By Lizzy Okoji
Gambian legislator, Hon. Fatmata Njai says the ECOWAS Parliament can only achieve 30% representation of women in parliament if it rejects applications from countries that do not meet the criteria.
Njai expressed this thought while speaking with reporters at the delocalized meeting of the Fifth Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament held in Monrovia on the theme “Empowering Women in the ECOWAS Region”.
Njai said it was relevant to note that some countries lacked female representation at the Conference of the Bureau in the ECOWAS Parliament, a trend which she said did not respect “the ECOWAS Rules of Procedure“.
“The Rules of Procedure mentioned that each member country should have female representation at the Bureau Conference.
“Each country has three members in the Conference Bureau, so each country can have at least one female member who will be thirty percent representation.
“I think if we are to preach something, we should be seen doing what we preach.
“We can ask countries to send 30 percent and we have to enforce that as well.
“But if countries say they don’t have 30 percent, what’s stopping them from having 30 percent?”
“It’s not that they don’t have women in these countries. They have them and they also have competent women, but why don’t they win the elections?
“I think that’s the question,” Njai said.
The Gambian lawmaker urged countries in the sub-region to create a level playing field for all genders so that they can address the issue of why women do not win elections.
“When I first joined the ECOWAS Parliament, we were 25 women. We lost some of the women and I think we are now 18 which should be fixed.
“Why do women lose elections and why countries do not send the 30% as stipulated and demanded of them by ECOWAS.
“I think if countries send a list below 30%, ECOWAS should reject that list,” Njai added.
She urged women not to just sit, fold their arms and wait “for the ball to be given to them to play.”
“We should actually demand it or catch it ourselves. So I don’t see this as a problem. I see that we women are our own enemies because, as someone mentioned, if a woman wants to run for office, it is the same women who would refuse to vote for them, and for us, being majority, why would this happen?
“We should vote for our fellow citizens and be at the table where the men are.
“I implore my female counterparts not to give up. It might be difficult but it’s not impossible, that’s what I always say, ” the Gambian lawmaker said.
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