By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
A Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which proposes to reserve 16 seats for women in the Gambia’s National Assembly has been validated by the Civil Society Gender Platform and other stakeholders on 10th April 2021. Numerous elected women and male leaders, Civil Society advocates and members of the media were present at the opening ceremony which took place at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center.
The National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul South, Hon. Touma Njie and Ms Tobaski Njie Sarr delivered the welcome remarks followed by opening remarks by Consultant, Ms Janet Sallah Njie and Ms Lala Jaiteh from the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.
Speaking about the inception of the Bill, Hon. Touma Njie explained that “it started with a conversation in December between IRI and myself and it’s made a reality within just a span of four months.” Highlighting future steps for the Bill Hon Njie underlined her expectation that the Bill “can thus be implemented by next April’s [National Assembly] elections In ’Shallah. That can be possible with determination and support of you ladies and gentlemen but more so by the support of my honourable colleagues at the National Assembly,” she said.
58 NAMs and No Gender Quota
Judging from the event, the two-page Bill yet to be tabled at the National Assembly has the implicit backing of the Executive via the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare. Currently, the 1997 Constitution provides for 53 Elected NAMs and 5 Nominated NAMs by the President, bringing the total number of NAMs to 58. Most importantly the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly are both Nominated by the President.
According to Consultant Janet Sallah Njie “women constitute only 17.39% at the level of [the] cabinet (Only 4 women out of 23 cabinet positions), and 10.3% at the level of the National Assembly (Only 6 out of 58% NAMs). This cultural representation is due to the cultural bias that favour men, and inhibit women’s participation in the political arena” she said.
Currently, the six Gambian women in the National Assembly are composed of three elected members namely; Hon Fatoumata Jawara of Talingding, Hon Fatoumatta Njai of Banjul South, Hon Kaddy Camara of Foni Bondali; and three Nominated NAMs namely; Hon Speaker of the House Mariam Jack Denton, Hon Ndey Yassin Secka from the Disability Society and Hon Yakumba Jaiteh.
On a positive note, Ms Njie commended the fact “that the Vice President of the Republic, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the two Supreme Court Judges are women”. Towards the end of her speech, she expressed her hope that the “validation process would further enhance the final draft” with the Bill “eventually introduced into the National Assembly on a non-partisan basis”. Ms Njie solicited “the support of all well-meaning persons, interested in the best interest of the women of The Gambia” to back the Bill.
Increasing Women NAMs to 22%
The proposed Bill seeks to increase the total number of NAMs from 58 to 71 and reserves 16 seats for women NAMs. This means that at least 22% of the Gambia’s Parliament will be women.
If the proposed legislation is passed in its current form it will provide for;
- 53 elected NAMs unchanged from the current legislation,
- An additional 14 seats reserved for women, two elected from each administrative area,
- An additional two elected member elected by the Disability Society with one of those elected being a woman,
- Two nominated members by the President with at least one of those nominated being a woman.
This will reduce the number of nominated members by the President from five to two.