Oct 29, 2009, 1:42 PM
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
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.