The party that makes up the largest part of the Gambia’s unity government has only one female candidate seeking to become a Member of Parliament.
Fatoumata Jawara, a former political prisoner has been nominated to become the Member of Parliament for Tallinding Constituency. Jawara rose to prominence after being arrested with opposition activist Solo Sandeng demanding electoral reform.
She was tortured while in custody, sentenced to three years in prison for taking part in the protest and freed after former dictator Yahya Jammeh was defeated in elections in December.
A judge found that Ms. Jawara did not have permission for the demonstration and sentenced her, opposition leader Ousainou Darboe and dozens of others on six charges relating to this.
The opposition GDC party is putting up more female candidates than any other political party but Mariama B. Secka, the secretary-general in the UDP’s female wing, explains that it is hard to be part of the opposition in the Gambia. It made so many shy away from politics.
The country has been a one-party dominant state since 1996 when army leader and now President, Yahya Jammeh, formed the APRC after he took power in a 1994 coup.
“I was invited to a forum by the women’s federation. When I started introducing myself as a member of opposition party, I was heckled. I was totally harassed. It’s not easy at all. We need a more level playing ground,” she tells IPS.
Dr. Isatou Touray, a gender activist, and Gambia’s Trade Minister observed that most of the educated women don’t even vote.
“We want to remain in our comfort zones,” says Touray. “And until the educated woman goes to the grassroots, we may not be able to achieve what we want.”
Jawara is favored to win her constituency, which was part of the district held by the parliament’s demoralized Majority Leader, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, who is now leading the defeated APRC party.