At 6th Legislature
By Ndey Sowe
Women groups across the country have voiced their dissatisfaction in a joint open letter to President Adama Barrow, on women’s representation in the 6th Legislature of the Gambia which begins today.
The letter which was dated Tuesday 12th April 2022, outlined numerous reasons why women should not be left out in the highest decision making body of the country. In their letter to the president, they lamented the low number of elected women to parliament when compared to their percentage among the population, and said this gives them a disadvantaged position in participation at the highest decision-making body of the land. Women also reminded the president of their efforts for affirmative action in this regard, with the introduction of a Constitutional Amendment Bill which sought to enlarge the composition of elected members of the National Assembly and institute fixed quotas for competent and qualified women and persons with disabilities, as a necessary measure in the face of inequality and inequity in decision-making platforms in the country, citing the National Assembly as the highest body.
Below is the Joint Open Letter written by the Women Groups to president Adama Barrow in full, on women’s representation in the 6th Legislature of the country.
‘‘On 9th April 2022, Gambians went to the polls to elect their representatives in the 6th parliament of The Gambia, as mandated by the Constitution. This election holds significant value as Gambians work to consolidate the gains from our new democratic dispensation, following the historic December 2016 presidential elections.
This year, a total of nineteen (19) women were nominated to contest in the parliamentary elections, out of which only three (3) were successful in their bids to be elected to represent their constituencies at the National Assembly.
Your Excellency, women represent 51% of the Gambian population, and having only 6% representation at the National Assembly will gravely affect women’s leadership and participation in decision-making and the ultimate development aspirations of The Gambia.
‘‘The results of the election do not align with the important calls for equitable representation in our decision-making spaces, but instead widen the gap for minority representation, especially in the National Assembly.
We recall the recent efforts for affirmative action in this regard, through the introduction of the Constitution Amendment Bill. This Bill sought to enlarge the composition of elected members of the National Assembly and institute fixed quotas for competent and qualified women and persons with disabilities, a necessary measure in the face of inequality and inequity in decision-making platforms in The Gambia.
‘‘Last year, women-led Civil Society Organisations led advocacy meetings with political party leaders, including yourself, to enlist support for this Constitution Amendment Bill and avoid meeting the same fate as the Draft Constitution.
‘‘Despite our vigorous campaigns and direct advocacy efforts, this Bill failed to proceed due to a lack of quorum in the National Assembly on the second reading. The high hopes from minority groups in The Gambia were dashed, and the energy from the people whose rights would have been most protected by this Bill dwindled.
‘‘It is without doubt that the successful promulgation of this Bill into law would have led to a different outcome for minority groups in the recently concluded parliamentary elections. We would have, indeed, seen more positive results as far as minority representation is concerned.
‘‘However, it is not too late. Your Excellency, we recall your pronounced commitments to ensuring that issues affecting women and other marginalised groups are adequately addressed, especially through the institution of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare. Whilst this commitment was not fully reflected in the selection of candidates by political parties, we believe that there is still an opportunity to close the wide gap.
‘‘Your Excellency, Section 88 (1) (b) of the 1997 Constitution provides you with the powers to nominate five members of the National Assembly, with the intention of ensuring representation for minority groups that may not have been elected to parliament.
‘‘Given the failure of the Constitution Amendment Bill and the low number of women elected to the incoming parliament, we the undersigned strongly urge you to use these powers to bridge the wide gap and support efforts towards more equitable representation. We urge you to nominate these five representatives with due consideration to the low representation of gender, religious and disability minorities. This will enhance inclusion and sense of belonging to especially minority groups who are most often forgotten or neglected.
‘‘It is common knowledge that diverse representation is crucial to ensuring that no section of society is left behind. This is even more important in the National Assembly, where decisions will be made on policies that will affect all Gambians and people living in The Gambia. We have no doubt that there is a wealth of competence and experience within these minority populations that you can select your nominated National Assembly Members from.
‘‘Your Excellency, we count on you to execute your constitutional powers of nomination in the interest of a more equitable society, a balanced representation to reflect our demographic realities, and a more cohesive approach to policy making and development in The Gambia.
We count on you to remain true to your promises and commitment to the advancement of women, persons with disabilities and other minority groups in the country.
‘‘As the President for all Gambians, Your Excellency, we call on you to exercise your constitutional powers in the interest of the underrepresented and marginalised, as we all strive to build a Gambia where everyone is treated as equal to the other, with no discrimination.
‘‘Signed: CSO Gender Platform The Gambia, Pan African Female Youth Leaders The Gambia, The Girls’ Agenda, Think Young Women, Equals Now, Musso Podcast, She Awards Gambia, Women in Liberation and Leadership, Safe Hands for Girls, The Victim’s Podcast, Girls Talk Organisation, West African Network of Young Female Leaders (ROAJELF), Women and Children Aid The Gambia, Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia (FLAG), Gambian Deaf Women’s Society and Fantanka.’’