By Edrissa Jallow, @EdrissaJallow10
The Chairperson of Parliament’s Select Committee on Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Hon Fatoumatta Njai has called on stakeholders to collaborate to advocate and pass a Bill to increase women’s representation. Hon Njai, an Independent member of Banjul South also revealed that her Committee plans to table a “Women’s Representation Bill” in the future.
The Bill aims to provide reserved seats for only women to contest elections to the National Assembly.
Hon Njai made these remarks on Friday 10th February 2023, during the opening ceremony of a Policy Dialogue engagement organised by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) focusing on Legal Reforms for Women’s Political Participation, Representation, and Inclusion in Decision Making Processes.
“Allow me to encourage us to end this dialogue with the commitment for us to come together to reflect on how we as members of Parliament and friends of Parliament, both male members, former and current that are champions of female representation and work together to reduce the gaps in female underrepresentation,” said the Gender Committee Chair.
Hon Njai urged advocates “to join the advocacy for the speedy reintroduction of the failed Constitutional Amendment to enlarge Parliament to accommodate more seats for women”.
The “Women’s Representation Bill” is formally known as the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2021 and was championed by Hon Fatoumatta Njai during her first term as a Private Member’s Bill. However, the Bill faced two setbacks when it was tabled in Parliament for its second reading on 17th February 2022. On that occasion, the Speaker decided to adjourn the Bill to the following Monday 21st February 2022.
Unfortunately, Parliamentarians were not attending Plenary sittings as required during that period, with some opting to focus on their re-election campaigns. When the required number of Parliamentarians failed to show up at the adjourned second reading, this represented the second time Parliamentarians failed to attend a sitting. This prompted then Speaker Jack Denton to remove the Bill from the National Assembly’s Agenda on 21st February 2022.
Hon Njai retained her seat in April 2022 and was eventually selected as the Gender Committee Chair. This time around she will not be progressing the Bill via a private member’s Bill instead she will be progressing the Bill via her committee.
During her speech, she pledged that her committee and fellow Parliamentarians “will make it a priority — to come up with a Committee Bill to this effect with the support of you all here present and under the leadership of the right distinguished Speaker”.
Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) country representative, Mr Madi Jorbateh noted that “despite forming more than half the population, women are conspicuously limited in representative institutions in the country”.
“We [Gambia] cannot develop as a country when the population that holds half the Gambian sky’ is not at the table but only on the menu. We can do more because more needs doing for our women,” said the WFD representative.