Female Presidential Candidate Brings Hope in Senegal

03:27 March 22, 2024

Female Presidential Candidate Brings Hope in Senegal

Senegal’s only female presidential candidate may have little chance of winning Sunday’s election, but activists say her presence alone is important. They argue that the candidacy of Anta Babacar Ngom is helping create gender equality in the West African nation.

Ngom is a 40-year-old business executive who runs her family’s food company. She has made the economy a center of her campaign. Economic difficulty has driven thousands of Senegalese on sometimes dangerous travel in search of a better life outside Africa.

Ngom appears to be a voice for both women and young people - groups hard hit by unemployment and rising prices. She has promised to create millions of jobs and a bank for women. She says such actions will help women gain economic independence.

She told The Associated Press, “The young girls I meet ask for my support. They do so because they know that when a woman comes to power, she will put an end to their suffering. I’m not going to forget them.”

Ngom is the first female candidate to run for president in over 10 years. Few expect her to win. But activists say her candidacy demonstrates how women are moving ahead in the struggle for equality.

“We have to be there, even if we don’t stand a chance,” said Selly Ba, an activist and sociologist. “We don’t stand a chance in these elections. But it’s important that we have women candidates, women who are in the race.”

Senegal had its first female prime minister in 2001. And in 2010, a law that required all political parties to introduce gender parity in elections helped increase female involvement in politics.

“Women’s rights have evolved at the political level over the last 10 years and particularly since the gender parity law came into force,” said Bousso Sambe, a former parliamentarian.

In 2012, two women ran for president, and while they earned less than one percent of the vote each, experts say their participation was important. Women in Senegal now make up more than 40 percent of parliament, one of the highest levels of representation in Africa.

Ngom told the AP, “Women must be able to express themselves without hindrance, while preserving our cultural identity and valuing the traditional values that have shaped our society.”

Ngom’s supporters say they are proud to back a female candidate and hopeful for a change in the next government.

“Our children are dying at sea because of unemployment and job insecurity,” activist Aicha Ba said at a recent demonstration.

She added: “Women are tired.”

I'm Jill Robbins.

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