By Kebba Jeffang
Participants at the NCCE sensitisation forum
Political party representatives, on the sidelines of the nationwide awareness creation programme on the importance of women and youth participation in politics and decision making being conducted by National Council for Civic Education (NCCE), have added their voices on the way forward for The Gambia vis a vis the forthcoming presidential poll.
Speaking to this reporter during break after the morning session on 27th August, 2016 in Bwiam, Foni Kansala, the representatives of the political parties namely NRP, UDP, PDOIS, APRC and GPDP commented on both the training and the forthcoming election.
Jonsaba Jabbie, the Secretary of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), described the training as important as it has taught them why and how to take part in politics. She said it also gives them the confidence and courage as women to take up the challenges and seek for political positions.
“We also understand how to disregard the culture that places women in the position of being followers of men as well as the notion that women should not lead. Some men try to discredit women by getting into their personal lives. Our cultural perception that regards a person seeking for a position as noble or a slave is another impeding factor affecting the involvement of women in the political space and we must do away with that,” she said.
On the status of women in the NRP regarding equality with men, Madam Jabbie said her party treats women equally as men, adding that they participate more than men because whatever they are doing the women are not left behind. She said in any position that they offer, there is gender parity and tribal equality.
“There is a big chance for a woman to lead NRP in the near future because our leader does not underrate us. Today Hamat Bah is our leader but he could make a woman his deputy. I am the secretary at the NRP bureau and there are many women working there,” she said.
She concluded by advising her fellow women to ensure that they exercise their voting rights to select who they want and urged the participants to share the information learnt with those that are not part of the programme.
Alagie Senkereh Bojang, the youth mobiliser of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for West Coast Region, said the training is important because it deals with issues concerning how the young people and women can increase their involvement in politics and governance in the country. He said to be able to govern a country one needs knowledge and understanding about politics and administration. He said the youth should blame themselves for lagging behind in politics and urged them to gallop up and get their rightful places in politics.
“Our society also makes it so tough for women to participate in politics because sometimes even for a well enlightened woman to have a husband is a challenge because of her role in politics. This programme is even more important because it teaches us tolerance among ourselves here as different supporters of political parties. My advice to youth and women is for them to come out and vote in the elections anytime it is due because it is our civic right and responsibility,” he said.
Ebrima B. Jeffang, representing the Gambia People’s Democratic Party (GPDP), said the training is timely because it is election year. “It is showing us the importance attached to the participation of youth and women in politics and also how to empower women to hold political offices in the country,” said the GPDP representative.
He said in GPDP, women are empowered more than the men considering that on the appointments 45% is for women, 35% for youths and 20% for the elderly, who advice the party on its activities. He said the training will solve a lot of problems for them as a party because he will discuss with the other members all what he had learnt in order to create more room for women and the youth in their party.
“There is an opportunity for GPDP to have a female leadership because the party is tolerant,” he concluded.
Ousman M.B. Manka, the United Democratic Party (UDP) Youth Coordinator for the Kembujeh Ward, also expressed gratitude for the platform created by NCCE. He said the programme is important because it is enlightening people about their civic rights and also giving courage to those who are interested in politics but are not coming forward out of fear or shyness.
“This initiative is crucial and I hope it is done on a periodic basis as it will empower youths and women and the Gambians, in general. If you look at the Gambia, the information that people should access is controlled. Some information is published in the mass media such as newspapers but many Gambians could not understand that. But with this to be happening in different languages will really help us,” said Manka.
He said if one looks at the Gambian society one would discover that women are disempowered in many ways, including politics.
“This is a culture we met but as a new generation with learned young people, we are working well to change it. In the UDP, I’m not saying women and men are 50% each but it could be 60% to 40% and I’m optimistic it will change by time. If you come to our Ward’s executive committee, out of 12 members, only 4 persons are men, the rest are all women. This is a big problem but with such platforms being organized regularly, the trend will surely change because people will see the light,” he said.
When asked about the prospects of a woman being the leader of UDP, he responded in the positive, adding that there is a great possibility for this. He said his party as at now is led by Lawyer Ousainou Darboe as the party leader and Secretary General but he is not the flag bearer for UDP which could be anybody, either male or female.
“My advice to young people is that the elders have done their best and all the efforts they are putting up now are geared towards creating a better future for us as young people. We all have choice that we should support and what is happening in the country is known to all. The solution is we all have to come out and vote and decide well. We are busy watching football games on the channels but when the future is unpleasant such time will no longer be there for that,” he concluded.
Anna Marie Demba, Kombo East Secretary for the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), said the programme is helping them to understand their rights as citizens, as well as the laws and programmes. She said civic education was part of the curriculum during her days in school as she did it from her forms 1 to 4.
“This should be reintroduced again for students in grades 7 to 12 in order for them to know their civic duties and responsibilities in politics and governance and without this, students will find it hard to enter into politics. GDC came at a time when Gambians need change through peaceful transition and it offers equality for both men and women. Women’s right is a priority for GDC and we will live by that. There is full hope that GDC will be led by a woman in the near future as no restriction is in place. And from here, I will give the feedback to the executive of the party in order to further give priority to women. Women have knowledge and competence because the number of women graduating from the university outnumbered men but it is the cultural restrictions that need to be changed,” she explained.
Alimatou Jarju, APRC Mobiliser, Foni Berefet, said the activity is important as it brings together different people to know what each holds in respect of women and youth participation in politics. She said women involvement is mandatory and it is a development because they should be empowered.
“APRC government has really empowered and prioritises the issues of women because we achieved development stage A and are going to B. And the reason why women are behind in politics is because of their low level of education and awareness in politics before but now that problem is solved as they are entering politics without restriction. APRC gives equal treatment to women and youth and men without any restriction. The only thing that the party does not tolerate is the people who want to disrupt the peace in the country and this is why it puts laws and regulations. If you abide by these laws, there will be no problem for any party member,” she said.
Madam Jarju noted that right now the APRC is headed by a man but the deputy is a woman who is the vice president of the republic. She said President Jammeh loves women but the only women he will empower will be the ones who are in the party and they will support it. She said no one who is outside the APRC party will be selected by President Jammeh and they support it. She said the reason young people could not hold the vice presidency is because they do not want to work hard unlike the women. She advises young people and women to participate in elections.
Modou Lamin Sisawo from Farato, representing the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS), applauds the NCCE for organising such a political sensitisation programme which his party has been doing all these years since its inception. He said PDOIS has always been sensitising Gambians on their civic roles, rights, and responsibilities as sovereign citizens.
“Over 30 years, they have been sensitising people and wherever they talk people understand. So this is very important because politics is all about empowerment and not about castigating one another. It is about knowing the interest of your country, how the country should be governed and how government’s budgets should be used. That’s the politics. The rest is not important,” said Sisawo.
He added that “PDOIS values women because there was a woman who contested in the primary to select the presidential candidate by the name Aunty Amie Sillah. However, she was not chosen as Halifa Sallah was elected by the majority. Young people are given priority in PDOIS and all of them joined the party on their own free will. In PDOIS, all the young people came after they have realised that the message they read or heard is the whole truth. They have not come because of the fanfare or inducement but through their conscious decision to work for a better Gambia.”
Sisawo concluded with advice to the young people, urging them to take politics seriously and for them to positively and fully participate in the forthcoming presidential election on 1 December 2016 as they are the future leaders.