In-depth

Alt text for imageUNDP strengthens local capacity for improved democratic governance (Photo credit: UNDP in The Gambia)

The 1997 Constitution provides the framework for strengthening the governance processes in The Gambia for poverty reduction, sustainable improvement of the socio­economic and living standards of all. Progress is being made in some areas on financial and economic governance.  Civil Service Reform  is also  ongoing  with proposals  to increase  salaries, improve   policy  planning  and  management   and  institutionalize  a performance reward  system. These measures are critical to improving public service delivery, addressing poverty and gender issues, in a context where local communities are largely dependent on public service, especially at local government level.

The Government of The Gambia has taken important steps to ensure inclusiveness as a result of the 1997 Constitution, which revised the voting age downwards from 21 to 18 years.  The Presidency has nominated women to the National Assembly; however, with only 7.2% constituting female members, there remains the challenge of increasing the number of elected women in the National Assembly.  The same constitution also requires elected National Assembly members to spend a required amount of time in their constituencies in order to broaden citizen participation and inclusiveness.  There is room for improvement.  

Other measures that will encourage and strengthen democracy and electoral processes include: legal reforms and institutional building; a more vigorous civic and voter education campaign; a ture decentralized governance arrangement; inclusive participation of the citizenry, especially women and youth in government activities at national and local level will effect a change in citizens’ attitude to the issues of governance and democracy; and press freedom.

According to the Beijing+ 15 Report of 2009, women constitute 51% of the population of The Gambia but occupy only 9.4% of the skilled labour force compared to 61.9% of the unskilled. This challenge posed by the low level of literacy among women also limits their participation in decision making and representation in decision making bodies.  This low   representation or "invisibility" is   most pronounced in local   government administration where out of all the Governors, Mayors, Chairpersons of Councils and District Chiefs, there are no women.

Women constitute 13.4% of elected councillors and of  the  1,873  Alkalolu  (village  heads)  in  The Gambia, only  5  are  women.    Women constitute 7.2%  of  the  membership   of  the  National  Assembly  and  21.1 %  of  the Executive or Cabinet. low  representation means that  women  are not able to influence decisions  at the  national  level, including  those that  directly  affect  their  lives such as harmful  and  or  disenfranchising  cultural  beliefs  and  practices.  Therefore, ensuring participation and equal representation of women in the decision making processes is one way of empowering them and lightening their burden. The national gender policy (2010 - 2020) states and aims to achieve 30% participation of women in public and elected positions.

HIV AIDS prevalence rate in The Gambia has remained low since being diagnosed in 1986. The 2008 sentinel surveillance data puts the prevalence rate at 1.4%. Between 1993 and 2007,  the prevalence rate has been uneven between HIV1 and HIV2.A review of the National Aids Control Programme (NACP) and MRC reports revealed that 54 % and 46% of the AIDS cases are women and men respectively; and 90% of all cases are found between the ages of 20 to 54. The data further reveals that men in the 35 to 55 age bracket are twice more likely to be infected than their female counterparts.  The likelihood is higher in younger females compared to males of their age group (18-25). The  Gambia  has  adopted   the   ''Three  Ones"  approach   (one  strategic   plan,  one coordinating body and one M&E Framework) as the basis for combating HIV and AIDS.

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