Gambia’s parliament descended into a debate about the constitutionality of having an office for the First Lady with government paid staff.
Speaker Mariam Jack Denton reminded a handful of legislators that the Office of the First Lady was allocated for and covered by Section 80 of the Constitution.
It gives the president powers to create public offices but members of parliament say such should be done through an act of parliament.
Former broadcast journalist and women’s rights defender, Fatou Dibba said the First Lady’s office is important for many causes and political influence.
“The First Lady can use her backstage political power for causes and helping advocate for good policy positions on health care, children’s wife, education, pollution prevention and women’s plights,” Dibba said.
First Lady Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow launched a foundation that provides emergency relief and humanitarian assistance to marginalized rural women and girls and vulnerable children.
Gambia’s First Lady does not receive a salary but her office is run by a Permanent Secretary and other aides, and special assistants.
The First Lady’s position carries mostly ceremonial functions and is the hostess of The State House.
She organizes and attends official ceremonies and functions of state either along with, or in place of, the president.
In the U.S., where the title first emerged 1849, the Office of the First Lady is not provided for in the constitution but exists in The White House, fully staffed.
The First Lady of the U.S. has her own staff that includes a chief of staff, press secretary and social secretary.
Despite the significant responsibilities usually handled by the First Lady, the First Lady does not receive a salary be it in the U.S. or The Gambia.