By Omar Bah
The mayor of Banjul has told women councillors that there is a lack of political will to address gender inequality in The Gambia.
She gave an example that only 3 out of 53 elected National Assembly Members are women and only 17 out of 121 elected councillors are women.
Addressing an advocacy training workshop on gender for women councillors organised by the West Minister Foundation for Democracy (WFD) yesterday, Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe further said: “This statistics is not good enough. Women face numerous challenges when seeking political positions, and sadly, the civil society pays little focus on these issues.”
Rohey said there is a need to adopt a quota system to address the issue, citing Senegal as an example where there is 47 percent female representation at the local level. “We can achieve this by adopting the right policies,” she said.
Mayor Lowe said democracy cannot thrive in a society where more than half of the population is not adequately represented in decision-making positions at all levels of governance as well as in other sectors of leadership.
“It is therefore imperative for women, who constitute over 50 percent of the population to be well represented in political leadership positions at all levels of governance. Women should be supported and encouraged to participate in politics because scholars have it that when women are in political leadership positions, society stands to gain,” she added.
Mayor Lowe disclosed that The Gambia has many laws, policies, and numerous conventions and protocols signed to advance gender equality and women’s rights, but they have not yielded results as women remain marginalised.
She blamed the lack of implementation of laws and protocols relating to women’s issues on the inefficiency of state institutions in mainstreaming gender issues in national and local government budgets and the limited capacity of women to demand their rights.
The British High Commissioner to The Gambia, David Belgrove, said women’s participation advances gender equality and affects range of policy issues that get considered and the type of solutions that are proposed.
“The positive impact of women in politics is undeniable,” he said, adding that women bring different views, talents, and perspectives to politics, which help shape the political agenda.
“Women in positions of authority tend to allocate more budget to health and education; they champion social issues more; and they resolve national crises without resorting to violence. In fact, when women are at the negotiation table, peace lasts longer,” he said. “We need to empower women to become active participants at the policy-making table by promoting equal rights and opportunities for women in political parties and social change movements. This includes empowering female candidates during elections, mentoring, coaching, training, and providing political skills and communication,” he said. Belgrove added that women’s voices must not only be present but heard in the political process that affects them.
“A country can only succeed and develop to its full potential when the skills, knowledge, and talent of all its population are given the opportunity to flourish. A country that doesn’t give equal opportunity to half of its population will never reach its full potential,” he said.
The permanent secretary at the ministry of lands Saffie Sankareh-Farage informed the women councillors that they have a unique opportunity to contribute to strengthening democracy and good governance at the grassroots level. She said inclusive politics are the cornerstone of every vibrant democracy.
“It recognises the importance of a diverse perspective and ensures that all members of society, regardless of gender, disability, or social status, have a voice in the decision-making process. By actively engaging in inclusive politics, you can advocate for policies that reflect the needs and aspirations of all constituents,” she said.
She said the government remains committed to realising in full the principles and aspirations enshrined in its decentralisation programme.
The WFD country representative, Madi Jobarteh, said the two-days advocacy seminar is aimed at introducing the concept of gender as a decision-making, governance, and development tool and practise that women councillors could utilise to address the issues, concerns, and needs of women in their respective regions and the country as a whole.