The Gambia government currently has about three females in cabinet and five women in the parliament with more men in both arms of government than women. Therefore, scores of women activists have raised concerns over this disparity in the governance structure.
Speaking to The Point Newspaper recently, Mbassey Manneh, programme manager for Think Young Women (TYW), expressed concern over the inequality of political representation in the country, saying the number of women in the executive and parliament is low.
“Despite the fact that there are few women ministers in the cabinet it is still not balanced. “We still have a long way to go in terms of equal political representation in our country,” she added.
She said the low women political representations happened both at the government level and various opposition political parties across the state, justifying that Gambian political leaders hardly give women a chance to contest in presidential elections.
“Looking at the political parties, you hardly see a female presidential candidate. Almost all the presidential candidates are men, which is unbalanced,” she argued.
However, she said the political arena is now changing for good as currently, two women have announced their intention to contest in the forthcoming presidential election, which she described as a step in the right direction for Gambian women.
She called on all political leaders particularly the oppositions to manifest real democracy to ensure equal political representation; this, she said, would help women and youth to hold key elective positions.
Speaking further, Ms. Manneh said: “Political leaders should have trust in women and empower them to handle the mantle of leadership of their parties.”
Ms. Manneh believes that if the 2020 Draft Constitution Promulgation Bill was passed, Gambia women would have enjoyed equal political representation, saying the Draft Constitution guarantees women to have 14 seats in the parliament.
Moving forward, she urged men to allow their spouses to participate in politics and decision-making process, adding there is a need for them (women) to participate meaningfully to get presented.
Ebrima Njie, women’s rights activists, said the small number of women in the Cabinet, National Assembly and Local Government elective positions is a clear manifestation that women are underrepresented in the country.
“The whole of the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) has only one elected female councilor. That is the councilor for Bakau New Town. This is a cause for concern,” he argued.
Njie, also a gender specialist, opined that more women should be involved in politics and decision making process in all aspects of development, while saying that “anything for the women and not from the women is not for the women.”
He urged women to empower and support female candidates to ensure they hold key elective positions in the country and advised them to avoid discriminating and undermining female politicians.
Njie said to address the gender-gap in the political arena, there is a need for Gambians to elect competent leaders who would bring policies that would ensure equal political representation.
He further called on the government and all political leaders to work effectively for gender parity to ensure equal political representation as prescribed in section 26 of the 1997 constitution.