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Women urged to have confidence in female candidates

Aug 26, 2016, 11:04 AM | Article By: Cherno Omar Bobb

It is time for women to trust and have confidence in female candidates who opt for election in their respective constituencies, to increase female participation in decision making processes, said Bintou Fatty-Joof, programme officer at Brikama Women’s Bureau.

Mrs Fatty-Joof made this remark yesterday while deputising for the executive director of the Women’s Bureau, during the opening ceremony of a seminar on women and youth participation in politics, held at the NaNA conference hall. 

It was organised by the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) and funded by UNDP under the Election Project for The Gambia, 2016-2018, electoral cycle. 

The daylong seminar brought together representatives from political parties, youth organisations, institutions, NGOs among other stakeholders within Banjul and KMC.

The women’s activist said the countdown to the Gambia’s 2016-2017 general elections has begun with a rare move to bring together female politicians from across the divided political spectrum to ensure increased female representation.

Mrs Fatty-Joof noted that GAMCOTRAP’s executive director, Dr Isatou Touray, has launched a political campaign calling for political reforms to ensure the effective participation of women in all positions of political leadership.

“Political participation matters in the life of every individual human being, be it men, women or youth,” she said, adding that gender equality in political and decision-making is a fundamental aspect of modern democratic governance.

She stated that under international standards, men, women, and youths should have equal rights and opportunities to participate fully in all aspects of the political sphere, and at all levels of political processes.

However, the feminist said it is often more challenging for women to access and exercise their rights due to the patriarchal nature of the society.

“African women and youths are the most disadvantaged and marginalised groups in the political arena,” she said.

Alhaji Sering Faye, NCCE chairman, said through their interactions with the citizenry, it is evident that most young people have little or no interest in politics and governance, thus their low participation in elections and high voter apathy among them.

He pointed out that although women are actively participating in politics, their participation does not translate to their equal representation in political offices as men.

“This is because they are most active in organising, mobilising and campaigning for men contesting for political offices, instead of running for political offices,” Mr Faye said.

He added that for democracy and good governance to be attained, there must be inclusiveness and participation by the citizenry.

Having more than half of the country’s population as women, who are not participating effectively in political affairs, means the views and concerns of at least half of the population are not represented, the NCCE chairperson said.

The Gambia has ratified several international conventions that promote women’s political participation and the 1997 Constitution has guaranteed the right to political participation to everyone; yet women and youth representation in decision-making bodies continues to be challenged.

The NCCE chairman further stated that for sustainable economic and social development to take place, full and equal participation of women, men, boys and girls are required.

For youths to be equitably represented in decision-making structures, it is important that they change their attitude towards politics and perceive voting as a civic duty that should be discharged by every responsible citizen, Faye went on.

Lamin Darboe, executive director of the National Youth Council, said youths and women combined constitute more than 70 per cent of The Gambia’s population, “but sometimes youths are not given their due to participate in politics”.

Mr Darboe called on political parties to create offices for youths in their bureaus, not just for the sake of decorating their bureaux but for youths to effectively and fully participate in politics and decision-making.

“Youth should not only be looked at as future leaders, but instead should be looked at as good leaders,” he said.

He told the youths that shying away from politics means surrendering their power, adding that the youths should start taking decisions for themselves and not to leave it to elders to always decide for them.

The daylong seminar is part of nationwide activities to be conducted by the NCCE in all regions of the country. 

The sensitization activity is aimed at enhancing knowledge on the importance of women and youths participation in politics and elections, and representation in decision-making institutions.  At least 300 women and youths are expected to be sensitised nationwide.