By Omar Bah
The West African Network For Peace building (Wanep) with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) began an intensive training for 50 Gambian women politicians in leadership and peace-building ahead of the next electoral cycle in a drive to increase women participation in politics.
The women drawn from the nine political parties were identified across the country to undergo various trainings in peace-building and leadership.
According to Wanep, the 50 women are identified to contest as female candidates during the electoral cycle in 2021-2023.
The Wanep-Gambia national coordinator, Salama Njie, said the potential female candidates would be taken through the essentials of campaign planning, message development, public speaking, media relations, fundraising, campaign management and the role of women in peace-building to enhance their viability and increase their winning chances.
She said women trained by Wanep during previous election cycles would be invited to share their experiences, challenges and successes with the current crop of trainees.
“I am of the firm conviction that, with a critical mass of women in decision making will play a critical role in promoting gender equality and facilitate women’s participation in all aspects of life,” she said.
The Minister of Women’s Affairs, Fatou Kinteh, said although women form about 50% of the country’s population “their representation in decision-making remained very low and we have ourselves to blame”.
“Whenever we talk about these issues, we blame the lack of education among women but I believe if Nyimasata Sanneh-Bojang was elected to parliament in the 1980s, I see no reason why we cannot elect more women into parliament today,” she said.
She said women should stop asking questions about their fellow women whenever they intend to contest for political positions “because it is only when we have more women in important positions that our problems would be solved. Now that we have the Ministry of Women’s Affairs we should take advantage of the opportunity and stand for one another and ensure that we elect more women into important offices. We cannot continue to leave our destiny in the hands of men,” she asserted.
The minister said women’s participation in politics is held back by low self-esteem and not patriarchy, “we have gone beyond that and it is high-time we contested for elections and occupy key positions. History has also shown that women have succeeded where men have failed.”
Meanwhile, the UNFPA country resident representative, Kunle Adeniyi, said the UN system is committed to supporting processes that would advocate for peace in The Gambia.
He reminded the women they are the only ones who can speak for themselves, noting, “A country like Rwanda has more women in parliament than men and is the most progressive country in Africa. Women, when empowered, are also very crucial in maintaining peace in any country”.