Monday, April 12, 2010

WODD Secretary General on Women in Democratic Governance

This is a paper presented by Mrs. Amie Sillah Sarr, Secretary General of Women for Democracy and Development (WODD) on the celebrations of the International Women’s Day organised by the Gambia Teachers Union (GTU) Women’s Wing on Wednesday, 7th April, 2010 at its headquarters in Kanifing.

“My Paper deals with Women’s PARTICIPATION IN DEMOCRATIC

The Gambia’s statistics on Democratic Governance is not quite impressive. 33.3% of women occupy Cabinet posts. That is six women out of a Cabinet of 18 persons, including the Vice President. Less than 10% of women occupy a National Assembly of 53 Persons. That is 2 elected and 2 nominated, including the Speaker of The National Assembly. The picture at the Local Government level is also dismal.

The Gambia ratified the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993. The CEDAW Protocol is not signed by The Gambia Government. The Protocol to the Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa known as the Maputo Protocol is ratified in 2005.

At first with reservations but with further lobbying and advocacy, the reservations were lifted up. The Gambia is yet to domesticate and implement the Articles of CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol in the form of a Women’s Bill which should be tabled before the National Assembly for enactment into law to be used by our law courts to protect women’s rights.

The Gambia has a plural legal system consisting of Legislative, Customary and Islamic Sharia Law. The three bodies of law create contradictions and inconsistencies and there are very discriminatory provisions in all three sources of law, particularly in the areas of family and property law.

There are the three arms of Government - The Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The Fourth Estate, which has a ‘Watch dog’ role is the Media and which under a democratic disposition should hold all the three arms of Government Accountable and Transparent to the people.

Women should be in the Executive as a President, a Vice President or hold Cabinet positions. Women can form Political Parties if they have the clout and the qualification. In the Gambia, the Executive should be encouraged to appoint more capable women for Cabinet posts. The ruling and opposition parties should fill in capable female candidates and create a conducive environment for it to happen.

More quality women of divergent views are needed in the National Assembly to carry forward the Gender and Good Governance debate.

In the Judiciary, The Gambia has registered a lot of successes. There are more women in the Legal System. There are more women Magistrates and Justices.

In the Media, more women are now working for the media but few occupy the top echelon in both the Print and Electronic Media, be it Public or Private. The Gambia has to work hard to change the situation.

In 2005, the illiteracy rate for Women was estimated at 65.8%. This situation is a challenge for Civic Education and Good Governance. Women come out impressively to vote in all elections but fail to vote for Gender and Good Governance. Instead Women votes are cast on sentiments and other parochial considerations.

The participation of women in the labour market is low, especially in the Formal Sector and the decision making positions.

In 2005, it was estimated that Women made up only 4.9% of the Formal Sector, while they represent 6 1.9% of the Informal Sector.

The Gambia 1997 Constitution

Section 28: The Rights of Women: (1) Women shall be accorded full and equal dignity of the person with men.

(2) Women shall have the right to equal treatment with men, including equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities.

De jure, (by law) women are backed by the Constitution to effectively participate at all levels of democratic governance but de facto(what pertains on the ground) culture and tradition are debilitating factors barring women from effective participation.



(1) State Parties shall take specific positive action to promote participative governance and the equal participation of women in the political life of their countries through affirmative action, enabling national legislation and other measures to ensure that:

a) women participate without any discrimination in all elections;

b) women are represented equally at all levels with men in all electoral processes;

c) Women are equal partners with men at all levels of development and implementation of state policies and development programmes.

(2) State Parties shall ensure increase and effective representation and participation of women at all levels of decision making.

Art 17: Right to Positive Cultural Context

(1) Women shall have the right to live in a positive cultural context and to participate at all levels in the determination of Cultural Policies.

(2) (2) State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to enhance the participation of women in the formulation of Cultural Policies at all levels.

Art 13: Economic and Social Welfare Rights

State Parties shall adopt and enforce legislative and other measures to guarantee women equal opportunities in work and career advancement and other economic opportunities. In this respect, they shall:

a) promote equality of access to employment;

b) promote the right to equal remuneration for jobs of equal value for men and women;

c) ensure transparency in recruitment, promotion and dismissal of women nd combat and punish sexual harassment in the workplace;

d) guarantee women freedom to choose their occupation and protect them from exploitation by their employers violating and exploiting their fundamental rights as recognised and guaranteed by Conventions, laws and regulations in force;

e) create conditions to promote and support the occupations and economic activities of women in particular within the informal sector;

f) Establish a system of protection and social insurance for women working in the informal sector and sensitise them to adhere to it.

g) Introduce a minimum age for work and prohibit the employment of children below that age, and prohibit, combat and punish all forms of exploitation of children, especially girl-child.

h) Take the necessary measures to recognise the economic value of the work of women in the home;

i) Guarantee adequate pay and pay pre and post natal maternity leave in both private and public sectors;

j) Ensure the equal application of taxation laws to women and men;

k) Recognise and enforce the right of salaried women to the same allowances and entitlements as those granted to salaried men for their spouses and children;

1) Recognise that both parents bear the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of children and that this is a social function for which the state and the private sector have secondary responsibility;

m) Take effective legislative and administrative measures to prevent the exploitation and abuse of women in advertising and pornography.

The Gambia Government has ratified but is yet to domesticate, implement the Maputo Protocol and the CEDAW to protect the rights of women in The Gambia. The Activists in the Africa Coalition, The Gambia included, are now urging the Gambia Government to enact the Women’s Bill which consists all the above into an Act of The National Assembly, to be domesticated into our laws, to be used in the courts to protect women’s rights.

Female teachers are catalysts in the women struggle. They act as role models in the communities they are posted to. Children listen more to their teachers than their parents. As female teachers, we should encompass the trait of being a Scientist, being a researcher, a continuous learner; the role of a Saint, promote virtues by practicing it so as not to confuse children by preaching virtue and practicing evil.

To be a Servant, to serve your pupils, students at all times. How we organise our homes also tells a story of who we are.

This year’s theme for the Celebrations is “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities; Progress for all” is very apt. Just as I keep on saying, Society is like a bird with two wings, Masculine and Feminine Gender. Can the bird fly with one wing? The obvious answer is a big ‘No’! Look at a woman as your Sister, your Mother and your Daughter. You want them to excel. The other woman too should excel, “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, and Progress for all.”

I thank you all all.

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Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.