-2019). Prior to that appointment, she served as Chairperson, House Committee on Donor Agencies, Development Partners and Civil Societies. She sat as a member on other distinguished standing committees of the House including House Committee on Defence, House Committee on Science and Technology, House Committee on Parliamentary relations, Women in Parliament, and others.

Having distinguished herself politically, in her quest for self-improvement, she completed a course in Counter-Terrorism at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Garmisch, Germany.

As a lawmaker, Rep. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje has several sponsored and co-sponsored bills to her credit. She authored a bill to establish the National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons NATCOM Bill, Public Officers Protection Amendment Act, Anti-trust legislation in broadcasting, and many more.

She co-sponsored the Military Trust Fund Establishment Bill, Education Reform Bill, Education Loan bill, Non-stigmatization against victims of HIV/AIDS Bill, Trafficking in Persons Bill, Affirmative Action Bill, and a bill on Health Reform with emphasis on improved funding for cancer research and treatment as well as reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates.

Panellist
Hon Nourane Foster, Cameroon

Hon. Nourane Fotsing Moluh Hasana, better known as Hon. Nourane Foster is a Cameroonian businesswomen, humanitarian and politician.

She founded the prestigious Nourishka brand in 2014 and won the African Talent award in Ivory Cost in the “Best African Entrepreneurs” category in 2019. In 2017, she became involved in politics at the age of 29 as a result of the citizen movement ONZE MILLIONS which raised awareness among young people on the importance of getting involved in the political activities of their country.

During Cabral LIBII’s presidential campaign, she was in the caravan and mobilization team, acquiring significant experience in political mobilization as a result. In November 2019 she announced her candidacy for the legislative and municipal elections of 2020 in Cameroon for the Cameroonian Party for National Reconciliation. In February 2020 she was elected deputy of the nation with the PCRN (Cameroonian Party for National Reconciliation). She now sits among the 180 Members of parliament of the National Assembly of Cameroon for the tenth legislature. She is the youngest parliamentarian in the country. Her main fight remains the empowerment of young people for self-employment.

Panellist
Fatmata Sorie, L.A.W.Y.E.R.S, Sierra Leone

Fatmata Sorie is an attorney, a women’s rights campaigner and the current president of Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality Rights and Social Justice (L.A.W.Y.E.R.S).

This is a pressure group of comprised exclusively of female lawyers who for the past 23 years have been providing pro bono legal service for the prosecution of Offenders and accessories to sexual assault crimes. She uses this platform to promote the rights of women & girls and advocate for legal & institutional reforms. The group provides expert advice to victims, survivors and their families; discouraging out-of-court settlements for rape cases which is now a crime in Sierra Leone as a result of robust advocacy for law reform. The group also use all medium available to amplify their voice on issues of rape, sexual & Domestic violence as well as sexual harassment.

She continues to advocate for the need for more medical facilities in Sierra Leone to treat victims of rape and sexual abuse in her drive to seek justice and gender equality.

Panellist
Comfort Mussa, SisterSpeak237, Cameroon

Comfort Mussa, from Cameroon, is the founder and CEO of ‘SisterSpeak237’ a not-for-profit organisation aimed at strengthening the voices of women and minority groups across Cameroon. She is a multimedia journalist known for exploring sensitive topics, social justice and gender equality. She has been rewarded the 145th Commonwealth Point of Light in honour of her voluntary work on supporting the most vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. Comfort Mussa strongly advocates for empowering women and minority groups in her organisation encouraging them to tell their own stories and to question the silence about taboo subjects.

Moreover, Comfort Mussa’s work also includes providing crucial support to disabled and vulnerable people in Yaounde through distribution of hand sanitisers, masks and sharing information about COVID-19. Her work at ‘SisterSpeak237’consists of a dedicated COVID-19 outreach project. The project emphasises gender and disability-inclusive COVID responses across Cameroon. She has contributed to the publication of a Gender and Disability Inclusive COVID Response Guide supported by the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives to help organisations provide more inclusive and accessible responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Panellist
Nana Afadzinu, West Africa Civil Society Institute, Ghana / Regional

Nana Afadzinu, Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), has worked with and within the civil society sector for the past 23 years. She is a passionate advocate for sustainable development in Africa with the full participation of an effective, efficient, influential, and sustainable civil society. Her passion for leading change and challenging the Status Quo on the continent recently landed her a place on the Avance Media 2020 100 Most Influential African Women List.

She is a lawyer by profession and has worked on areas of governance, human rights, philanthropy, and capacity development with several mission-oriented organisations in Africa. These include the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and IBIS West Africa, among others.

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