“I faced many challenges as a woman, from my home to the political arena, when I showed interest in politics,” said Mariama Bah-Saine, vice chairperson of Brikama Area Council and councillor for Banjulunding ward.
“Whenever you want to enter into politics, as a woman, your children would tell you not to. Justifying your decision to join politics is not an easy task with fear of insults, harassment, and scorn.”
Mrs Saine said although she was able to overcome her challenges and went on to win the election, she would not contest in the upcoming elections.
“I am discouraged by what I am seeing,” she said. “I want to stand for my second term, but my fellow women are going around discouraging the people and instigating youths against me.”
She however cautioned that other women should not be deterred by her experience. “Let them come and taste the cake to know what is involved. They should be encouraged to take up the challenge. The elite women are the ones who criticise the government and call for gender balance, but they are not willing to come on board.”
Oumie Barry, a female politician in Bakau had contested in a local government election in 2013, but lost to her male opponent. “When I contested, people were casting aspersions on me. If a woman vies for a position, they start grumbling that you have a child out of wedlock; that you have no husband; and you like men.”
Mrs. Aji Mam Sai Njie Sanneh, former acting mayoress came into politics in 2005. She rose through the ranks in the APRC party and was elected in 2001 as councillor for Portuguese ward in Banjul. She was eventually elected as the deputy mayoress and served until 2005, when she was appointed as the acting mayoress, a position she served until 2007.
She said: “We are having many women in politics in Banjul, but they don’t vie for political positions because it is not easy at all. I am still active in politics but even if I have the intention to contest, I will not disclose it. Some people might see me as someone who wants to seize their positions and see me as their enemy.”
Besides the selection committees of political parties which are dominated by men, women politicians decried that the attitude of their fellow women is the greatest stumbling block.
“Our fellow women do all they can to discourage you. If that fails, they find another way by convincing others not to support you.”
The story is however with an exception. Mrs. Aji Awa Sillah Njie, the deputy mayoress of Banjul City Council and councillor for Crab Island ward, said by virtue of her being the only female in the council, she is being treated there like a queen.
“I am fortunate to have old women, more experienced and educated people, helping me in my career. So, I am just lucky to have that. I am fortunate to be the only woman in the midst of the mayor’s committee. I am treated there beautifully, just like a queen. Women should come and join into politics. They should have tough skin if they want to survive.”
These revelations were made during a training for women on political leadership organised by Gamcotrap.]]>