6 December 2023, Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) – Globally, the lack of women’s participation in the development of legislation and policies against organized crime continues to present a significant obstacle to the effective mainstreaming of gender and human rights considerations in the implementation of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC). Despite women’s representation in decision-making positions being an internationally agreed priority in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, women are underrepresented at all levels of legislation and policy development.
To address this gap, UNODC has launched the Network of Women in Law and Policy against Organized Crime in West and Central Africa, with the aim of supporting female policymakers, legislative drafters, criminal justice practitioners and law enforcement in the meaningful participation in the development of legislative and strategic frameworks to prevent and counter organized crime. It is widely recognized that Networks are a powerful tool to advocate for and effect change, and can equip women with the necessary skills and contacts to excel in their careers.
To launch the Network, UNODC held its first event in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire from 27 until 29 November. With over 24 participants from across West and Central Africa, the event was dedicated to building connections, agreeing on a vision for the Network and designing activities that the Network will undertake. It was also an opportunity for the members to learn more about the work of UNODC in advancing gender and human rights mainstreaming, as well as a forum for the Network Members to share experiences of working in a sector that is traditionally male dominated.
By the end of the three day event, the Network Members agreed that their vision is to: “utilize different platforms to engage with female law and policymakers, as well as law enforcement working on organized crime, to contribute to the empowerment of women and to achieve a safer and more equitable society for all.”
When we asked the Network members why they decided to join the event, Mariatou Faye, Senior State Council to the Attorney General’s Chambers and Ministry of Justice in Gambia, highlighted that: “I find inspiration in the collective strength of empowered women shaping the legal landscape. Together, we amplify our voices to dismantle criminal networks and foster justice. Through this network, we gain a powerful platform for collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and mentorship, forging a path towards a safer and more equitable society.”
The three-day event proved a great success with the members of the Network committing to specific action points to contribute to the vision of the network. As emphasized in the closing remarks: "Ce n’est que le début," this is only the beginning, and we look forward to the next event early next year.
UNODC wishes to acknowledge the Government of Germany for the generous support, as well as the Government of Côte d'Ivoire for hosting the event.