Statement by Minister for Health and Social Welfare - Dr. Mariatou Jallow on International Day of Family -15th May 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

Today 15th May is the International Day of the Families, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 47/237 of 20 September 1993. This annual observance reflects the importance that the international community, The Gambia in particular regards families as basic units of societies which should be safe guided.

The day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families as the basic units of society, as well as, to promote appropriate action. It also provides an opportunity to increase knowledge of the economic, cultural, social and demographic processes affecting families.

The 2009 observance of the day with the theme "Mothers and families: a challenge in a changing world" also offers a valuable opportunity for families to demonstrate their solidarity in the quest for better standards of life.

Mothers play a critical role in the family, which is a powerful force for social cohesion and integration. The mother-child relationship is vital for the healthy development of children. Mothers are not only caregivers; they are also breadwinners for their families. Yet motherhood women continue to face major- and even life threatening-challenges.

Violence against women, many of whom are mothers, remains one of the most pervasive human rights violence of our time. It has far-reaching consequences- endangering the lives of women and girls, harming their families and communities, and damaging the very fabric of societies. Ending and preventing violence against women should be a key priority for all community development activities.

Family structures and functions undergo constant change. New and divergent family forms continue to evolve in different societies. However any approach to comprehend families must, therefore, take into account the position of the family as a complex institution. Its structures and dynamics as reflected in the relations between its members, in the distribution of responsibilities and in the characteristic of its internal economics.

However civil society should impact on the family to ensure its empowerment along more equitable gender and age relationship.


Fellow Gambians,

The world is changing and families in all parts of the world are faced with added pressures caused by social change. However the role of mothers remains unchanged in every stage of life. Mothers are needed as the major source of support and comfort for development, and for social cohesion. The need for their support does not diminish. At times of illness, hunger, deprivation they are our source of support.

So, at each stage in our lives, mother have a vital role to play in our well being and support, yet still they are challenged with limited opportunities available to the majority of them in the area of education, reproductive health services and financial resources for their economic empowerment.

They are also increasingly affected by domestic violence, abuse and neglect by partners. Mothers are amongst the most vulnerable in any society and the greatest of treasures" especially when they give birth to a child yet still their health is in danger due to lack of appropriate care and support by the family during pregnancy and childbirth.

Nevertheless, we probably all agree that the one feature of a family that is most telling about it is the way it cares for and supports its poorest and most vulnerable member.

In The Gambia great strides have been made in the area of maternal and reproductive health. There has also been significant progress in boosting the income of poor households through our poverty reduction strategies and programmes both in terms of the delivery of services that improve the quality of life of families and in terms of legislative reforms. The Gambia government through the able leadership of His Excellency The President of The Republic of The Gambia, Professor Dr, Alhagie Yaya A.J.J. Jammeh is ensuring that pregnancy and child birth are safe through the provision of free maternal health care, skilled attendance at birth provision and emergency obstetric care.

We must also ensure universal access to education. The benefits of educating women and girls accrue not only to individual families but to whole countries, unlocking the potential of women to contribute to broader development efforts. Statistics also show that educated mothers are much more likely to keep their children in school, meaning that the benefits of education transcend generations.

Ending and preventing violence against women is given a key priority in our development agenda.

As we strive to support mothers in their caregivers work, we should develop and expand family-friendly policies and services, such as childcare centers that would reduce some of the workload placed on women. Women and men alike need stronger public support to share equally in work and family responsibilities. Families built on the recognition of equality between women and men will contribute to more stable and productive societies.


We are aware that we face multiple challenges in our changing world, but one factor remains constant, the timeless importance of mothers and their invaluable contribution to raising the next generation.

We will continue to use this occasion of the family day to intensify efforts aimed at engendering a spirit of solidarity, community citizenship and social activism in each and every family, neighborhood and villages.

I wish you all a happy family day.