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Nyimansata Sanneh: Educated women are the obstacle to women leadership

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“The political will is already there,” she said. “The present government, under President Jammeh, has created the enabling environment for women to show their potential.

“Our problem is that educated Gambian women are shying away from politics. The average educated Gambian woman has no interest in politics. They want to have everything on the silver plate.” 

Mrs. Sanneh-Bojang is the first elected female parliamentarian in The Gambia, elected into parliament in 1982, during the first republic. A few decades on, women’s effective participation in political leadership remains marginal. And now she’s actively involved in a feminist campaign that seeks to change the country’s political environment from male domination.   

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“We the majority of Gambian women are saying that it is not enough for the president to be handpicking us, especially for parliamentary seats,” she said 

“We are no longer satisfied with the number of women nominated to the parliament. We want to struggle and campaign alongside with men and take our rightful positions at the parliament. There we will have a stronger voice. If the number of women is increased in parliament, then we will be able to push our issues and agenda through. 

“We will go after elite women to come out and effectively participate in elections and decision making process because they owe it to their nation. They were educated by their parents to take part in all spheres of nation building. We will go after them. They will come out by force. I know they will not all be courageous enough, but I’m sure if we go after them, sensitise and motivate them, we will have a good number of them who will be vying for political leadership positions.”

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The prominent female politician was talking to journalists on the sidelines of a weeklong Anglophone regional forum. Organised by London-based  women’s rights organisation, Women Living Under Muslim Laws  (WLUML), the event was hosted by a Gambian women’s rights NGO, Gamcotrap. It brought together feminist activists from Nigeria, Somalia, Senegal and The Gambia for a meeting aimed at stimulating women to bridge the gender cap in politics and leadership positions.

Also speaking to journalists, Dr. Isatou Touray, the executive director of Gamcotrap, said: “The Banjul meeting was held following an international call from the Status of Women about changes that are necessary for women to engage constructively in development. 

“We need a transformational leadership for women in every decision making process. The whole agenda for post-2015 is transformational leadership. We don’t need to be followers but elected members in society. Leadership should not be a male reserve but vice versa.”

On the outcome of the forum, Dr. Touray said: “We have taken a common front where we say, we must continue the advocacy and strengthen women who have leadership qualities but might not have discovered themselves.”

Fatou sow, a professor of Sociology, formerly of Shiekh Anta Diop University in Dakar, and now international director of WLUML, said: “We feel concerned about gender issues in the society. Our aim is to advocate for women’s rights issues. Women Living under Muslim Law is not a religious organisation, but we are concerned about women on whom laws said to be derived from Islam are applied, and many of those laws are very repressive to women.”

Dr. Ayesha Imam, a Nigerian delegate said: “The training was organised because we felt that there is not enough women leaders in Africa, except Rwanda. Leadership is a process where men and women should take up roles. Our advocacy is to have more women in leadership roles. We want transformational leadership where democracy will flourish. We need transformational leadership for women.”

Minna Salami, delegate from London and Sagal Sheihk Ali of Somalia made similar remarks.

The Banjul meeting was part of WLUML women’s empowerment and leadership development for democratisation programme, which aimed to empower women in leadership in Middle East, Africa, Asia, to help them effectively combat violence against women.


Author: Sainey Marenah


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