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City of Banjul
Saturday, September 24, 2022

The beauty of solidarity

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With Aisha Jallow

On September 11 there is an election here in Sweden. It will be on three levels on the same day: governmental, regional and local. Thanks to my political commitment in The Gambia, I was inspired to pick up my old commitment to politics here in Sweden too. Every Swedish politician begins their political work at a local level, and I am one of the lucky ones to be on the local list for my party. We have several political parties here; the Social Democrats is one of them. I am not a member of that party, but my own party is collaborating with the Social Democrats as we share many of the same values. I am a member of the Centre Party, a liberal party that stands for equity, free enterprise and human rights.

There has been a lot of campaigning going on for about a month-and-a-half, and all of us who are involved are rather tired at the moment. One more week to go, as I am writing this article, and a lot of us are biting our nails. People can vote in advance, both in place and online. I prefer to vote on the election day. It is a special feeling to enter the building where I am supposed to cast my ballot. I would never skip voting. I think it is my duty and also a privilege. It is easy to sit at home, complaining about this and that, instead of getting involved. I have never taken the easy road in life, so why start now? A lot of people complain about politicians, in some cases rightfully so, but we need to be fair. A lot of politicians at local levels are volunteering. They involve themselves in building a better society for us all. Elected politicians receive a fee every time they attend an official meeting, but so much is still done on voluntarily basis.

My hometown is rather small, and most of us live on the countryside in the municipality. All and all, we are about 27,600 citizens, but as we are so widely spread we don’t appear to be as many as we actually are. Being a member of a political party is fun but can also be exhausting. If you are involved and committed to the politics at your local level, there is a lot you can do. Not everyone who is a party member is elected to belong to a committee, but I hope I will be one of them when all the votes have been counted. I hope to belong to the committee that is responsible for education and leisure. I graduated at university in 1986 so I have a very long experience of being a teacher.

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The part called leisure means that we try to find good and interesting things for children and young people to do outside school time. One example is our music school, which is going to be transformed to a cultural school instead. At the moment, our children and youths can learn to play different music instruments and participate in orchestras, but soon we will also offer dance and arts lessons. I find this development very interesting, as being a music teacher I know how much joy our young people will have through the music. I have three children, and all of them attended different music classes at the music school when they were younger. My sons were also members of an orchestra for some years, outside the music school. This orchestra performs whenever there is some kind of celebration in our town. The youngest member is around 15 and above that there is no age limit. Music joins us and the age of the performer is not important.

Sport is something else that joins a lot of people. Football, basketball, handball and bandy are the large sports here. Bandy is almost like ice hockey, but they use a ball on the ice instead of the flat, round plastic thing called a hockey puck. All these sport bring many people together and it is the same all over the world. When I stayed in Tallinding this summer, I lived close to a football field. There were games going on there almost the whole day and I loved listening to the cheering from the crowd. Keeping sport arenas in shape takes a lot of work and it is costly. We deal with these costs in our political committees, and whatever matter we discuss, we try to find a consensus so the finances could be stretched as wide as possible.

Our different political parties have different approaches to the ways things should be handled, both at the local level and of course nationally. That is normal, and as long as we are able to hold our discussions in a civilised manner, everything is okay. At the moment, the discussions are a bit more heated, but that is part of the political play. Every party is trying to win some points and to make the others lose, and it is rather interesting to watch. Most politicians are able to control their emotions, so whenever problems appear these are mostly caused by other people. Perhaps you have heard about Internet trolls; people who write a lot of lies online and who try to cause as much damage as possible.

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Unfortunately we have these trolls here too, and many of them are actually paid by one of the parties; the Sweden Democrats. The name is misleading, as they have nothing to do with democracy. The Sweden Democrats are a discontent party, they have only one matter they are focusing on and that is immigration. They blame our immigrants for everything; low pensions, low school results and high level of criminality. These matters are only some on their list, and the problem is that they have no solutions for any kind of problems. They shout and stir around the political discussion to make people confused.

One large problem is that we even have a lot of foreigners who vote for the Sweden Democrats. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? These people don’t understand most of the political manifesto of the Sweden Democrats, the only thing they understand is that this party wants to end the gang criminality. Every party wants that, but as the Sweden Democrats are those who shout the loudest, they are also the ones who are heard by many. It is really problematic when we have a lot of citizens here who can’t speak Swedish properly. They become easy victims for people who willingly mislead them for their own purposes. The Sweden Democrats don’t care about whose vote they get, as long as they get enough. Democracy comes with a responsibility to make sure that all citizens, who are old enough to vote, also understand the process. All people should get adequate information about the political parties, and an opportunity to ask questions – in their own language too, so they will know what to vote for.

There is information to receive, but not everyone knows how to get it. In Sweden most people can read so they will have access to information. We have public libraries where there is free Internet to use for those who don’t have that in their homes. Politics is about sharing our visions and our communal funds so we can build a good society for every citizen. This is why I am committed to the politics, I want to be a part of the change both here in Sweden but also in The Gambia. By joining hands we will be strong. Are you willing to do your part?

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