By Patience Loum
Barely a day after the Speaker of the Sixth Legislature, Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta, ejected Hon Fatoumatta Njie of Banjul South out of Parliament’s Chambers, the two Politicians were pictured sitting next to each other on the High Table for a training for women Parliamentarians.
The aim of the two-day training organised by the International Republican Institute (IRI) is to enhance women’s political participation to bridge gender inequalities and stereotypes in the political sector. There are a total of 5 female Parliamentarians and they are; three elected members in Hon Fatou Cham of Sanneh Mentereng (UDP), Hon Amie Colley of Foni Brefet (Independent) and Hon Fatoumatta Nie of Banjul South (Independent); and two nominated Independents in Hon Maimuna Ceesay and Hon Fatoumata Jawara.
Quota System Needed to Improve Proportional Representation
Hon Fatoumatta Njie believes Women’s representation will be higher under a more proportional electoral system than under a less proportional electoral formula. Currently, the only female Parliamentarian to retain her seat from the Fifth Legislature Hon Njie noted that “Countries that have legally imposed quotas or in which several parties have implemented quota clauses are more likely to have more female representatives than countries where there are no quota clauses”.
“The classic examples are two sisterly countries – Senegal and The Gambia. The former with a legally imposed quota system have 44% female representation in Parliament as compared to the latter with no legal quota imposed and with a mere 9%,” said the Chairperson of Parliament’s Gender and Children’s Welfare Committee. Hon Njie is the only female Chairperson of Parliaments’ numerous committees of which there are over a dozen.
Hon Njie rallied support, noting that “the first step to achieving this is to join the advocacy for the speedy reintroduction of the failed constitutional amendment to enlarge the Parliament to accommodate more seats for women. This must start at this very moment Honourable members”.
She urged the “Honourable Speaker here present, though male, is a female advocate and I know he would love to leave a legacy of this much-required need addressed in his term in office”.
Speaking to delegates presents she enthused that the meeting of “current and former NAMs should re-energize our motivation to push harder for a Gambia that increases the opportunity [for] women’s political Participation and Decision Making”.
“As chair of the Gender and children’s Welfare Committee, I and my colleagues will make it a priority for the committee to come up with a committee bill to this effect with the support of the leadership of the Parliament under the right Honourable Speaker”.
Speaker Jatta Faults Gender Stereotyping
Speaking at a training held on Thursday 27th October 2022 Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta noted that despite the democratic space ushered by the leadership of President Adama Barrow, women’s participation in leadership and decision-making is still facing many challenges.
“This is evident in the fact that the National Assembly elections conducted early this year returned only three women out of 53. It is therefore essential that the capacity of women particularly those who have broken the glass ceiling are built to ensure that they become active actors in our governance and democratization process,” noted Speaker Jatta.
However, in his view, there is no shortage of legislation to guarantee the rights of women but he recognizes the need for women to play a more active role in decision-making. Speaker Jatta referred to the Women’s Act enacted in 2010 which provides some measures in favour of women in accelerating de facto equality between men and women.
“The inclusion of women in political processes is a key element in achieving a truly inclusive democracy, and women must have the chance to exercise their political rights and participate in all decision-making,” he said. Speaker Jatta pointed to gender stereotyping being one of the difficult challenges for women who dare to run for office.
“Let us acknowledge these challenges and deal with them honestly and thoroughly since they are the critical factors that intersect to diminish the capacity of women to partake in the making of decisions that affect their lives,” said the Speaker of the National Assembly.