By Omar Bah
Politicians, women activists and civil society orgainsations who participated in a one-day forum of political parties on women’s participation in politics have tasked political leaders to nominate more women in key positions.
The forum, which is designed to encourage women’s participation in politics, was organized by WANEP in partnership with the United Nations Human Rights Office for West Africa.
Speaking at the forum, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Hon Mariam Jack-Denton said the need for political parties to enhance women’s political participation cannot be overemphasised.
She said the forum is timely, considering the fact that the country under the democratic leadership of President Barrow would complete its final electoral cycle in May this year with the local government elections.
“The outcome of the last National Assembly elections with only two elected women out of the 48 seats, clearly manifests that over the past two decades women were reduced to mere spectators of our governance process,” she said.
She urged political parties to select female candidates in the upcoming local government elections.
“Because women’s participation in community and national development processes will be made more meaningful by increasing their representation in policy-making, governance and decision-making structures at all levels,” she said.
At the AU level, she added, the party system is one of the most accomplished and member states are advised to respect equality at the national level and undertake measures to address gender gaps, “But much more needs to be done in order to render the process inclusive.”
She said it is essential that political parties and all stakeholders in the country’s political process, including women themselves are engaged to ensure that they become active actors in governance and democratization process.
“Despite constituting over half of the country’s population and enormous legislation to promote their rights and empowerment, there remain great challenges with regard to Gambian women’s ascendancy into public political leadership positions,” she stressed.
In the National Assembly, she continued: “Only 2 out of the 48 elected members are women plus 3 nominated members including myself as the Speaker, making a total of 5 out of 53 members. At the local level, there are only 18 women councilors out of 137 councilors and only 10 elected from a total of 109 councilors around the country.”
“These figures do not only demonstrate the disparity in The Gambia’s commitment to attaining gender equality in political participation but also indicates the volume of work at hand to building a democratic republic where every citizen regardless of gender becomes a meaningful and active participant,” she said.
The Chairman of IEC, Alieu Momarr Njai said the forum is both essential and historic moment prevailing in Gambia’s political history.
“Elections are critical in the lives of the people and the level of voter’s participation is a key factor in conducting elections. Thus, we need to promote gender parity within political parties,” he said.
Meanwhile, UDP’s Aji Ramou Secka, Seedy Njie APRC, Samba Baldeh GDC, Awa Bah NRP, Sanusi Touray PPP, Halima Mendy GMC, Saikou Mendy GPDP, Fatou Touray PDOIS and Mariama J Ceesay of NCP all accepted the fact that there is need for significant improvement in giving women key roles and reassured cooperation.