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Mar 11, 2020, 4:40 PM | Article By: DM Badjie

The empowerment of women has been subject of reflections in National blue  prints Government after Government in The Gambia as it relates to the  Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), CSW, CEDAW, etc. and so forth.  The question is, are women and particularly those in Africa really making a  difference especially geared towards these articulations and policy actions to  ensure their actual empowerment?

First of all, it must be stated that women are not only an integral part of society  but they constitute the productive base and therefore their empowerment is in  the best interests of our nations. The MDGs did not reflect adequately on  agriculture. And this is why in the nations of the world particularly in Africa  where there is endemic poverty, hunger and disease, Governments found it  difficult to cope with the recent food crisis. It is logical therefore to state that  there is no better strategy to alleviating poverty than moving agriculture in a  rapid and substantial manner on the continent of Africa. It is equally logical that  development must act directly on the agriculture sector itself. And in Africa,  women are either the answer to agriculture or a key to food security. This is  where we believe women can be making a difference especially geared towards  the MDGs. The UN and the International donor community should consider  increasing assistance to women in agriculture and work with national  Governments on programmes/projects that will ensure the empowerment of  women through food self-sufficiency and security.

Apart from agriculture, women in most African countries have shown the lead in  honesty in the management of public funds, in the dispensation of justice in  courts of law, in small scale business enterprises, family care, professional  training, health care, and advocacy, and in other income generating activities  and even to some extent in the political spectrum. It could therefore be safely  concluded that women are contributing immensely to the socio-economic  development of our nations.

Most people would argue that women have been empowered through  appointments to high offices in the public service, election to political seats and  serving in high positions in recognized international bodies and so forth. But  empowerment of women means much more than this elitist breed of women. It  means the uplifting of women from poverty to prosperity; it means putting an end  to the discrimination of women to providing equal opportunity to them; it means  the enslavement of women in marriage must be ended and women’s liberation  under the law assented to by national Governments to safeguard and to protect  their interests in marital affairs; it means greasing the backs of women through  program interventions to become producers and providers of feed for the families  and society and to be able to be of greater asset to men and it means creating  wealth for the advancement of women across the board through micro credit  schemes, skills development, entrepreneurship, market outlets, and health care  schemes. The total liberation of women must become the cornerstone of Action.

In empowerment, it is not a question of challenges to men. We are saying that  we are one world. We are one people. Women must learn to live together with  men as partners or we all perish in shame. It will be fatal for our nations to  overlook the urgency of women empowerment especially in this era of global  economic and social hardship.

We have therefore heard all the advocacies to remind the world of the fierce  urgency of addressing the concerns of women. Now is the time to make real the  much talked about empowerment of women. Now is the time for the fulfilment of  promises of equal opportunity and gender balance for all of the women in the world.

There are those who may be asking the question: “when will women be  satisfied?” They can never be satisfied as long as women are largely confined to  poverty and underdevelopment. We want to see the transition of women from  pain to pleasure. It is not only decision making power but economic power as  well for women especially those in rural communities.

There is the need for a number of programmes to be initiated and funded to  improve the status of women and these include:

1. Micro credit schemes to enable more women access funding for income  generating activities.

2. Training possibilities for women to be knowledgeable in doing business  and entrepreneurship, etc.

3. Establishment of women’s agricultural farms on a wide scale with  technical and financial support from the FAO, NGOs and Agriculture  Ministry.

4. Establishment of Women’s Enterprise Fund to assist women involved in  business, trade, commerce, saloon ventures, import/export to enhance  their earnings.

5. National Governments to make available to local banks money for women  empowerment projects and businesses.

Government can consider setting up a National Trading Company under the  management of women business leaders with big capital provision to engage in  food commodities, agribusiness, fisheries and other activities. Such a company  should be mandated to have outlets in all the regions of the country. Preferential  treatment in terms of foreign exchange requirements for the imports of the  company should become a deliberate policy by the Central Bank in empowering  Gambian women. It is time for the Gambian market to be owned and dominated  by Gambians and for all goods to be within the reach of average citizens.

Women are the best conduit for this transformation. A National Bakery service  with fully equipped machines and facilities to be managed by serious, honest  and dedicated women entrepreneurs could counter the prevailing dominance of  the market by foreigners calling themselves Gambians. There are experienced  rural women in agriculture and rice production in particular. Government in the  context of food security drive, should set up a National Women’s Agriculture  Farm to be operated and managed by women rice farmers. The Municipal and  Area Councils should move to build markets dedicated to women to support  their trading activities in all regional centres. Empowerment of women does not  necessarily mean appointing elitist women to positions in government and  parliament but bringing sustainable livelihood to poor women in society,  particularly in the rural areas.

Some of these suggested strategies or interventions can have significant impact  on women in development.