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Political parties asked to increase women’s political representation

Aug 25, 2011, 1:50 PM | Article By: S.M.K. Marenah & Adama K. Jallow

Political parties in the country have been urged to increase the percentage of women’s political representation ahead of the scheduled presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.

The call was made yesterday by Janet R. Sallah-Njie, president of the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia (FLAG) at a day-long sensitization forum held for all political parties organized by the association and the Inter-party Committee under the aegis of the Independent Electoral Commission.

The forum was, among others, geared towards sensitizing political parties on the need to ensure that women are represented at all levels of decision making, especially at the National Assembly level.

It was also expected to elicit commitment from all political parties on temporary special measures they intend to put in place to ensure that women’s are adequately represented in the forthcoming elections.

Addressing the forum, attended by party representatives of the UDP, NRP, ruling APRC, PDOIS as well as GMC, Janet said her association’s objectives are to lobby for gender equality in the Gambia through legislative reforms, public education and advocacy.

“Our vision is to procure changes to the laws of the Gambia for the protection and well-being of women and children in order to ensure the elimination of violence against them, freedom of expression and education,” she said, adding that this will enable women’s potential participation in the development process of the country.

According to her, the realization of her association’s vision and mission would be attained if they are able to successfully lobby for women to be adequately represented in decision making bodies at the highest level, thereby ensuring that they directly influence policy and law-making.

The FLAG president told the forum that national statistics suggest that women are the majority in The Gambia and they constitute majority of registered voters, and that they are always instrumental in the success or otherwise of all political parties during elections.

In other words, she added, any party that does not have the support of women’s is doomed to fail.

Ms Cindy Gregg, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Banjul said women in political decision making is an issue dear and close to her heart.

“Women are natural leaders,” she said, adding that Harriet Harman of the UK government, after a visit to Tanzania and Sierra Leone, reported that women are crucial players in developing good governance.

“They lead from the ground–up, not top-down. Women look for support of their peers- not the votes of the rich or top government leaders. Women are concerned that everyone’s needs are met. Women seek the confidence of other women – they build coalitions naturally. By virtue of being a woman and a mother, they put their needs second - the needs of their families and their communities are first,” she added.

According to the US diplomat, women’s voices have been channeled through their children and men long enough.

 “Others have spoken for us.  Now is the time to speak out directly, to act directly, and to understand concretely that women are the best change makers,” she said, adding that The Gambia is the perfect place to make this happen.

Emmanuel Agim, Chief Justice of the Gambia, commended FLAG for being so proactive in carrying out their activities.

He noted that women constitute the majority of the population, and they also play a crucial role in the socio economic development of The Gambia in various ways.

“In The Gambia, the agricultural sector is largely dominated by women,” he said, while calling on all political parties to ensure the full participation of women in politics.

Sheriff M Tambedou, president of the Gambia Bar Association, said that laws have been put in place to ensure or promote gender quality and equal opportunities, and The Gambia is not an exception.

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