Jul 17, 2012, 1:00 PM
The Gambia National Olympic Committee (GNOC), in collaboration with the Gambia Football Association (GFA), on Saturday held a daylong forum at the National Technical Training Centre in Yundum aimed at integrating women and sport through football.
The forum, attended by some of the country’s top sporting dignitaries including The Gambia’s IOC member Beatrice Allen and GNOC president Alhaji Momodou Dibba, provides an avenue for people from different walks of life to discuss burning issues of women and sport in order to reach common understanding for the benefit of all and sundry.
The ultimate objective of this year’s festival is to integrate women and sport through football, which is the most popular game in the country, and by extension, the world.
Alhaji Momodou Dibba, who occupies the GNOC top seat, took to the stage to deliver a launching statement on this year’s festival.
“I am sure that this Women and Sports Festival will make a significant contribution to the advancement of women and girls empowerment in the country,” he said, adding that the GNOC, with the support of the IOC, puts a lot of emphasis on the participation of women and girls in sport.
“I wouldn’t want to take much of your time but to say that the Women and Sports Festival in The Gambia will bring into fruition the importance of the participation of women in sport in the country,” he added.
Dibba, who won the race to occupy the GNOC presidency after a long battle with fellow contestant Abdoulie Touray, used the platform to thank Beatrice Allen for what he called her wonderful initiative in setting up the Women and Sports Festival, which has erased some misconceptions among people about whether women and girls are building interest into sport.
Ms Allen, who is also the 1st vice president of the GNOC, said the GFA is chosen to be their partners in their collaborative efforts in bringing together women and sports through football.
She stated: “The Gambia Football Association is the most organised sporting body in the country and based on that acknowledgement, the GNOC decided to start a pilot phase with them in trying to integrate women and sports by starting with football, which is why football is chosen as the theme for the festival.”
Ms Allen used the occasion to praise the GFA for its support along the way and all those who have contributed immensely towards the success of the organisation including the media she describes as dynamic partners in “this worthy course”.
The forum also gave GFA president Seedy Kinteh the opportunity to speak at length on the importance of women and sport, saying: “It is a great pleasure and honour to be associated with this very important programme aimed at raising the profile of women and sport in The Gambia.
“Valuable progress has been registered in terms of public awareness and public interest in women’s football and I would like to praise the extraordinary efforts and achievements of the coordinating team.”
The GFA supremo also expressed confidence that the future of women’s football in the country is in safe hands.
Also speaking at the forum was Mary Samba-Christensen, chairperson of Women and Sport, who said she was delighted about the festival.
This year’s festival will create awareness on the importance of mainstreaming women and girls in football by exposing their talents and hearing their voices on how football has made impacts in their lives.
“We hope that today’s forum on sport and development with special focus on women and girls will bring together sports men and women, sports administrators, general sports veterans, policymakers, local government administrators, regional women and sports committees, religious leaders and the UN System and GNOs,” Mary Samba said.
In attendance at the ceremony were Samsung’s representative, who also spoke on the occasion, GFA secretary general Jammeh Bojang and other sports personalities.
Cherno Mbenga, assistant coach of the Gambia Women national team, Sainabou Kujabi, president of the Sports Journalists Association of The Gambia, Musa Ceesay of West Coast Radio, Modou Fofana, regional coordinator and GFA secretary general Jammeh Bojang, all made presentations on various topics ranging from the role of the media in promoting women’s football, to the role of coaching for women’s development in football and the GFA’s agenda on the future of women in football.
The occasion also witnessed the launch of the GFA Women Commission expected to help develop policies and monitor policy implementation, as well as advise the GFA president on factors inhabiting women getting into football.