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AMERICAN JEWISH WORLD SERVICE: Claiming A Seat At The Table: The Feminization Of Politics In Senegal

Maroussia Mbaye
Gueule Tapée District in Dakar 3rd Deputy Mayor inside the Town Hall discussing local and national issues with local women.

In Senegal, women were largely excluded from politics until recently. A collective of women activists that AJWS supports, Association des Juristes Sénégalaises (AJS), has worked to change this — and is shifting Senegal’s entire political landscape in the process.  

Over the years, AJS’s fierce advocacy has led to Senegal requiring political parties to ensure that at least half of their candidates are women. When parties and election officials refuse to comply, AJS takes legal action to enforce the law. AJS has also organized leadership workshops and trainings for women about Senegalese government and elections. They’ve sparked advances in women’s rights, including the election of Adama Mbengue as a deputy mayor of Gueule Tapée, a borough of Dakar. 

One Senegalese woman who has stepped into leadership with AJS’s support, Ndeye Khady Diagne, says proudly: “We will be the ones to let other women know: You have the ability. You have the strength. Now come and take your power.” 

While Senegal values women for their roles in leading households and communities, they have been largely excluded from the realm of politics. But our partner organization Association des Juristes Sénégalaises (AJS) is helping usher in a shift in Senegal’s political landscape. In 2010, Senegal passed a gender parity law, requiring political parties to ensure at least half of their candidates are women — guaranteeing equal access to decision-making bodies. While AJS has worked to promote the law’s full implementation, they’re also addressing the other end of the equation: training more women community leaders to step up and run for office.  

AJS calls the initiative “The Feminization of Politics.” Through 2021 and 2022, it has trained 150 women across Dakar in leadership and government, and today, many are involved in local politics and have assumed both elected and appointed positions. Adama Mbengue is one such example. In January 2022, after participating in the training, she ran for and was elected as the third deputy mayor of Gueule Tapée, a borough of Senegal’s sprawling capital city. Adama says her grandfather told her that, “as a woman, it’d be hard for me in politics. So I’d need to fight, and to believe in myself. That advice is how I got here.” 

Another AJS advocate, Ndeye Khady Diagne, advises women who seek to step into leadership: You have the ability. You have the strength. Now come and take your power.”

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