By Kebba Jeffang
Alhagie Serign Faye, the Chairman of National Council for Civic Education (NCCE), said for the democracy and good governance to be attained, there must be inclusiveness and participation by the citizenry.
He said this at a one day seminar held on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at the NaNA conference hall on the theme ‘Enhancing women and youth political participation and representation.’
The UNDP funded program brought together youth and women groups and leaders and political party representatives to interact on the theme.
Mr. Faye said the seminar is a nationwide activity of NCCE to be conducted in all the regions of the Gambia where 300 women and youths will be sensitized. He said the aim is to enhance their knowledge on the importance of women and youth participation in politics and elections and representation in decision making institutions.
He said his institution is mandated to raise the awareness of the public on their civic rights and responsibilities. However, he said in their interaction with the communities, they realized that most young people have little or no interest in politics and governance. He said this low participation in such activities causes high voter apathy.
“For democracy and good governance to be attained, there must be inclusiveness and participation by the citizenry. Therefore, having more than half of the country’s population not participating effectively in political affairs, means the views and concerns of half of the population are not represented thus challenging democracy and good governance,” he said.
NCCE Chairman added that “although the Gambia has ratified several international conventions that promote women political participation and the 1997 Constitution has guaranteed the right to political participation to everyone, women and youth representation in decision-making bodies continues to be challenged. Therefore it is prudent to organize this seminar and empower women and youths with the necessary information and tools to enhance their participation and representation in political offices.”
Speaking earlier as the moderator, Isatou Bittaye said NCCE has realized that youth and women are underrepresented in politics and political participation which, according to her, is a right to every citizen thus prompting this initiative as part of the election year project.
Mr. Lamin Darboe, the Executive Director of National Youth Council (NYC), emphasized to young people the need for their participation in the political process. He said it is obvious that young people form the majority of the population of the Gambia, yet they are not given what they deserve. He described the meeting as an interesting one as it is engaging women and youth who constitute over 70% of the country’s population. He said young folks deserve more investment from the duty bearers in order to change the status quo.
“Legally, many are misinterpreting the definition of the age of a youth at our work places and in the political parties which is carrying more implications for those that fall under the real category of ‘youth. According to African Youth Charter, the youth age is between 15 and 35 years. In our revised National Youth Policy 2015, the youth age is synchronized with the African Youth Charter. So in many political parties, the youth in this category are not benefitting from the opportunities of leadership. Many young men are being empowered and made leaders and most parties are thinking they are youth and when they are not actually youth. So is like youth are not represented,” said NYC executive director.
He said the duty bearers also must provide the services for young people by creating employment and providing education in order for them to take their rightful places, noting that they are not represented enough in numbers.
Turning attention on the youth, Mr. Darboe said “young people must do away with the notion that they are not interested in politics”. He said young people should involve in politics because governance is affecting their lives.
“It is important for young people to know their mission which is by understanding their role and responsibilities as well as governance system. I will take this opportunity to call on all the political parties to accommodate the effective participation of young people in their various parties and not just to have them as decoration. I again call on young people too to demand for their rights and participate in politics in order to hold duty bearers accountable,” he concluded.
Mrs. Bintou Fatty Joof, representing the Women’s Bureau, said decision making which is a mental process of selecting a course of action from a set of alternatives should be participatory and inclusive if the interest of all and sundry is to reflect on that decision. She noted that citizens’ participation in decision making and the political process of the state is a civic responsibility.
She added that “gender equality in political and decision making is a fundamental aspect of modern democratic governance. Under International Standards, men, women and youths should have equal rights and opportunities to participate fully in all aspects of political sphere and at all levels of political processes. In practice, however, it is often more challenging for women to access and exercise these rights due to the patriarchal nature of our society.”