The House Democracy Partnership (HDP) is a bipartisan commission of the U.S. House of Representatives that works directly with over 20 partner parliaments around the world to support the development of effective, independent, and responsive legislatures. HDP is proudly implemented by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).   

In this month’s alumni profile, the Honorable Fatoumatta Njai, member of the Gambian Parliament, shares her experience participating in HDP programming.

Hon. Fatoumatta Njai, Member of the Gambian Parliament

What parliament and chamber are you a member of? 

I am a member of the Gambian Parliament. It is a unicameral parliament with 58 members, 53 of which are directly elected by the people in their various constituencies and five are nominated by the president. Out of the 53, I am one of three females and the only female serving a second term as an elected member.  

What HDP program did you participate in? 

I participated in the Legislative Track of the Summit for Democracy from March 28-30, 2023, in Washington, DC.  

What do you want other people to know about your country?  

I would love people to know that my country, The Gambia, was not accidentally named the Smiling Coast of Africa. The people of The Gambia are very nice people. They always smile and accept everything in good faith. The people have been through a lot yet are so forgiving and nice. I just want them to know that I love my country.  

Why did you decide to become a member of Parliament? 

I saw the need for good representation. I saw the need to have decent people in politics. To change the narrative that people have that politics is dirty. We needed clean and decent people in politics. This was more so after the disposal of a regime of more than two decades of dictatorship. The country needed decent people for a proper transition process. I endeavored to serve my people and contribute to ensuring that the justice that the people deserved was achieved.  

Looking back on the HDP program, what was most impactful for you? 

The most impactful thing was hearing the stories of other people and of the challenges they have had to endure for proper democracy and rule of law in their own countries. This gave me hope that we shall also achieve the same with perseverance, determination, and political will. Additionally, meeting and sharing stories with the Zambian Member, Hon. Princess Kasune, who created a great impact and was invited to the White House.  

How are you applying your experience from the HDP mission to your role as a member of Parliament? 

I have started working on a constitutional amendment again. What I have learned is not to do it alone. Therefore, instead of a private member bill, it shall be presented as a committee bill. Working together and taking responsibility together is a great lesson learned from the session.  

What information, if any, that you gained through the HDP program have you shared with fellow MPs or legislative staff? 

I gained a lot and would share with fellow members not only in my country, but in the Economic Community of West African States Community Parliament, where I also represent my country. The most important is the inclusion of women and marginalized communities in decision making processes. This would affect half our populations and promote development and democracy. 

What advice would you give to new members of Parliament? 

I would advise new members to read and know parliamentary processes and to let them be conscious of the fact that even though they might be under party tickets, once they take their oath, they need to put the national interest first.  

What accomplishments in parliament are you most proud of? 

I am proud of being the face of the women and the youth, even though I am not a youth. I attempted a constitutional amendment to reserve seats for women and the physically disabled. Though it did not pass, it was a first in the history of The Gambia and it started the ball rolling; more importantly, the role I play with youths whom all regard me as their mother and their role model. 

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