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City of Banjul
Thursday, July 25, 2024

The proposed seat reservation is tokenism

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I’ve read the draft for the Proposed Constitutional Amendment that seeks to add and reserve SIXTEEN (16) seats for women in the National Assembly by the next General Elections. In their OBJECTIVE it is stated that:

“… the commitments enshrined in both the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Maputo Protocol, to ensure that women enjoy genuine de facto equality with men at all level of decision making, including representation in the National Assembly… and providing for reservation of specific seats for women. This is to ensure that women enjoy genuine de facto equality on an equal basis with men.”

I have no problem with this. As a matter of fact, I acknowledged and agreed that we should have more female participation and representation in and at ALL decision-making tables, eliminating EVERY form of DISCRIMINATION especially where exist in our LAWS. Our point of divergence is at the HOW.

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In their BACKGROUND arguing the need for this amendment, the draft validated my insistence yesterday, that this is more of a Tokenism than it is Affirmative Action for the latter seeks to correct discrimination. They wrote:

“The CONSTITUTION of the Republic of the Gambia 1997 and OTHER RELEVANT LAWS of The Gambia, including the WOMEN’S ‘s ACT 2010, HAVE COMPREHENSIVE PROVISIONS to ENSURE that WOMEN are ELIGIBLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE POLITICAL LIFE of The Gambia, INCLUDING CONTESTING ELECTION for the National Assembly, AND REPRESENTATION AT ALL LEVELS OF DECISIONS MAKING. However, these laws FAILED to take cognizance of the socio-cultural context in The Gambia, which is deeply rooted in the CULTURE OF PATRIARCHY, thus giving rise to de facto LIMITATIONS and CONSTRAINT.”

They continued:

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“The 1997 CONSTITUTION GUARANTEES WOMEN EQUAL TREATMENT AND OPPORTUNITIES IN POLITICAL ACTIVITIES, which effectively means that women have the SAME LEGAL RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES as their MALE COUNTERPARTS with regards representation at the National Assembly. This right guaranteed under section 28, however does not reflect the realities on the ground, vis a vis women’s representation in the National Assembly.”

I’ve never seen a more disjointed contradiction between what obtains and what they seek to correct. Whoever came up with this idea and the drafters need to go back with this bill to either come back with a more reasonable, convincing argument OR SHELVE IT for GOOD. They acknowledge and admit that the Constitution and other relevant laws AND Women’s Act provides and guarantees women eligibility, participation and representation in both Politics and decision-making levels. The problem that they believe to be the hindrance is sociocultural – ‘PATRIARCHY’. How then do you correct a sociocultural deficit with Tokenism in the National Assembly? I am going on a limb to charge fraud and conning attempt by an educated few who want to be served a platter they do not want to work for, notwithstanding the any good intentions.

The Gambia does NOT have discriminatory laws that favor Lamin but inhibit or prohibit Fatou from political participation and representation. Dr. Isatou Touray DID NOT fail to secure Coalition nomination in 2016 because she’s a female. Honorables Touma Njai and Fatoumatta Jawara did NOT earn their way into the Assembly because they’re women. Conversely, Honorables SANNA JAWARA and Omar Ceesay were not elected because they’re men.

The remedy or best measures to ensure more women representation in our Nation’s political house is through political parties or sponsoring independent candidates. Political parties should encourage and be encouraged to recruit, sponsor and sell eligible, qualified women into roles and elected positions. What we’re understanding to be patriarchal constraints in our politics can be eliminated by both men and women by genuinely fighting to shed instead of glossing over them. We talk about insults, disrespect, belittling and unfair judgement. Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe fought through and BROKE barriers to defeat her male counterparts to the mayoral seat. So, laws CANNOT fix these. And certainly, picking and sending 16 women in the Assembly will not either, because Hon. Mariam Denton does not understand, appreciate and defend the plight of women in the house any more than Hon. Sidia Jatta.

Let women and youth join political parties or be sponsored as Independent candidates to earn a right to represent. I’d hate for my daughters to grow up believing they cannot earn a deserved position in a competitive environment because they’re any less capable than my sons. This is not right and it’s an attempt at plastering over a nonexistent issue by creating problems. We wanted to move away from having the President nominate lawmakers to give representation its true meaning. How do we have certain people in the house whose main goal will be to represent a particular group? Matter of fact, how are these going to be selected and elected? Through political parties, independent groups, community or self-sponsored? I hope political parties and the National Assembly members seriously scrutinize this bill devoid of any unreasonable emotions or pressure. You cannot shortcut your way in democracy in hopes that you’d cure any deficiencies. What are we doing next? Do same for youth, farmers, teachers, ethnicities?

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