UN Nations Unies
Bureau Régional pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest

Promoting women’s political participation in The Gambia

8 février 2018
Promoting women's political participation in The Gambia©OHCHR-WARO

The West Africa Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR-WARO) in partnership with WANEP-Gambia held a day long national dialogue on women’s political participation in Banjul on 07 February. The meeting brought together all political parties in The Gambia, civil society actors and gender activists to discuss mechanisms of enhancing women’s political participation in elections in The Gambia particularly in forthcoming local elections slated for April.

The objective of the meeting was to stimulate political parties to look within and engender instruments that can break the barriers to women’s political participation.

In his keynote address, the West Africa Regional Representative of OHCHR, Andrea ORI, “ salute[d] the efforts made by the Gambian government with the nomination of a female in the Vice-President position”. But he also stated that : “In West Africa, women remain under-represented as voters, political leaders and elected officials, and Gambia is with no exception. This situation persists, despite their proven abilities as leaders and agents of change, and their right to participate equally in public affairs. The percentage of women in elected office in the region is still well below the 30 percent critical mass representation, and far from the globally recommended target of ‘gender balance’. Many countries such as Nigeria, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Benin, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, have even less than 10 percent women in parliament. This situation directly infringes on women’s political rights, and restricts their abilities to influence decision-making process more widely”.

‘The Gambia has taken steps in terms of legislation to promote women empowerment and this has resulted to a visible increase in women’s participation in the political process but women’s representation remains and critical challenge’, says Aja fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang, Vice President of the republic of The Gambia, whilst encouraging political parties to increase women participation in decision making process and ensuring that governments continue commitment to gender mainstreaming at levels of national development.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Mariam Jack-Denton urged the political parties to actively select female candidates in the upcoming local government elections because women’s participation in community and national development processes will be made more meaningful by increasing female representation in policy-making, governance and decision-making structures at all levels.

“Despite constituting over half of the country’s population and enormous legislation to promote their rights and empowerment, there remain great challenges with regard to Gambian women’s ascendancy into public political leadership positions. In the National Assembly, only 5 out of the 53 members are women. At the Local level, there are only 18 women councilors out of 137 councilors and only 10 elected from a total of 109 councilors around the country. These figures not only demonstrate the disparity in The Gambia’s commitment to attaining gender equality in political participation but also indicate the volume of work at hand to building a democratic republic where every citizen regardless of gender becomes a meaningful and active participant”, She noted.

Alieu Momar Njie, Chairman of Gambia’s Electoral Commission said the forum is both an essential and historic moment prevailing in Gambia’s political history and advised participants to critically engage each other on the issues arising from the deliberations. He added that : "everything men do women can even do better".
“Elections are critical in the lives of the people and the level of voter’s participation is a key factor in conducting elections. Voter participation is concerned with gender parity", he told participants whilst assuring that the electoral commission would continue to provide the space for free and fair elections in the country.

The forum offered the opportunity to political actors to openly discuss the challenges within their respective parties and set for themselves resolutions to address those challenges.

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