By Aja Musu Bah Daffeh
The West African Network for Peace Building The Gambia (WANEP) in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and Article 19 ended a 2 day training of women on participation in politics and aspiring female candidates who wish to contest in the National Assembly Elections slated for April 6th 2017. The training was held at the paradise Suites Hotel on Tuesday 28th February, 2017 aiming to provide the potential women with the rare opportunity of retracing the step of Gambian women from colonialism to date who are not only the foundation for women’s participation in the political process but paved the way for the women of today to play a part in politics and decision-making.
Deputizing for the Minister for Women Affairs, Madam Nancy A. Niang, the Permanents Secretary at the Ministry seized the opportunity to thank WANEP Gambia and its partners for organizing such a forum, noting that it is timely as women participation in politics is very important in any country.
Madam Niang emphasized on the need for women to participate in politics; that it is not uncommon to learn of a handful of women that are represented or nominated to serve in positions of decision making at the national level to often render the process legitimate and inclusive.
In her welcoming address Ms. Anna Jones, National Network Coordinator, WANEP The Gambia expressed gratitude to the participants for gracing the event.
According to Ms. Jones in The Gambia, women represent more than half of the country’s population (recently confirmed at 50.5%, according to the 2013 census), and 50% of all registered Gambian voters. She added that women’s full participation in political and electoral processes has its origins in the principles of non-discrimination and equal enjoyment of political rights enshrined in Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted in 1948.
“A minimum female participation of 30% in implementing the principal of Gender parity as provided for by the African Union in the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA), the Gambia has been ranked number 44 (2010) and number 45 (2011) respectively,” she remarked.
Jones further noted that much progress has been made in the Gambia to advance the plight of Women and to recognize the important role women can play in decision-making; pointing out more still needs to be done.
She expressed hope that the two day training would be beneficial to all women and increase their winning chances. “We wish to use this medium to advocate to all party selection committees to be gender sensitive in their composition and selection process as without which the participation of women would still need to face their respective party selection committees,” Ms Jones noted.
For her part the UN Resident Coordinator Madam Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje acknowledged WANEP and their partners for organizing the training noting that it is timely. She said encouraging and advocating for women’s participation in public and political life is key in the UN work on women empowerment.
She noted that in The Gambia, women remain under-represented as political leaders and elected officials, adding that the percentage of women in the National Assembly is below 10%, which is still well below the 30 percent target of the African Union and far from the globally agreed target of 50\50 gender balance in representation.
The UN Coordinator further thanked the Government of the Gambia under the leadership of President Adam Barrow for the effort in placing women at high decision-making positions, including Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and Organizational Heads.
Madam Fatou Jagne Senghor regional Director Article 19 also joined the previous speakers to emphasize the need for women’s participation in politics noting it is key in any economic developing country. She thanked WANEP and urged them to continue doing more training for women in politics.