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HDP Alumni Profile: Isatao Gassama, The Gambia

The House Democracy Partnership (HDP) is a bipartisan commission of the U.S. House of Representatives that works directly with 22 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 these monthly series, we profile HDP alumni to show how they are applying the lessons they’ve learned to their legislative work. Isatou Gassama, the Director of Research and Library at the National Assembly of The Gambia, attended virtual programming earlier in 2021 to discuss the need for reliable and independent legislative research, as well as drafting of legislation. Ms. Gassama began her career at the National Assembly as a clerk, and has since risen to be one of the highest staff members in the Assembly.

What parliament and chamber are you a staff member of?  

I am a staff member of The Gambia’s National Assembly, which is a unicameral legislature.

What HDP program did you participate in? 

Some of my colleagues and I were privileged to partake in a virtual House Democracy Partnership training session in February and March of 2021 on independent parliamentary research and legislative drafting, both of which gave us an excellent synopsis of those essential legislative roles as staff members.

What is your favorite thing about your country? 

I greatly appreciate The Gambia’s hospitality and the way our country is nurturing its young democracy.

Why did you decide to become a staff member in parliament? 

As a young woman early in my career and freshly graduated from the university, I thought it wise to widen my knowledge on how politicians make laws and how those laws contribute to the development of our dear motherland. 

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

Learning about the Congressional Research Service and how it contributes to the effectiveness and efficiency of the Congress by providing members with timely and accurate information was very impactful. It helped me see what similarities our research services have here in The Gambia, but also showed me there are some missing gaps.

How are you applying your experience from the HDP mission to your role as staff? 

I am working to make our research service more robust.

What advice would you give to new parliamentary staff? 

Work as a team with your colleagues by sharing information and set high standards for yourself.

What accomplishments in parliament are you most proud of? 

I am very proud of helping establish The Gambia’s research department and legal unit, and recruiting the most qualified personnel to assist the National Assembly members.