By Ramatoulie Jawo
The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) in collaboration with the National Assembly Select Committee on Gender, Children, and Social Welfare organized a day-long Policy dialogue centered on legal reforms for women’s political participation, representation, and inclusion in decision-making processes at the National Assembly.
The Country Representative of Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Madi Jobarteh, expressed gratitude to the leadership of the National Assembly for the immense cooperation they continue to render towards WFD since its arrival in the Gambia.
Mr. Jobarteh said WFD, with support from the British High Commission, engaged the Select Committee on Gender, Children, and Social Welfare to support and contribute to the ongoing efforts in addressing the perennial Gender imbalance at decision-making levels in the Gambia.
“Despite forming more than half the population, women are conspicuously limited in representative institutions in the country. We cannot develop as a country when the population that holds half the Gambians is not at the table, but only on the menu. We can do more because more needs to be done for our women,” he argued.
Hon. Fatoumatta Njai, the Chairperson of the Gender Committee, encouraged her Colleagues to end the dialogue with a commitment to come together and reduce the gaps in female underrepresentation, adding that they should reflect on how members of Parliament, friends of the Parliament both male members, former and current are champions of female representation and work together to reduce the gaps in female underrepresentation.
“The first step to achieving this, like I have been saying, 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 is in line with the theme of Beijing’s declaration to enact enforceable constitutional and legal instruments for equality and equity.
“As Chair of the Gender and Children Welfare Committee, my colleagues and I will make it a priority for the committee 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,” she said.
The Beijing Declaration was a resolution adopted by the UN at the end of the Fourth World Conference on Women on 15 September 1995. The resolution was adopted to promulgate a set of principles concerning the equality of men and women.
In his statement, the speaker of the National Assembly Hon. Fa Bakary T Jatta said there is overwhelming evidence that women’s participation in politics and decision-making is beneficial to both their own communities and societies, as well as broader peace and stability.
Hon. Jatta said despite the existence of several legal frameworks guaranteeing women’s political rights, the country remains far from the goal of gender parity.
“The inclusion of women in political processes is a key element in achieving a truly inclusive democracy. Women must have the chance to exercise their political rights and participate in all political decision-making.
“It is my conviction that open discussions, based on mutual respect, inform debates among actors of the policy. I am optimistic that the opinions and resolutions that will be proffered in this policy dialogue and the emerging decisions based on consensus will enable us to make commitments to address the challenge confronting us,” he stated.