SHE SHE SHE: 2016 Election: Let the women vote independently

Friday, August 26, 2016
(Thursday August 25th, 2016 Issue)

As we approach the 2016 presidential election, it is important to remind ourselves as citizens when it comes to the rights we have to vote for a candidate of our choice.

We all know that every citizen in The Gambia, who is 18 years old and above, is eligible to vote. We also know for a fact that our vote or going out to vote as citizens of this country is a right and not a privilege, and that is why every citizen must take pride in voting.

In doing so, both men and women also have the right to vote and be voted for. That being the case, a woman’s decision to go out and vote for the candidate of her choice should not be influenced by her husband, uncle, father, brother or any other relative of hers.

Women should be allowed to vote for their choice independently, and that is not a privilege but a constitutional right.

As a man, you may be that loving husband, who wields so much power and influence, but that should not make you to compel your wife into voting for someone who does not happen to be her choice.

True, you are the husband, you paid her bride price, brought her to your house, shelters, feed and clothes her; but you should remember that letting her to vote independently without interference from you, is also part of the rights and responsibilities you should be exercising as her husband.

Letting your wife to select and belong to a party of her choice, and to vote independently, means that you are empowering her to make her own decision and as well helping her to exercise her constitutional rights as a citizen.

Every day, we are talking about empowering women, and sometimes men are seen at the forefront of these campaigns; but are we just going to stop at lip service, and when it comes to implementation we deviate from practicing what we preach?

Empowering women during elections is very important, and letting them participate to their satisfaction without any interference is what every man of the 21st century should do.

As a man, who said your wife should belong to a particular party just because you are a strong militant of that party? Why should your wife put on the colours of a particular party that you belong to? Why should a woman belong to a particular party, because that party belongs to her ethic group? Why should a woman vote for you because her husband is working for you?

Women are human beings, and not toys to be played with in a political game. Let us not silence women just because we are more powerful than them or because they are answerable to us; and we know that they will do whatever we tell them to do.

We are never going to develop as a society, when women are treated as second-class citizens. Their rights to freedom of assembly and association should be respected, and enforced to the letter.

To make informed choices as to who we want to vote for has to do with attending rallies and listening to various candidates, to prove their points and convince us as to why we should come out and vote for them.

However, it is rather unfortunate that some men do not allow their women to attend the rallies, or listen to the political parties they belong to by attending their meetings.

Some men will just attend their meetings, and when they return home that is the time they will be explaining to their women about a particular party’s motives and then asked them to vote for that party.

If that continues we are not helping the electoral process!

Women are naturally respectful of their elders and, as such, our fathers also play a vital role in asking their daughters to vote for a particular party or even threaten to disown them if they do not do so.

As a woman, there is no need for you to openly disobey your father, because The Gambia has a secret ballot system; and people should do away with the notion that there are cameras set up in the polling booths, that will show people that you voted for a particular party.

Women should know that their vote is their voice, and when it is allowed to be taken away from them it will render them redundant.

So obey your father during the conversation, but when you are alone with the ballot box, you have the right to make a choice.

Women should also know that it is important for them to vote independently, without being influenced by anyone, because they alone know what they want in the coming five years.

Maybe they will want a law which will punish any man who prevents a woman from using contraceptives, good markets to sell their garden produce, good drainage systems, a high number of women representatives in the National Assembly, or food processing factories etc.

However, remember that it is only your vote that can give you whatever it is that you want.

Elections come in every five years, and it is the only powerful means for a citizen of a country to voice out what is in him or her, and he or she will be heard through casting his or her vote.

As a woman, your vote is your right and voice; so do not let anyone to harass, threaten, bribe or intimidate you to take away your right and voice from you.

Your vote is what empowers you to be heard; so used it wisely so that at the end of the day you will get what you deserve.

As a father, husband, and uncle please let your wife or daughter exercise her constitutional rights independently.

 Let her use her vote as her voice and be heard, because letting her vote for a candidate of her choice carries a huge weight, and can benefit you all. 

Author: Halimatou Ceesay