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Bureau Régional pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest

The Gambia : training 49 aspiring female candidates to the 2018 Local Government Elections

6 mars 2018
The Gambia : training 49 aspiring female candidates to the 2018 Local Government Elections©

49 aspiring female candidates to the 2018 Local Government Elections were trained by the West Africa Regional Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, WANEP Gambia, Article 19 and the Gender Platform on 5 and 6 March. During the capacity building training, potential female candidates were taken through the essentials of campaign planning, message development, public speaking, media relations, fundraising and campaign management to enhance their viability in the political game and winning chances.

In The Gambia, women represent more than half of the country’s population (recently confirmed at 50.5%, according to the 2013 census) , and 58% of all registered Gambian voters. Women’s full participation in political and electoral processes has its origins in the principles of non-discrimination and equal enjoyment of political rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted in 1948 . Women’s empowerment and gender equality is a Sustainable Development Goal (Goal 5). A minimum female participation of 30% in representative assemblies is also the target of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action . In implementing the principle of Gender Parity as provided for by the African Union in the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA), The Gambia has been ranked number 44 (2010) and number 45 (2011) respectively.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 66/130 on women and political participation, in which it stressed that the "active participation of women, on equal terms with men, at all levels of decision-making is essential to the achievement of equality, sustainable development, peace and democracy".

In 2013 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2122 on women, peace and security which among other things stresses the importance of ensuring women’s full and equal participation in all phases of electoral processes, noting that specific attention must be paid to women’s safety prior to, and during, elections.

The Gambia’s obligations are derived from international human rights law and instruments, which the country has ratified. These include CEDAW, the African Women’s Protocol, the Revised ECOWAS Treaty and the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. The Constitution provides for a non-discrimination clause under Section 28. Furthermore, Section 15 of the Women’s Act 2010 also provides for temporary measures in favor of women in accelerating de facto quality between men and women.

The Local Government Act and Decentralization Act are policies that make adequate provisions for women at the grassroots to participate in decision-making. However, these documents have done little to fully include women in the process. The hurdles are ever-present and their voices will grow faint if the necessary steps are not taken to address the situation.

The Gambia in its efforts to meet its international obligations has developed national legal frameworks for women’s full and equal participation. The 2010 Women’s Act, the Gender policy and the 2012 National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 are among the national instruments addressing women’s participation at all levels of decision-making.

These legal frameworks have however, proven insufficient, as The Gambia retains a highly traditional patriarchal society, in which male supremacy has been reinforced by both culture and religion. In such an environment, the political involvement of women is actually often limited to cheering, mobilizing, and campaigning for male candidates and their motivation to stand themselves for elections is low. The gender policy prepared by the Women’s Bureau has no affirmative action component, but has elements of gender mainstreaming.

The socio-economic and political structures continue to serve as a barrier to women’s quality participation and representation. Section 26 of the Constitution states that every Gambian citizen of full age and capacity has the right to take part in the conduct of public office, to vote and be voted for in public office, and to have equal access to public service without unreasonable restrictions.

Considering that more than 50% of the population are categorized as women ; the relatively low participation of women in elections, leadership and both community and high-level decision making is a deficit in our democracy. Women remain under-represented at the highest levels of decision making in most of the Political Parties and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and at both the Constituency and Executive or Select/Central Committee Levels of most Political Parties. Having Women Wing leaders is often confused with putting women in leadership and high level decision-making.

Few women in the Gambia have managed to move up the political ladder and participate in decision making. To exercise their rights, women need to understand the political process and recognize their value as an influential voting bloc. Also for women’s issues to be given adequate attention, women must be represented in political bodies. Women candidates for office often face difficult hurdles such as limited capacity of the process and campaign skills as well as discrimination by the party selection committees of their political party. Therefore, providing them with the necessary information and skills to become effective candidates and sensitizing their party selection committee members on the need for women’s participation, can help them to build a support base, especially among women.

Through sensitization activities the political parties will be encouraged to nominate women for various elective positions under the banner of their respective parties in the local government elections of 2018.

To know more about our activities on women and politics in The Gambia :

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