By Awa B. Bah

The Vice President and Minister for Women’s Affairs Ousainou Darboe, Monday September 10th 2018, faced Deputies at the National Assembly in Banjul, to orally reply to questions for which due notice to his Office were given during the 2018 legislative year. The Minister was engaged by deputies to clarify how elections of Women Councillors are conducted in various Constituencies in the country.

In his response, Darboe recalled the Women’s Act 2010, which established the National Women’s Council; that under Section 58, it prescribes for women Councillors to be appointed by the Minister for Women’s Affairs and not through elections; that he can appoint one female representative from each electoral Constituency, one female representative from each Local Government Council, in consultation with Local Government authorities; that the Act empowers the president to appoint representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture, Health and social welfare, the Private sector, the two religions groupings in the country, the NGOs and Female Legal practitioners from the Attorney General’s Chambers.

The Chairperson of the Council he said, is appointed by the president from amongst members whilst the Vice Chairperson is selected by the Members appointed.

Commenting on the recent selection process, the minister said the criteria set out outlines that each of the villages within an electoral constituency identifies two women as delegates based on consensus to represent the village.

Darboe outlines that all villages in the electoral constituents should be represented by two women delegates during the selection of the lady councillors. The two women delegates from each of the villages in the district he said must show interest in the position of the lady councillors during selection process.

Further responding to supplementary questions relating to the main question, he said, that a member must also be a Gambia and resident within the district. On the age of the contestant, he noted that the age of contestant/delegate should not be less than twenty-one years, that contestant must be a delegate, adding that education background is not mandatory but preferred.

The selection of the women councillors he said should be facilitated by the women’s bureau. Darboe further elaborated that the selection of the women councilor shall be done by delegates through consensus building or selection. That the selection process can be done though delegates raising their hand to endorse a candidate or through secret balloting of which the final votes will be disclosed by the presiding officer.

The presiding officer for the election of the lady councillor he said should be the executive director of Women’s bureau or his or her representative. The selected woman councillor he said shall be appointed as member of the national women’s council by the minister responsible for women’s affairs. He noted that the selection of the lady councillors to the national women’s council as prescribed by law is through appointments and not elections.

He said that in their bid to democratize the process, the IEC was invited to conduct the elections.

In his supplementary question, the member for Wuli East Suwaibou Touray urged the minister to consider amending the Act in their bid to democratize the process of selection and election of women councillors and women representatives.

In his response, the minister said the Women’s Act was not amended as a pretext to election. The Act he said called for the involvement of all women to be represented and the composition of villages he said is not neglected. Emphasizing on the involvement of public institutions, the minister noted that having the involvement of key institutions politically is necessary since they are all stakeholders working with different sectors promoting and protecting the welfare of women.

Halifa Sallah member for Serrekunda in his intervention said it is clearly stated in the answers provided by the minister that the law is one thing and the standards established is another thing. These standards he said are designed to fit into the requirements of the democratic process. Sallah demanded from the minister to indicate whether this convention is adhered to the letter or if there had been some divergences and letters are written to these institutions for remedy. Sallah further asked the minister to provide the remedies for the divergences if available. Darboe responded that this was provided for in the implementation process of the electoral process. On the much talked revised selection or election of women councillors, the minister said they received complaints, that an investigation was set up to report on the matter and that based on the finding, the decision was made.

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