SHE SHE SHE: 2016 Elections: Women have right to State House

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

(Thursday August 01, 2016 Issue)

The race to State House is getting hotter and more interesting, as both men and women are now vying to be the occupant of the Gambia’s seat of the presidency.

Indeed, the road to State House through the December 2016 polls is getting juicier every day, with new candidates emerging and political statements heard on every sector of life and development.

The latest to break a record and join the bandwagon is no other person than the woman who led the 30-year-long battle against Female Genital Mutilation and other harmful traditional practices that hinder the growth and development of women and young girls in The Gambia.

Dr Isatou Touray, CEO of GAMCOTRAP, women’s rights defender and one that knows how to effectively communicate with grassroots women in the language she alone speaks and understands.

Well, since the news broke out - though unexpected among many who knew her for the roles she played in the End to FGM Campaign, she is not the type that gives in to defeat, and she will never fall for any political intimidation and harassment because according to them she is nothing but an empowered woman.

Since the news broke out, you can only imagine what some men are saying about a woman leading the nation, but as the race is getting hotter and juicier, we should remember that the supreme law of the land, that binds us all together, has given every Gambian citizen who is 18 and above the right to vote and be voted for; so women have the right to State House, as men do.

This is the 21st century and we are a nation that preaches women’s empowerment, and we champion the campaign for women to be heard and contest for political positions.

So any man of the 21st century, who is what he is today due to the good way and manner he was brought up by his mother, should be able to accept the fact that a woman can do more than making a good man presentable to the world.

The electorate are not looking for a man or a woman; they are looking for a Gambian who has the interest of the electorate at heart.

 A Gambian who is dwelling in what the electorate are dwelling on; a Gambian who feels the pain of the electorate, and knows what they want and deserve.

Coming back to Dr Touray as an individual, many said she is a fighter who will never concede to defeat.

She has fought many wars in favour of Gambian women, and won them all!

At the mention of her name, the older women will say “Musoo menna musuya maa nene” (womanhood never deceive her).

 Mentioned her to the younger generation and you will come across words like: “She is an inspiration to the young women, and a role model to girls.”

A young lady told me that “Dr Touray is not one that pulls out a million and give you, but what she gives you as a young lady is priceless.”

She mentors you to appreciate and value your feminine gender, in the midst of stereotypes and negative societal settings that reduce a woman to nothing less valuable than a handkerchief.

During mentorship training for young girls, Dr Touray would mould and shape you into a confident lady who is more than ready and fit for society.

She would ask us to take our seat in front, and never think of ourselves as back-benchers.

Her coming as a female candidate truly triggered debate among men and women, but why should a country that preaches about women empowerment be surprised about seeing a woman candidate vying for the road to State House?

When women rally behind a man and make the road easier for a man to be in a political office without men complaining about it; men should equally be able to rally behind female presidential candidates and support them, rather than being an obstacle trying to use her fellow women to dig into her past and bring it to the limelight.

Having a female presidential candidate trekking and trying to make her way to State House should not be seen as a record breaker, but a constitutional right that needs to be respected and promoted by all.

 True, she is a woman, but she is a citizen of the country; and as a citizen, she has the right to vote and be voted for. She has the right to belong to a party and vote for a party of her choice.

Digging up a woman’s past as a male politician shows that you have seen that woman as a threat as a candidate.

Women should not allow themselves to be used against their fellow women, in digging into their past and uttering hate speech against them.

A female presidential candidate knows the ordeal that women go through while in labour.

She knows what women go through in their gardening, because she is a woman herself; and one drop of a tear from a woman; she will feel it because she knows what makes a woman cry.

Let women graduate from lip service to action-oriented empowerment!

Don’t let anyone silence you because you are a woman. Use your vote to be heard, because you are given the chance to be heard in every five years; so speak up, but do it wisely and know that your vote will determine your future for the next five years to come. 

As a woman, the road to State House is possible and do not see it as a privilege, but a constitutional right.

You are more than an icon of beauty, a sex object, praise singer for men; but you are respected by even the one that created you.

Gambian women - you shape destinies of presidents, so for one of you to become a president herself is not beyond you!

Author: Halimatou Ceesay