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MAA Foundation ends regional consultation on women political participation

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By Olimatou Coker

MAA Foundation (Maa meaning mother), a non-profit organisation established to end poverty through empowering rural women, has in collaboration with the government of the Gambia, UNFPA and UNICEF commenced regional consultations across the country under the peacebuilding fund.

The consultations are aimed at galvanising support for nominated female candidates for the upcoming council elections.

Binta Jammeh-Sidibeh, women leader and former executive director of Women’s Bureau, said women empowerment should be from the grassroot, adding that  the council elections are an important component of the country’s governance system.

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“I want to tell my fellow women that they have no reason to vote for men if their fellow women are vying for the same position. We constitute 58 percent of the registered voters – we should not be used as tools by our male counterparts to fight each other. It is time we start clapping and dancing for ourselves and not men. If a woman is contesting in your area, please vote for her regardless of her political affiliation. Let us not allow politics or politicians to divide us,” she said.

She said women are the foundation and building block of peace and therefore be represented in key decision-making positions to be able to influence policies because there cannot be sustainable peace and development without women.

Madam Sidibeh emphasised that women need to be empowered.

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“So, the consultations are meant to engage with you to create a common understanding for all of us to be able to strategise and lay out plans on how we can also be involved in political representation because he idea is for us to graduate from participation to representation,” she said.

Awa Bah, desk officer IPC women branch said women stand a good chance of achieving whatever they want if they stand together.

“The politicians will run after us whenever they need positions but the moment, they get what they want they denigrate us. We should stand our ground and ensure that we get what we deserve,” he said.

Fatoumatta Jawara-Dukureh, the CEO of Maa foundation said women should be ready and committed to change by voting for their fellow women during the upcoming Local Government Elections.

“We should set an example in this election,” she said.

Commenting on the project and its objectives, CEO Jawara said it will empower women to be self- sufficient and financially independent.

“Our goal is to equip the women with the skills and knowledge they need to run a successful and peaceful election campaign and take up leadership positions,” she said.

A representative from the ministry of gender, Siaka Marong, said women’s political participation influences policy and decision-making.

Earlier speaking, the UNFPA country rep, Ms Ndeye Rose Sarr, said the whole project is geared towards building the capacity of women on leadership and responsibility skills which will enhance their communication techniques, public speaking skills and help them understand the importance of women’s participation in elections.

“Women political participation is a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy. It facilitates women’s direct engagement in public decision-making because women’s political leadership begins with increasing the number of women in key decision-making positions,” she said, adding that studies show higher numbers of women in political positions generally contribute to stronger attention to women’s issues.

She said the United Nations through its peacebuilding fund recently launched an important and timely PBF project on ‘Strengthening women’s political participation and leadership through reformed legislation, community-level leadership, and political parties’ engagement in The Gambia’.

“The PBF Project on women leadership and participation was developed to increase the number of women in leadership positions and decision-making platforms at all levels. This will be achieved by addressing some of the constraints and inhibitors preventing women from political participation, local community leadership, and peacebuilding processes,” she added.

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