by Naomi Ndifon

On 9 April 2022, Gambians peacefully gathered at the polls to choose 53 parliamentarians for the National Assembly. Out of 251 candidates who contested in the 2022 parliamentary election, only 19 (7.6%) were women. At the end of the voting process, only three were successful in their bids to represent their constituencies at the National Assembly, and President Barrow appointed an additional two. Before the 2022 election, women occupied only 6 out of the 58 seats (10.34%). Out of the 58 legislators who took seats in parliament, 5 (8.62%) are women.

The Gambia operates under a unicameral legislative system consisting of 53 directly elected seats and five seats appointed by the President as authorised in Chapter VII of its 1997 Constitution; all serve five-year terms.

Women’s Political Participation

Since The Gambia’s independence in 1965, two women have served as Vice President, the second-highest political post in the country. Isatou Njie-Saidy was the first female and 7th Vice President of The Gambia. She occupied the position for two decades, cross-functioning as the Minister of Health, Social Welfare, and Women Affairs from her election in 1997 until her resignation in 2017. Njie-Saidy, who began her political career in 1983 as the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Women’s Bureau – the executive-decision-making body of the National Women’s Council - was a staunch advocate for Gambian women’s affairs. She was instrumental in facilitating and launching the first National Policy for the Advancement of Gambian Women in 2007.

Isatou Touray, the first woman to run for President in 2016, assumed the office of Vice President in 2019. Touray is also a feminist and FGM activist. She co-founded The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP) in 1984, which was committed to eliminating harmful traditional practices that contribute to gender-based violence and abuse of human rights and reproductive health of women and girl children in The Gambia.

Despite Gambia’s historical feminist leadership, women’s political participation in parliament and grassroots politics remains low. The country has no existing electoral gender quotas to reduce gender gaps in representation. Since its independence, Gambian women have not occupied more than 10% of the total proportion of seats in parliament.

Nonetheless, two of the six female parliamentarians from the 2017 election retained their seats in 2022. The Honourable Fatoumata Njai kept her seat as a National Assembly member representing the Banjul South Constituency, which she has held since 2017. The Honourable Fatoumata Jawara held a seat in the previous National Assembly, where she represented the Tallinding Kunjang Constituency and chaired the Youth Section of the United Democratic Party (UDP). After losing her re-election bid in 2022, Jawara was nominated by the President to continue to serve in the Assembly.

In addition, ​​the Honourable Fatou Cham rose from Councillor to National Assembly member for the Sanimentereng Constituency. She has been vocal about women’s representation in parliament. During the first public session of the sixth legislature National Assembly, Cham called for gender equality in the nomination and selection of MPs. She also called for increased leadership opportunities for existing female parliamentarians within the National Assembly committees.

The Gambia has frameworks that govern women’s rights and gender equality. The country ratified the Protocol to African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) in 1983 and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993.

 In addition to the Constitution, there are other applicable laws on women’s political participation – one of which is the Women’s Act 2010. The Women’s Act 2010 has general provisions for protecting women’s rights; the right to health, protection against discrimination, marriage consent, and special measures supporting women in the public and private sectors, such as putting the obligation on the government to promote the full and equal participation of women. The latter provision does not provide numerical quotas nor spell out how the government must ensure the equal participation of women.

 The Constitution Promulgation Bill of 2020 aimed to bridge the gap in women’s representation and political participation. The Bill outlined several provisions for gender equality, sanctions against gender discrimination, equal political, economic, and social opportunities, and an electoral quota that proposed to reserve 14 seats in parliament for women. The National Assembly rejected the Bill following a 3-day-long debate.


Women’s rights are generally well protected by law in The Gambia. However, provisions such as a gender quota and a detailed law mandating women’s equal representation in all levels of government are still needed to bridge the large gender gap in political participation. The Gambian 2022 National Assembly election resulted in women occupying 5 out of 58 seats (8.62%), a step down from the 6 out of 58 seats (10.34%) recorded in the 2017 election.

 A comprehensive gender-sensitive electoral system could advance gender-balanced representation in parliament. Surveys indicate that most Gambians support introducing a quota system to promote and enhance women’s political participation and representation. While measures to improve women’s political participation, such as the Constitution Promulgation Bill of 2020, have not been implemented, civil society continues to push for changes, influence policies and raise awareness.


Women’s Political Representation

percentage of women in The Gambia Parliament went from 10.3% in 2017 to 8.62% in 2022
Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union

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