The Gambia’s National Assembly would see a significant increase in the number of women representatives if a new constitutional amendment, co-sponsored by 2021 Amujae Leader Fatoumatta Njai, is passed later this year.
The bill proposes increasing the total number of seats in The Gambia’s National Assembly from 58 to 71, reserving 16 seats for women assembly members. Of these, 14 would be elected seats and two would be appointed by the President.
Ms. Njai, who is one of three elected women assembly members in The Gambia, told the EJS Center that she worked with The Gambia’s Civil Society Gender Platform on Transitional Justice and the International Republican Institute to develop this bill to increase women’s representation in the National Assembly for some time:
“It’s something we’ve been working on for the past two and a half years—we have been consulting people informally. I think everyone is ready for it and we have been advocating based on the African Union’s African Women’s Decade. Women need to be given space, and if it’s not given we need to go and get it ourselves.”
Adding seats reserved for women, she said, is a step towards eventually implementing a gender quota:
“If you have a male-dominated Parliament, the men will want to protect their seats. So that’s why we had to create new seats for each region—two seats exclusively for female representatives in each of the seven regions, guaranteeing 14 seats for females, plus two extra that the President can nominate.”
Now that the bill has been validated, Ms. Njai and the other sponsors will meet with the Speaker of the Parliament and the Clerk of the National Assembly before formally introducing the bill to the President. After consultations with other major political parties, ministers, the election commission, and civil society groups, it is hoped that the amendment will be tabled in August or September. Ms. Njai is optimistic that, if passed, the bill can be implemented before the next parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2022.
Including the three women assembly members nominated by the President, The Gambia National Assembly currently has just six women members out of a total of 58. Ms. Njai pointed out:
“This is a mere 11% instead of the 30% recommended by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). We’ve not even reached half of the 30%.”
The bill has attracted positive feedback and support, but Ms. Njai also told the EJS Center that she has experienced serious intimidation and attacks as an outspoken woman in politics in The Gambia. She explained why she believes it is important for her to stand strong:
“I’m looking at the girl child that looks up to me. If I were to give up, that will actually prevent a lot of girls from coming up. They will say, ‘If she can give up, there’s no hope for us.’ We need these role models that can come out and make sure that every girl child is bold enough to withstand the heat.”
Learn more about the amendment sponsored by Ms. Njai here.