By Alagie Manneh
Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe has dedicated her election as president of Refela Africa to President Adama Barrow at a meeting in State House on Thursday afternoon.
Mayor Lowe has been dominating media headlines following her election last month in Kisumu, Kenya as the new president of the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa.
Refela works for the development of women’s leadership in African cities and local communities and for the definition and implementation of local policies and strategies in Africa.
“Your Excellency, I dedicate this victory to you, the women and the youth of our beloved country The Gambia without whom I would not have been able to make it to the presidency,” Mayor Lowe told President Barrow.
She further praised the “maximum support” towards her success. “I truly appreciate your support and that of the government. You did not relent in your efforts to pull diplomatic strings to make this [victory] happen.”
Mayor Lowe related the hotly-contested nature of the Refela presidency as five vice presidents from around the continent joined in. “[But with] your continued support, I pulled the flag of The Gambia and held it high. It is important to let you know that when the voting started all regions voted for me including the VP for Central Africa who was also interested in the position. She abandoned her interest and said to me, my sister, you are doing very well with Refela in your country I am withdrawing my candidacy and support you…”
She used her speech to draw the president’s attention to the crusade for gender equality in Africa. In Africa, Mayor Lowe said, “even though they represent more than 50 percent of the population, millions of women are still excluded from any formal economic channels, and represent less than a quarter of decision makers, yet recent studies indicate that gender equality between women and men would help give a boost to sustainable development.”
She said Refela has been championing the advocacy of the rights of women to participate in political leadership and decision making at all levels of government.
She said that gender equality issues are not new to President Barrow, urging the Gambian leader to create a national framework that will promote gender equality in the country in order to increase the number of women in political decision-making processes. “It is no news that our neighbours Senegal are already on the right track in that direction,” said Mayor Lowe. “Create a gender monitoring office that is autonomous and that will ensure respect of the national framework.”
In his address, President Barrow enjoined Gambians to learn from Thursday’s ceremony, which brought rival NPP government and UDP leadership together to discuss issues of national importance. He pointed out that Mayor Lowe’s success is The Gambia’s success.
“We can be in different political parties, but we should see Gambia as our country,” President Barrow said. “We should be sitting together, we should be discussing, helping and supporting each other.”
He said that the council would not have been without a government administration. “It’s because you have a government, that’s why there is a council. The council is here to complement government’s efforts.”
President Barrow spoke at length about leadership, postulating that it is a social contract. “The social contract is to change the lives of your people so that they will feel the change. And Gambians have started feeling the change.”
The Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare, Fatou Kinteh assured the mayor of government’s continued support in her new role as president of Refela Africa. “Feel free to knock on our doors at all times, as we will feel free to knock on your doors at all times.”
Foreign affairs minister, Mamadou Tangara, who has been singled out by Mayor Lowe for playing a starring role in her ascendancy as Refela president, said they were happy to offer Mayor Lowe the support that she needed. He said they did it for The Gambia.