Women represent only 7.5 percent of the National Assembly – four out of 53 members – which the head of the UN mission in the country described as ‘regrettable’.
Ms Lekoetje told The Standard: “It is regrettable that the number of women in the National Assembly is low and The Gambia is one of the few countries that has below 10% of women in the National Assembly. This is something that I discussed with the Speaker of the House and I think the political party members are all very much supportive to see how to bring women into the political arena. There are number of reasons women shy away from politics. But these are things that we will look at. We are thinking of grooming women leaders from an early age, from our children, girls, community leaders, so that they can be able to develop the skills and ability to contest nationally. This is gradual, but we do think there are positive signs that we can have more women in political decision making positions.”
She then renewed calls for the mainstreaming of women’s empowerment in the country’s overall development agenda.
“In the United Nations itself, we have what we call the equality laws, so that we have equal employment opportunities for women. We look at women’s empowerment, discriminatory laws against women and support governments to improve this law. We do believe that when women are in decision making position, they are able to influence other decision makers to ensure that positive women’s policies are propagated and implemented.
“In The Gambia, we are very proud that we have been able to support the government to develop the Women’s Act 2010, Domestic Violence Act 2014 and Sexual Violence Act 2014, which are all acts for women and we will continue our support in those areas because we think these are essential. We will ensure that the country uses its resources effectively, particularly when 51 percent of the population is women.”
Ms Lekoetje also spoke against the prevalence of violence against women, saying that sensitisation is crucial in addressing the situation.
She explained: “Once women are empowered, sensitised and are very much aware of their rights, they can actually take their own stands and the most the UN can do is to build on empowerment and education to get rights. As I have said, we have supported the legislations and I think the legislations can really support women against violence. But women also have to take their own rightful positions and understand the issues. Then, they can take stands for themselves and this is something we are very passionate about and we are doing.”]]>