President Adama Barrow’s new cabinet has shaped up to have a smaller percentage of women ministers  compared to his first cabinet. This is in sharp contrast with that of his predecessors cabinet ministers appointment. 

This new cabinet appears to be one of the less political elite cabinet. The president picked cabinet ministers composed of experts and technocrats and appointed non-partisan experts.

The president had shifted away from the tradition of appointing party loyalists and the temptation of political patronage to appoint on merit, replacing the political benefits of party loyalists signaling competence and credibility in his recent cabinet appointments and government. 

However, despite its quality of appointments, these new cabinet appointments make President Barrow’s cabinet pick one of the worst gender-balanced cabinets in decades.  

President Barrow’s cabinet appointments were extraordinary, restoring a cabinet of practitioners and technocrats confidence, stability, and competence.  

However, unremarkable and short women’s representation in cabinet only fell through the concrete floor appointing only three women out of 21 cabinet ministers. 

This new administration, in its appointments, has not indicated an interest in gender equality or appropriate representation of women in critical decision-making. 

We need a political quota system to prioritise increasing the number of women in frontline politics and decision-making in top policymaking. A new survey indicated in a  report shared exclusively has found that 75 percent of appointments for top jobs in the Barrow administration may have gone to men in the coming weeks and months, putting President Barrow on track to assemble the most male-dominated cabinet ministers and in top-level positions in decades.

Without a significant shift, men outnumbered women in top positions of the Barrow administration. President Adama Barrow has taken a very comfortable posture. He has not stretched nor challenged himself. He is an unorthodox politician, and it seems this has come through the choice of a cabinet pick, bizarrely risk-averse. 

He has relieved some female ministers who may have underperformed or could not impact his political agenda. Fair enough. President Barrow has disproportionately staffed his administration with men. 

Former president Yahya Jammeh, in contrast, attracted scorn for filling 60% of political positions with women in cabinets and for passing over women for several high-profile cabinet appointments.

In my earlier postings, I wrote how Spain has demonstrated what women empowerment means with equal rights and leading women’s political empowerment as a change agent of change for sustained socio-economic development and security. 

“Spain has set a record; female participation in government. For example, 11 of the 17 cabinet ministers sworn in are women (61%). Prime minister Pedro Sanchez says he wants his progressive government to be a “loyal reflection of the best in a society it aspires to serve.

Women hold Spain’s economy, finance, defense, foreign affairs, and education portfolios in the female-dominated cabinet. A post-kickback government committed to equality breaks barriers.

President Barrow announced his much-awaited new cabinet ministers on a weary Wednesday evening, May 2022, on national television through the Gambia Government spokesperson. 

President Adama Barrow dumped the number of women ministers who propped his first cabinet appointments in one fell swoop. In the national announcement preceded by a soothing preamble on cabinet appointments, President Adama Barrow appointed only three females into Cabinet and female Secretary-General and a Head of the Civil Service. 

Instead, he appointed fresh male faces and retained some in cabinet. Home-bound after Wednesday’s shocker is all the three women cabinet ministers out of 21 Cabinet members. 

These great cabinet appointments of imminent personalities were later described as ‘damp squib’ in the failure of a balanced gender representation of women in the cabinet, with only three women and fifteen men in the cabinet. 

It is not easy to understand why President Barrow keeps shortchanging women’s representation in his government. Why does President  Barrow ignore gender parity? 

There is a strong correlation between economic and political empowerment: these two areas seem to reinforce one another, as women get ahead at work and seek better representation in politics, and as female ministers, in crucial decision making they set policies to support women’s professional lives, If we want a world with no gender gap, we need changes in policies, in business practices and cultural attitudes.

A renown political analyst pointed out the business case for diversity. Diversity has proven that more diversity in which management makes government and institutions more successful.

A fair amount of social science research now shows that if a government or institution becomes more diverse, if there are more women on the board and in crucial decision making, if there are more women in cabinet, if there are more minorities, the cabinet performs better. 

President Adama Barrow’s decision to exclude more gender from serving in his cabinet is inexcusable and deeply damaging to our representative democracy. President Barrow has dangerously signaled that the people who advise him do not need to represent all Gambians. 

His cabinet pick decision erodes the forward progress made by every Gambian to seek out bright and qualified women and young people to serve our nation as cabinet members. His cabinet appointments are anti-democratic and non-equality of women’s representation.

Furthermore, President  Adana Barrow’s admirers and  critics have applauded President Barrow in his new cabinet ministers appointment and even  described him as “the best and the brightest.” 

However, short of adding more competent and loyal women to his Cabinet. However, assembling talented and diverse Cabinet members would help advance the interests of all Gambians. 

Still, President Adama Barrow has broken the gender parity precedent of past presidential administrations and missed a significant opportunity to shed gender equality. Still, again the President has done well in balancing the ethnic and regional representation in his cabinet Ministers’ appointment by giving his government a Gambian character with the hallmarks of one Gambia, One People, and One destiny national identity.

This is not about political correctness. It is about representative democracy that requires including all abilities and having women’s representation and women’s leadership and political participation. This cabinet is not a gender balance and setback for the country. 

President Barrow needed to appear like the big man he is by absorbing a few of the cabinet ministers not from his party and his coalition partners. It is marvelous that his cabinet ministers were appointed based on competence and meritocracy but fell short of more women. 

We know President Barrow is the boss but appointing people in your cabinet who are loyal and competent is a tradeoff. In his presidential appointments, President Barrow has shown his true greatness.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

Alagi Yorro Jallow

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