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Abstract

Existing literature has investigated the challenges of interstate border dispute, border conflict and their security and developmental implications for the West African sub-region. ECOWAS Free Movement Protocol of Persons was instituted to enhance economic development of West Africa’s citizens. However, studies have shown that the protocol has relatively aided trans-border trafficking in persons, drugs, Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). However, vulnerability of trans-border women traders in the sub-region have received little attention. This study utilized both primary and secondary sources of data gathering in order to interrogate the provisions of ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons vis-à-vis its operationalization and incapacity to increase women’s economic opportunity and empowerment in West Africa. Through field survey, twenty (20) interviews were conducted at the Nigeria-Benin border. The interviews targeted 14 purposively selected women traders at the border, two officials each of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Customs Service and the Nigeria Police Force. Moreover, observation method was employed to substantiate the interviews conducted. Data obtained were analyzed using descriptive analysis. Consequently, this study discovered that women constituted more of trans-border traders on Nigeria-Benin border, and precisely in West Africa. In addition, they are vulnerable to extortion, intimidation and sexual harassment by border officials, which has impinged on their rights contained in the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons. The study showed that the protocol does not fully protect women (mostly the ones with low economic characteristics who constitute larger population of women at the border) and thereby having implications for their livelihood and survival. The study then concluded that while the problem faced by women on the Nigeria-Benin border persists, it has a huge impact on the credibility of ECOWAS to properly integrate the sub-region for development and for the benefit of its significant population of women.

Note on the Author

Ayodeji Anthony Aduloju is a Doctoral Candidate, Department of International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

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