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Gambia celebrates International Women’s Day

Jun 8, 2015, 9:59 AM | Article By: Ebrima Bah, Rural Correspondent

Women in The Gambia joined their counterparts in the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, at a nationally organised festival held in Jarra Soma in the Lower River Region on Saturday.

The event, which is celebrated on 8 March annually, was well attended by cabinet ministers including the Vice President and Minister of Women Affairs, National Assembly members, civil servants, the private sector, traditional leaders and students, and was presided over by the First Lady of the Republic of the Gambia.

The theme for the celebration is:“Vision 2016, 2020 & Beyond and Gambian Women can Make it Happen”.

Speaking shortly after the women-led national salute, Mrs Zineb Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh said the chosen theme of the day is consistent with the Gender and Women Empower Policy 2010-2020, the National Youth Policy 2009-2018, the Formulation of the Sexual Violence Act and the Domestic Violence Act 2013, among others, with the aim of uplifting the status of Gambian women and to protect their rights and personal well-being as a whole.

“The theme is also quite appropriate as The Gambia is in the process of achieving food self-sufficiency, with the ultimate goal of fighting hunger and malnutrition. By growing what we eat and eat what we grow, a particular focus is made towards the area of agriculture in order to establish a stable level of food security, which is an important milestone in the relentless efforts of the international community to eradicate poverty.”

In addition to the gains made in agriculture and health, Mrs Jammeh commented that children are entitle to equal rights to education, likewise women who have to live in a dignified manner and to raise their children in a loving environment, free from sexual abuse or domestic violence with the help of the President.

She urged the women to reinforce their social protection structures, by playing their part and carry out their duties as responsible women and parents within the household for a start.

“We may be amongst the most vulnerable of society, yet we emerged as the strongest group despite all the challenges and obstacles that we are faced with or are subjected to either directly or indirectly. Let us stand firm in our conviction that we are required in every successful economy, every successful family, every child’s life and, of course, behind every successful man.”

“Our distinct and irreplaceable characters placed at the centre of any religious, culture or contemporary way of life is indeed enough proof that we have the power, and that Gambian women can indeed make anything happen”, she said.

According to the first lady, Gambian women are at the heart of national development, and their continued and effective participation in the agricultural production is vital.

She further implored on the agricultural experts together with the Women’s Bureau under the guidance of the Vice President and Minister for Women’s Affairs to effectively partner in order to endeavour to strengthen the capacities of the women farmers.

The idea is to equip them with the requisite skills to access financial services, manage water, and other production resources more efficiently, added value to their produce and be able to negotiate for better marketing deals.

The Executive Director of the Women’s Bureau, Binta Jammeh Sidibeh who chaired the meeting saluted the government, women and the host communities, noting that it was a day for them to not only reflect on the achievements but also on the challenges and on the way forward for women’s empowerment, gender equality and equity.

It was also meant “to plan and implement policies, conventions, national and international treaties for both women and men to live in peace and harmony for a society free from rape and all forms of violence, to engender equal opportunities for both men and women in their social, educational, economic, cultural and political lives”.

Ndey Awa Khan Ceesay, who represented the president of the National Federation of Gambian Women, noted that women are in all the productive sectors of the economy. Apart from their domestic farming, some women travel worldwide to develop their businesses while others are in fishing and animal husbandry. She called on her colleagues to be united and work hard to achieve the objective of the visions 2016 and 2020.

The chairperson of the National Women’s Council, Fatou Mbaye who is also the deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, said the day’s objective is to highlight the achievements and the challenges in the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment at all levels.

She commended the initiation of Vision 2016, which she said is a prerequisite for sustainable political and socio-economic development. She pointed out that hopes are on women, who constitute 70% of the agricultural labour force. Most of them, she said, are actively involved in many areas including rice production and poultry farming.

The Governor of Lower River Region, Salifu Puye, commended the Gambian women’s celebration of International Women’s Day, and further recognised the participation of females, especially in the security services in activities marking the festival.

He described the women as reliable community in response to the creation of self food sufficiency, noting that the dice is cast in favour of the call in the Vision 2016.

He further pledged his support and encouragement to particularly farmers in his region.