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Friday, September 22, 2023

Rights lawyer questions effectiveness of women in public office


“We have a very positive image of women in this country and women have taken a lot of strides and a lot of rights have been accorded to them,” Mrs Sagar Jahateh acknowledged. 

“There are female ministers, speakers, and judges and we have a female vice president. Then, how comes women are still lagging behind? I think we have to ask ourselves how effective those women are.”

Mrs Jahateh, a former secretary general of the Female Lawyers’ Association of The Gambia, was addressing a feminist group recently at the KMC hall.  The forum brought together women politician from different political parties, seeking women’s increased participation in effective political leadership.

The Gambia government claims to have much to brag about when it comes to women’s political empowerment. There has been a consistent 30 percent female membership in the cabinet, female speakers and deputy speakers of parliament and the vice president, who has become a poster lady across Africa as an embodiment of an empowered African woman. 

While this is attractive to the rights lawyer, she was however at a loss to understand why the rest of women in The Gambia continue to limp weakly behind men and pro-women’s bills are watered down before being passed. “It’s not just a question of having big numbers, or having them there,” Mrs Jahateh has said. “These women should be able to stand up for other women and influence laws and policies that affect women. 

“One of the measures of the effectiveness of women who are holding public office is how effective they are in positively influencing women’s interests, laws and policies that affect the lives of women.”  

The rights lawyer lamented that the country had enacted three pro-women legislations, but provisions that criminalise female genital mutilation had been removed.  “Therefore, if women have effective voice at the executive and legislative levels, I believe that they would have passed the provisions on FGM,” she argued. 

Mrs Jahateh opined that gender inequality is the root problem to women’s effective participation in politics.  “We have to make sure women’s welfare is at the heart of what the government does,” she said.  “We must tackle the problem of women’s inequality and discrimination as a whole. If women are being discriminated in terms of socio-economic status, if women’s sexual and reproductive rights are violated, if women are being battered by their husbands, they would not take part in effective political leadership.”


By Saikou Jammeh


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