*begins capacity building for trade unions on engagement with governments
By Michael Oche
The Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) has stressed the need for members’ states in the ECOWAS sub-region to increase funding for social protection programs for citizens.
The workers organization which represents the interests of trade unions in the West African sub-region said the quest for Universal Social Protection assumed a very prominent role with the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Deputy President of OTUWA, Comrade Sophie Kourouma, spoke in Abuja during a workshop to commence the development of a training manual for trade unions on social protection.
The training and campaign materials when completed will equip trade unions and civil society organisations in the West Africa sub-region to kick start adequate engagement with governments on provision of social protection for citizens.
He explained that the issue of Social Protection has been a recurring matter of great importance to the UN and its specialized agencies like the International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF), the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
Kourouma, who represented Comrade Mademba Sock, the President of OTUWA said, ““This workshop devoted to the twin issues of developing training and campaign materials that will eventually result in a manual for use by trade unions and civil society organizations in the sub regions, also intend to put in focus the issue of funding of Social Protection for citizens of our ECOWAS community.”
The workshop was done in collaboration with the Danish Trade Union Development Agency (DTDA).
On his part, the Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Prof. Fatou Sow Sarr, said; “The promotion of Social Protection and its importance in the achievement of the SDGs, in particular target 1.3 of the SDGs which calls for the implementation of nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all by 2030 to ensure substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable, must be an objective and a commitment for all of us.
“Available data on the population receiving at least one cash benefit under social protection (SDG 1.3.1) indicates that West Africa, with 13%, is the lowest region compared with the other regions of Africa, with a continental average of 18%. It is also important not to lose sight of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted the persistent inequalities and major gaps that remain in our countries in terms of the coverage, comprehensiveness and adequacy of social protection to the needs of our populations.
“This painful period has shown us that no one is protected until everyone is protected: wherever we live, whatever our background, origins or activity, our well-being is closely dependent on that of others. When some of us can’t seek treatment or quarantine ourselves because we don’t have income security, the whole of public health is compromised and our collective well-being suffers.
“It is therefore urgent, indeed crucial, for our region to invest in strengthening social protection, which is both a fundamental human right and a social and economic necessity capable of improving the standard of living of our citizens in the ECOWAS region and contributing to the vision of “a fully integrated community of peoples in a peaceful and prosperous region, with strong institutions that respect fundamental freedoms and work towards inclusive and sustainable development”. We very much welcome this initiative by OTUWA and urge other organisations in the region to do the same, thereby at the same time laying the groundwork for improving social protection in ECOWAS Member States”, it added.