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Gender activist Amie Sillah launches book

Dec 3, 2010, 2:16 PM

Gender Activist, Amie Sillah on Monday 29th November 2010 launched her first novel, "The Silent Voices" at the Paradise Suites Hotel.

The gender activists from different organizations and individuals turned out in large numbers to grace what they called a day to celebrate womanhood. The occasion was chaired by Mr Cherno Barry, Secretary General of the Writers Association of the Gambia, Programme Officer UNESCO NATCOM and lecturer at the University of The Gambia. The Reviewer was Dr Siga Jange Jallow and the Chief Launcher was Mrs Hannah Forster.

'The Silent Voices' is a novel which highlights the problems of women and girls in marriage by amplifying their voices.

The reviewer of the book Siga Fatima Jagne said the book as its title suggests, "The Silent Voices" is about the raising of the voices of those women who have been silent over the centuries. The raising of ones voice is important for every human being. "Without a voice you become a subaltern, a passive subject rather than an active one with Agency," she said. She further explained that Amie Sillah in her stories shows us women who have a sense of agency, whether in the rural or urban context.

She noted that the stories are not about gloom and doom but about the celebration of women who triumph and whistle like women undaunted, undaunted by their situation and arriving at a position of strength. These are women who whistle undaunted against the chauvinism of the world, women who whistle undaunted because their mothers make sure that they do, she said. She pointed out that no adversity is too great for these women not to overcome it - they ride the waves of adversity to arrive safely onshore.

"Issues of wife beating, polygamy and general violence against women is explored in all eleven stories; stories so touching that they can only lead to deep reflection on the issues raised. The gender power relations are evident in all the stories, but each one also provides the opportunity for the heroines to reclaim their lives and their bodies, because the ultimate question is whose body is it anyhow," she remarked

According to the author of the book Amie Sillah, the novel is meant to awaken the sleeping souls and the conscience of the nation. The culture of silence she said has to be broken. "Men and women should engage in dialogue; there is no need for antagonistic contradictions," she opined.

She remarked that nobody can use culture, tradition or Religion to oppress, exploit and subjugate women. Mrs. Amie Sillah Sarr described the home as a sanctuary and that people should enjoy the sanctity of their homes. "But how can we live with wife battering, drudgery, economic insecurity, want and deprivation and in fear?" She questioned.

"Many injustices are going on in Polygamous relationships where we can experience serious women to women violence. It becomes "faadinyaa" (family hatred) which is transmitted from generation to generation," she noted.

According to her, some monogamous relationships can also experience serious contradictions where many rights of women are also compromised and trampled upon. Amie Sillah is of the belief that be it polygamy or monogamy, marriage is about sincerity, honesty and faithfulness in a relationship.

She noted that a marriage cannot be enjoyed if it is forced, arranged or imposed on a spouse.

"A victim of FGM who had experienced complications during operation and a child who is not physically, emotionally, psychologically and economically prepared cannot also enjoy a marriage." Marriage she went on, calls for partnership. She also stated that Gender is not a war; rather it calls for the understanding of the roles and duties assigned to us by society. Those roles and duties can change positively to serve the family, the community and the nation as a whole, she said.

Mrs Sillah Sarr pledged to donate in totality all the income derived from the sale of the novel to micro financing to contribute in alleviating the poverty of women and their children.

Two more novels she said are in the pipeline; one on her life journey of trials and tribulations and the other on the Gambian women's struggles.

The chief launcher Mrs. Hannah Forster in her launching statement said this year is a good year, noting that it has witnessed strides towards the advancement of women citing the launching of this book "silent voices".

Mrs. Forster who is the executive Director of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) noted that silence is something associated with fear and the need is there to stop the culture of silence.

She suggested for the book to be translated into the local languages for the benefit of the grassroots. She said that they need to move with the grassroots who should not be left behind. This, she went on, is what empowerment is all about. She therefore called on her colleagues to support those who cannot speak out.

In a solidarity message on behalf of the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia, the president, Janet Sallah Njie said the book has come at the opportune time. She said it coincides with the year in which they are afforded the opportunity to raise their voices to ensure that they demand their rights in accordance with the Women's Act 2010. She expressed hope that the connotation arising from the title of the novel would be addressed through legally enforceable laws.

According to Janet, it would be futile if the laws are enacted without being implemented and enforced in line with their spirit and intent.

Effective domestication of international obligation is a challenge facing all human rights groups and societies rooted in strict religious and cultural tradition.

Mrs. Sallah Njie noted that first step of human rights of women is to have their provisions fully incorporated into national law.

This according to her can be legally enforceable to which government can be held accountable.

For her part, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray, said that with the publication of this book dreams are now fulfilled. She said the stories written on marriage and family by the author in the Foroyaa newspaper shows the realities of women in the society. The struggle for women empowerment is vast. She added that they (women) struggle not because they want to sabotage but to address the plight of women.

She stressed the need for the book to be written in the local languages for the benefit of those who cannot read the English version.

She called on schools, institutions and universities to purchase the book for their libraries with a view to bringing out the issues of women.

Also giving a solidarity message Mrs Binta Jammeh Sidibeh executive director of APGWA, the advancement for the promotion of girls and women association, described the launching of the novel as historic.

She said writers in the Gambia have written books, novels, journals or articles on women and children, but writing on the trials and tribulation of women and children by a gender activist is the first of its kind. She described Amie Sillah as the courageous woman of the country. She said that Amie has made a giant political stride that many Gambians have the potentials but do not have the courage to ride through this political landscape full of thorns and obstacles. She said Amie has contested parliamentary elections twice both in the first and second republics.

The novel, "The Silent Voices," according to Mrs. Sidibeh, portrays the voices of the voiceless. She added that it depicts the numerous women and children in Africa and the Gambia in particular who are weeping silently. She stressed the need for the culture of silence to be broken. She called on her colleagues to give voice to the voiceless and provide the enabling environment for women to raise their voices against all forms of discrimination and to claim their rightful places in the society.

Mrs. Sidibeh pointed out that the country has international legal instruments in place such as the AU protocol and what is now required is the domestication, implementation and enforcement of these instruments. She urged her colleagues to respect all the articles enshrined in all these legal instruments to ensure that the rights of all African women are promoted and protected in order to enjoy their humanity.

Also giving his solidarity message, Sam Sarr, husband to Amie Sillah described her as a hard working woman who despite all odds is able to combine her profession and her domestic responsibilities. She called on all women to work together for their advancement.

Courtesy of Foroyaa Newspaper