WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT

With Sarjo Camara-Singateh

Haddy Jonga of Think Young Girl exposes her thoughts on women’s participation in politics

In these series of articles on women’s participation in politics Foroyaa has been conducting interviews with women politicians across the political spectrum and gender activists.

In this edition of Women and Development we bring you the perceptive of a dynamic young woman, the programme officer of Think Young Women, Haddy Jonga.

She said her organisation is a young women led organisation, nonprofit organisation, that captures the needs of young women, because they feel they have special needs different from other women.

She noted that their organisation works in various areas but that their main intervention falls in mentorship, women’s leadership development, networking for girls; capacity building and women’s rights  advocacy under which  their intervention on reproductive health issues  fall.

She believes that Think Young Women can create a new generation of enlightened young female leaders.

During the years 2013-2014 they had a series of forums organized to harness and foster the participation of women in politics in the Gambia. This in fact triggered the interview below.

QUESTION: What is the role of young women in the current political situation?

ANSWER: She noted that they feel the current political situation in the country is such that women can be given the opportunity to take up leadership positions. However they are not just looking up to women to become “Yai compins” leading entertainment for political parties; but actually nominated by their political parties to contest for positions.

They also believe that it is not just the numbers that matter but that women in position will represent the interest of women. She emphasised that it is not about the quantity or number of women we have in high positions but how much these women are doing to better the situation of women in the Gambia. She said this sums up their view and their area of intervention is generally young people and to be specific young women.

She believes they can get the young female leaders at a very young age to inspire and motivate them to attach them to other female politicians who can mentor them and show them the way.

“So we feel you can get up, have a carrier and then get up into politics. It has a starting point and we believe from students politics, from being head boy or head girl of your institution, to being presidents of students unions like tertiary institutions or University, that is where it starts. That is where we aim to get to them and talk to them about it. In as much as we are trying to advocate for the rights of women it is important that we have women in these positions that are able to make positive change, that can change the life of Gambian women,” she explained.

QUESTION: How do you view the exorbitant nomination fee for a political position?

ANSWER: I think the fees can be a bit high for certain women that might be interested in these positions and cannot afford to pay for it. However if political parties are aware that they need women to vie for positions as representatives for their parties at different levels like presidential, parliamentary and local government, they will try to do more.

I believe usually male candidates have a lot of support from their party, and this should also be the position for women. However women who want to vie for the positions out of their own will or as independent candidates, that amount can be  too much and may be this needs to be looked into in order to avail the people who did not have the means but have the capacity to lead their people.

QUESTION: What is your take on the quota system?

ANSWER: I think political parties need to do more to create an enabling environment so that they can have more women and be able to mobilise massive support for the women candidates should they have one. Generally what I will say to the political parties is, they should make their party manifestos women friendly. Having 30% of women is interesting but how many among this figure would be ready to promote the agenda and interest of women in the Gambia. She stated that they don’t want the people to say we have many directors or women leading this group, all what we heed is woman to woman support, but you will see because of the patriarchal nature of the society women support men against women as they believe men should always lead.

QUESTION: What is your advice to aspiring female candidate?

ANSWER: My advice is for them to be genuine to the cause, not because you want to vie for the position; meaning you have the best interest of that position at heart, you know what you want and what you are standing for, get the right people to mentor you because getting into leadership is not an easy job, you look up to certain people who will actually impact the way you lead.

For young people, it is not just a matter of getting support or money to lead a political party; what matters is trust and you need to live by example. They should not wait for people to serve their constituencies for them, rather that should be at the top of their agenda.

QUESTION: What is your understanding of the women situation room?

ANSWER: This is something quite new in the Gambia, it is not something that is been implemented in the Gambia. However it cannot be imposed, it needs to start from somewhere. People should start accepting women as leaders and this is something that I would encourage Gambia to take up.

QUESTION: What is your general advice?

ANSWER: My general advice is about leadership; it is not about having position, it is about being able to influence people around you to believe in your constituent and your circle of change.   Effecting change little by little from grassroots to up, you can be a leader from your home and among your friends, the pleasure and satisfaction you derive from your service cannot be compared to anything else.

QUESTION: Thank you for giving me your time.

ANSWER: It is a pleasure.