Youth and community representatives from Kantora, Jimara and Fuladu East in the Upper River Region participated in a series of recently concluded training workshops on ‘Promoting Effective Women’s Leadership and Participation in Governance’ funded by the National Endowment for Democracy – NED. The three days workshop focused on accelerating the debates regarding the promotion and effective participation of women in governance and decision making and creating awareness on the gender issues and concerns to address the gender gaps in governance and decision making processes. The overall objective was to enhance awareness and consciousness of the public and relevant institutions about the need for women’s participation in governance and decision making processes.
The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP Dr. Isatou Touray informed participants that the project is to promote the rights of women as citizens and to enjoy the right to know their civic rights. She highlighted the important role young people can play to promote success and development of the country. She emphasized that before engaging in party politics it is important for them to know their civic rights and to understand the role of women in politics to be able to support them to promote democracy. Dr. Touray highlighted the deploring situation of having only five women in the current National Assembly against forty-nine men which makes it difficult for women’s issues to receive the right attention thus the need for GAMCOTRAP to discuss equal gender representation in development. She advised that electing representatives should be based on the required qualification that would enable them to deliver accordingly and that education is key in advancing national development within the global forum. The workshops reiterated the challenges women face when they aspire for political positions and how their personal lives are castigated in the midst of male resistance. Participants have been enlightened on the need to end gender discrimination, tribal and religious biases and focus on the capability of women as leaders and decision makers.
In his presentation, Yusupha Bojang of the National Council for Civic Education noted that women and youths have to be educated and engaged to focus on development in politics. He cited the Constitutional provisions that promote democratic governance, freedom of Association and participation of candidates including independent candidates in national politics. Mr. Bojang demystified the threats that there are cameras in election booths and made reference to section 39 and section 40 of the Constitution on voting rights and secret ballots. The NCCE official noted that despite male resistance, he clarified that both men and women can be elected in national elections as long as they are citizens and fulfill all the requirements for Presidency, National Assembly and Local Government Councillorship. He cited examples of female leaders in and around the world and specifically in the Africa. He observed that despite the minimum standards laid for both men and women to seek for elective positions, the country should aim for the highest level of education to move the development of the country. He enlightened them on the role of the National Assembly in scrutinizing and approval of government policies, budget and legislating laws that will be to the best interest of the people.
Resource person, Saikou Fayinke told participants of Basse that national development is for both men and women and noted that the truth can come from anyone irrespective of their gender, age or ethnicity. Responding to female leadership in Islam, Outass Fayinke said religion is not a barrier to female leadership and cited historic narrations during which women took leadership in the Muslim world. He noted that knowledge is key in leadership and said “when a woman is a leader, her responsibility is guided by knowledge.” He further referred to verses in the Holy Quran to reiterate equality of Muslim men and women; and advised that for development to take place both women and men have to work hard. Oustass Fayinke took the opportunity to advise youths to contribute positively in national development and advised them to seek knowledge, respect the elders and the rights of women and men. Ba Siakou Darbo reiterated that it is hard work that pays and that religion is not a barrier for women to take leadership and cited several female role models in Islam who had assumed leadership roles.
Aja Fatou Danso of Basse Kaba Kama, one of the few female role models elected as village heads called on citizens to appreciate their citizen’s right to vote and be voted and to promote voter education.
Various speakers at Fatoto, Hella Kunda and Basse appreciated the – importance of the project in raising consciousness and awareness of the citizens on their civic rights and women’s leadership. Participants called for more of such sensitization to raise increase awareness about the effective involvement of women in politics. They emphasized the importance of education for women to effectively participate and to recognize the role of others in the political processes. It was noted that women have to participate actively in all political processes to change the biased gender representation and gaps and called for role models amongst educated women to be part of the change. It was recognized that there is greater need for awareness creation to encourage educated women to engage and increase the numbers in the National Assembly. Thus the importance of encouraging girls’ education for effective change especially in the rural areas. Some appealed to men to desist from using women as only mobilizers and give them a chance to also engage in the decision making and governance processes. Many people never knew that women are capable and have the right to vie for political positions such as Presidency and National Assembly. It was reiterated that the information provided is to empower their people and called on participants to share the knowledge gain so that the right people will be elected in the rights positions.
Ebrima Manneh of Koro Jula Kunda said it was the first time that people in his area knew that the constitution provides that women can be leaders from positions at the local level to the presidency. He said illiteracy has contributed to the ignorance of the people and called for increased awareness raising and advised participants to share the information with their communities. Some of the female participants appreciated the opportunity to be part of the workshop and the knowledge gained about women’s right to effectively participate in the political processes. They advised both men and women to support women leaders and to recognize their citizen’s rights. Some participants called for non-discrimination based on gender, age, ethnicity or other differentiations and argued that both men and women have equal intelligence.
Speaking on other women’s concerns Taiye Sanyang of Brikama Kantora appreciated the progress registered in elimination of Female Genital Mutilation and early marriage since they were sensitized in Koina. Mariama Sanneh of Suduwol noted the importance of the workshop in raising awareness on women’s civic rights and asserted that female leadership is related to peace and progress and the global trend is to promote female leadership.
Speaking at Hella Kunda, the Alkalo of Sare Sankuleh, Sireng Baldeh appreciated the non-partisan and non-violent approach of the workshop in raising awareness for the benefit of all. He recognized that women can and have a positive role to play in development.
Musa Sanneh of Basse thanked National Endowment for Democracy for funding the project and called on young people to be aware of their role in moving development for all.
The three days sensitization in the Upper River Region also included the legal context, promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights and the role of the media in promoting effective participation in governance and leadership. It also highlighted the challenges for girls to complete their education which affects gender representation at national level thus the appeal for educated women to express their interest in politics to gather support. The importance of education and awareness on civil rights and in particular the need to know the constitutional provisions that provide for both men and women as equal citizens was emphasized. It also brought out the social, cultural and economic challenges in the political processes in the selection and election to female leaders. It should be noted that GAMCOTRAP implemented a similar project in the Greater Banjul Area in 2014.
Prepared by GAMCOTRAP
21st October 2015