Maa Foundation for Women (MFW) has concluded a weeklong regional consultation forum on women’s political participation and peace building.
The forum funded by UNFPA through the Peace-Building fund was held under the theme: “Women’s Political Participation in Peace-Building.”
The forum comes ahead of the local government elections and targets all women politicians and women candidates in the upcoming Local Government Elections across the country.
CEO of Maa Foundation, Fatoumatta Jawara Dukureh, said the project is to promote and empower more female participation in politics and peace building throughout The Gambia and therefore applauded UNFPA for their support through their peace building fund.
Addressing the first gathering held at Girls Guide premises in Kanifing, Aja Binta Jammeh Sidibeh, Women Leader and former Executive Director of Women’s Bureau advised women to participate in political positions and support their fellow women who are vying for political positions despite their political affiliations.
She pointed out that 58% of all registered voters are women which make them have a big say because they are the one that are voting for men and it is high time they vote for themselves and consult each other.
“It is high time we also take up positions within society and all levels. It is very important women participate and take positions in politics. We still don’t have enough women representatives. In recently concluded nomination according to the statistics, out of three hundred and fifty-six, only fifty-three are women that are just a small number because women are not willing to come out. We don’t have anything against men but we are equal in this society and women are more than men.”
Meanwhile, speaking on peace building, Madam Sidibeh advised women and youths to be mindful of social media, especially Whatsapp groups.
Adding these platforms is used to share hate speech and men use women as a tool to fight each other.
“If women are not encouraged, they will be poor and their rights are violated (SBGV) they cannot have peace,” she said.
She continued: “Peace is very important, especially during elections and now we have this democracy, we are grateful but we should not use the democracy to fight each other. The issue about women is infighting. If we continue to have infighting among us, we cannot progress.”
She also advised women to maintain peace ahead of the Local Government elections.
Awa Bah, Desk Officer of the Inter-Party Committee, also said “We need to know our rights and our due needs to be given back to us. I am appealing to every female candidate who is supposed to win this election to turn back on females’ efforts to empower them.”
Madam Bah however called on all the Gambian women who are in positions either as a councilor, parliamentarian or other to support their fellow women,, especially in political positions.
“Let’s help one another, promote each other, and should not downplay ourselves. We are promoting gender, and we want women to be in positions,” she stressed.
She also appealed to all the Gambian women to work together, noting they already know that they have people like UNFPA and partners who are ready to empower them.
On his part Siaka Marrong, Rep from the Women’s Bureau said “The forum is mainly to enhance the capacity of women to better dialogue effectively on gender participation of women in the Gambia.
“We also have to encourage the participation of differently able persons in the Gambia they are also important as a ministry, we are calling on inclusiveness.”
He emphasized that According to statistic women in the Gambia continue to vie for political offices at both the council and the National Assembly level notwithstanding the dream of acquiring 30% of the seats in the assembly continue to be elusive as always 7 now 6 % was achieved compared to the baseline 10% during the former regime.
“Similarly there was no increase in the proposition of women in cabinet, we used to have the vice president as a woman but now I think we only have three women in the cabinet which is very low more work needs to be done at the level of the political parties and also the executive to change their metric,” he added.
According to him the population of Gambia is over 2 million and half which 52% are women therefore if women definitely support their fellow women to contest they will win.
Amie Njie Jatta, former lady councilor, also encourage aspiring women and candidates and urged them to be strong and ready to let go of criticism, adding that criticism is part of politics and they should not be scared to lose elections and most of them are scared of loosing elections.
She, therefore, expressed gratitude to the Maa Foundation for the support and said the forum is held at a right time, noting they support men but they don’t support each other, and is time to do that.
Meanwhile, the Foundation also conducted a two days capacity building training for aspiring female politicians on the 5th of April held at Bakadiji Hotel.
In her opening statement, CEO of Maa Foundation Ms. Fatoumatta Jawara Dukureh, said “Our goal is for this capacity building training is to equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to run a successful and peaceful election campaign and take leadership positions.
“We believe that this project will have a significant impact on empowering women and promoting gender equity. We expressed our gratitude to the UNFPA for their support in making this project a reality.”
Madam Dukureh noted that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is fully funding the project which aimed at promoting gender equality in politics and leadership, as well as supporting women’s financial independence and ability to escape poverty.
According to her, the project is been implemented in four phases. During the first phase, community, political party heads, and religious leaders were engaged to sensitize them on the importance of supporting women in decision-making and leadership positions. The second phase involved a regional sensitization campaign to encourage women’s participation in politics, leadership, and peace-building across all regions, the third phase which is currently underway focuses on capacity-building training for aspiring politicians, and the final phase the project will empower women to be self-sufficient and financially independent.
On her part, UNFPA Country Rep, Ndeye Rose Sarr, “This training is geared towards building your capacity to understand leadership and its various responsibilities which will enhance your communication techniques, improve your public speaking skills, and understand the importance of women’s participation in local government elections. These critical areas and many others will be covered during the two days of training.”
She stressed that Women’s political participation is a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy, adding it facilitates women’s direct engagement in public decision-making.
Madam Sarr however added Women’s political leadership begins with increasing the number of women in key decision-making positions, adding Studies show higher numbers of women in political positions generally contribute to stronger attention to women’s issues.
“There is overwhelming evidence that women’s participation in politics is beneficial to both their communities and societies and to broader peace and stability. But despite the existence of several international conventions and legal frameworks guaranteeing women’s political rights, we remain far from the goal of gender parity.
“This needs to change. The inclusion of women in political processes is key to achieving a truly inclusive democracy, and women must have the chance to exercise their political rights and participate in all political decision-making,” she stated.
She continued: “As aspiring candidates for your respective wards and councils, I would like to congratulate every one of you for taking a bold step and defiling the norm by taking up political leadership. You should be very proud of yourselves. Keep your head up very high as you serve as an inspiration and motivation to young women and girls.
She noted that “The United Nations through its peace building fund recently launched a very important and timely PBF project on ‘Strengthening women’s political participation and leadership through reformed legislation, community-level leadership, and political parties’ engagement in The Gambia’.
“The PBF Project on women leadership and participation was developed to increase the number of women in leadership positions and decision-making platforms at all levels. This will be achieved by addressing some of the constraints and inhibitors preventing women from political participation, local community leadership, and peace building processes.
“The project will proactively address the constraints to women’s participation which includes the strengthening of national legislation, legal framework, and political parties’ by-laws to ensure increased women’s political participation, promote more women in leadership positions at the community level, and empower female candidates through capacity building training.”