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Speaking at the just-concluded political forum for effective participation of women in politics and decision-making, the two opposition figures said they are optimistic that The Gambia will have a woman president “sooner than later”. 

Saja Jarju whose party is led by a Germany-based man, Henry Gomez, said: “We will have a woman candidate as president because there is need for a woman president. We have seen it in other countries and we have more capable women in The Gambia than other countries that have women as their leaders.”

Mr Jaju blamed the media as inhibiting the advancement of women in this country. He said: “Divergent information should be spread to women but how many radio stations are doing that in this country? Women need to have access to media to have their views heard. At GPPD, we are behind women in all spheres.”

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The UDP’s Mariama Secka, said: “It is possible to have women presidential candidates for the 2016 elections. Don’t underrate women because what we are advocating for is to have reputable women come forward and contest against men in elections.  I am very optimistic about the possibility of a woman candidate in presidential elections.” 

Asked whether the main opposition UDP will select a woman to replace its current male leader, Ousainou Darboe, she said: “Just wait and see, but what I can say is that a woman president is likely… It is possible. Please don’t underrate our party. I will not let the cat out of the bag now but it is possible to have a woman candidate.  The way forward for women’s participation in election is unity. Let us unite and stop castigating female candidates in elections and encourage and support them to participate, and if possible, win against their male counterparts. We need women in parliament and in leadership roles.”

However, the national youth mobiliser and National Assembly member for the ruling APRC, Babou Gaye-Sonko said: “The blame has to come back to women because all avenues are open for their effective participation in politics and national development. There is no obstruction or obstacle to their effective participation. In all our structures there is gender balance. In our criteria, women are given equal opportunities like their men counterparts.”

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Mr Sonko said the APRC government under President Jammeh has empowered women at the highest level citing the vice president and the deputy speaker among a host of other female ministers. “If you want to serve the people, work for them, and when you come out to look for leadership position they will give you their votes,” he admonished, urging women to work hard to win people’s minds.


Electoral and constitutional reforms

The three-day confab ended with a call by women leaders for electoral and constitutional reforms as recommended in the 2010 Women’s Act. This recommendation urges the government to introduce affirmative action in all its political decision-making national institutions. For example, the introduction of the quota system which implies that 30 percent of political representation of women, and for all other parties to adopt the same and to encourage more women to contest for elective positions right across the board.” 

They also called for the resuscitation of the inter-party dialogue which should be used to promote dialogue and a conflict prevention mechanism. “All political structures … [should be] engendered so that capable women can come out and … [be] promoted and supported to win the elective positions in their various parties.”

Presenting the recommendations, Dr Isatou Touray clarified: “Gamcotrap is not a political party and has no affiliation with any of the existing parties, however, it is a women’s rights organisation calling for gender justice in the development process to ensure that women’s social, economic and political rights are promoted and there is gender equality in political representation across the stages of the electoral process.”

The recommendations state that “ignorance, male resistance, religious misconceptions, and women’s poor self-perception of themselves are factors playing on the minds of many people in the communities and institutions… Gender stereotypes affect the possibilities for women and how much they can aspire for leadership and decision making positions in The Gambia.” 

The participants also recommended that, “there is need to provide adequate funding for parties or to create a conducive environment where parties can mobilise resources; provide the enabling environment for the media to engage in effective popular education; to prevent the gagging of the media; to provide more resources for the institution responsible for promoting voter education.” The conference was called by Gamcotrap with funding from National Endowment for Democracy.


Author:  Sainey Marenah


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