By Cherno Omar Bobb
Ansumana Ceesay, Senior Programme Officer (SPO) at the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) has said that including and partnering with women and young people foster a more sustainable peace.
Speaking on Tuesday at Mansakonko during a community dialogue initiative among women, youth and community leaders/structures in Lower River Region, Mr Ceesay said despite continuous policy declarations and documents and the grassroots effort to encourage inclusive representation of youth and women in decision making, there remain structural barriers that prevent women and youth from contributing to security and peace building on national, regional, and local levels.
He highlighted that the earlier we acknowledge and address it, the better for our progress.
The dialogues held in Lower River, Central River and Upper River Regions was funded by UNICEF through the United Nations Peace Building Fund. The dialogues centered on the roles of women and youth participation in governance and peace building. About 240 participants (women, young people & community leaders) across the selected regions benefited from the training.
The theme for the dialogues was women and youth involvement in governance and peace building, focusing on the forthcoming December presidential elections.
The activity followed similar engagements that the NCCE recently rolled out – the training of out of school youths on leadership, civic rights and duties to prepare them for transition to adulthood and citizenship including school and public good management, meant to nurture patriotism and responsible citizenship among young people.
“Without actively consulting and listening to youths and women’s views, ideas and needs, national policy-making processes become one-sided and fail to serve greatest good of all especially young people to preserve long-lasting peace in the country,” he noted. He adds that for sustainable peace building or conflict and crises response, as a country on a transition, it is absolutely critical to invest more in the meaningful inclusion of youth and women at all stages from Participation to Prevention, Protection to Resolution and Recovery.
He further said that, over the years there has been major progress in terms of having young people and women in critical positions, but was quick to add that the progress is uneven.
“Women and young people are still underrepresented in politics, in our national assembly and in our traditional rule, while more youth and women are putting themselves forward for elections and more are mounting key positions in different sectors, yet their numbers are still far behind,” he went on.
“There is still a prevailing traditional perception as to the role of women and young people in the social, economic and political spheres. Sadly, some of these barriers still exist despite the widely accepted belief that development, peace and prosperity in societies cannot be achieved if half of the Gambia’s population, which is women and young people continue to be largely side-lined in decision making,” he said.
Ceesay added that the stigma against women especially in politics is still alive and well. He said they continue to face structural, socioeconomic, institutional and cultural barriers. Therefore he said tackling those barriers takes effort on the part of every element of society whether it is government, civil society, the private sector, youth, women and even more importantly traditional rulers.
Ceesay went on to say that having women and youth in political leadership is very much in line with our constitution which guarantees the basic human rights for women and men including young people to enjoy full legal equality of opportunity.
He also said that they NCCE strongly believed that no meaningful development and sustainable peace and democratic maturity can be attained if the critical mass is left behind.