This year’s event brought good news to the entire Gambian populace, particularly the womenfolk who have their husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, and grandfathers in jail.
The 21st anniversary celebration, indeed, brought joy to every Gambian woman weeping over a jailed husband or son.
As women and ladies, we all know the feeling of being separated from the man you love or as a mother the son you cherish so much.
In this case, it is not because they have travelled, but because they were put away in prison to serve a death sentence or life imprisonment.
Definitely, the person affected is the only person that could explain how it feels like.
For these women, it is like living a nightmare; as they do not know what smiling is, and would have to force it whenever they have to smile.
It is also obvious that the only language these women speak is for Allah to help bring back their loved ones to them.
Counting the achievements of the Jammeh administration from 1994 to date, one could see that key among them is the empowerment of women, promoting their rights, as well as protecting them.
President Jammeh on many occasion have vowed to fight for the rights of the Gambian women, as well as giving them what they need.
This year’s July 22nd anniversary was not an exception.
The women turned out in their large numbers, to again prove to the Gambian leader that the women of the Gambia are, indeed, grateful for what he had been doing for them.
The Gambian leader has done many good things for the Gambian women; among them, is the establishment of the Women’s Bureau and the ministry of Women’s Affairs.
The President and his government have also enacted laws such as the Women’s Act 2010 and the Sexual Offence Act, among others, that are geared towards protecting the rights of women and girls in the country.
Women of the country are also seen in decision-making positions, such as ministerial positions, as governor, National Assembly members, as well as ambassadors.
This year’s celebration is unique and filled with surprises from the Gambian leader.
When the President make the announcement to pardon the death row prisoners and others, women stood up and started shouting with joy that at last they would be re-united with their loved ones.
As the schoolchildren match past, President Jammeh took to the podium.
As usual, everybody was expecting him to deliver a written long speech.
But then, the man himself is full of surprises.
He made the pronouncement that “all those who were charged with treason and convicted, either serving life sentence, or death sentence amongst other convicted of murder, cannabis and related crimes from 1994 to date are pardoned and will be released latest Friday”.
When I saw the women shouting with Joy, their eyes glittering with hope, the hope of seeing their jailed husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers and nephews; thanking Allah for a day like this; I can only imagine what they feel and what they have been through all this year’s praying and hoping for a brighter future.
What can be more painful than having a 10-year-old daughter attending her father’s trial in school uniform? What of the pain of a wife or a mother attending her husband or son’s trial in tears?
As court reporters, we have seen it all.
These women and girls go to bed every night with their eyes wide open; they don’t even know what food or water tastes like; they don’t know how sweet the world can be, because everything is bitter to them.
Some of them spend the whole night praying to Allah to re-unite them with their husbands and sons. These women prayed for a day like this to happen, and it has happened within the blink of an eye.
Some say a human being cannot be complete when he/she does not know how to forgive or forget.
For the President of a nation to think highly of his people, to an extent of knowing what their heart yearns for, and to render forgiveness to them on a silver platter, is indeed commendable.
“21 years is not 21 days, it is two decades one year,” said President Jammeh.
The Gambian leader has once again reiterated his commitment towards the protection and promotion of the rights of children, as he said that anyone convicted for raping a child would serve the full sentence.
This shows the Gambian people that rapist have no place in the country.
We have seen young girls being raped in the homes, and people treat it as a private family matter.
Imagine a girl-child who is a member of the family and deserves your protection, and instead of protecting that child, you rape and sexually abuse that child and then turn treat and make it a private family matter.
People have said leadership by example; and that is what happened on the occasion of this year’s July 22nd anniversary.
Women hope that this will continue in our homes, where husbands and brother-in-laws will learn to respect women, their feelings, learn to negotiate with their wives and forgive when necessary.
When that happens, we will all live in peace, and there will be no need for a husband or wife to take the other partner to court.