May 31, 2010, 2:08 PM
Welcome to another edition of Personality of the Week, the weekly column which profiles Gambian men and women of interest.
In today’s edition, we bring you the profile of a woman who should need no introduction, especially for those living within the Greater Banjul Area (GBA).
She is a successful woman, an erudite activist and is one of The Gambia’s most respected citizens. She is Mrs Mam Sai Njie-Sanneh, current president of the West African Women’s Association (WAWA), The Gambia Chapter.
Mrs Njie-Sanneh was born in Banjul in 1965. She is the daughter of the late Paul Steven Njie (commonly known as Daddy Njie) and the late Mrs Elizabeth Jarjue-Njie (alias Ya Elisa).
She was her parents’ fourth child. Mrs Njie-Sanneh says that her early life was very challenging, but with encouragement from her parents she was able to tackle it with faith. She also has fond memories of a woman called Mrs Margaret Shyngle, a former teacher at Saint Augustine Junior Secondary School in Banjul, who used to assist her family with scholarships and other social needs.
Mrs Njie-Sanneh attended primary school at Saint Joseph’s Lower Basic School in Banjul between 1972 and 1978. She then proceeded to Saint Augustine Junior Secondary School in Banjul which she attended between 1978 and 1982.
After her junior secondary school examination, Mrs Njie-Sanneh graduated with three credits and three passes. Because of her excellent results she got a scholarship to proceed to high school. However, due to her desire to help her parents, she decided not to continue with her education.
She says: “You cannot be going to school while your parents are still struggling for daily feeding.” Because of the concern she had for her parents, she allowed her younger sisters to continue their education while Mrs Njie-Sanneh went to work to earn something to help her family at home.
She attended hotel training school for one year until 1984 after which she worked for one tourist season at the former Palm Grove Hotel in Banjul. After the end of the tourist season, she started her own small trading business selling a range of products including fish cakes, bread and ice cream.
In due course, she went on a business trip to Dakar where she purchased stock and brought it back to Banjul. She used to sell to women on credit and then would collect her money from her customers at the end of the month.
This continued until 1994 when Mrs Njie-Sanneh stopped trading following a change of government and joined the then AFPRC regime. Soon afterwards she became a founder member of the Banjul Youth Action Group (BYAG).
In the early months of the APRC regime, Mrs Njie-Sanneh was the Banjul Portuguese Ward youth mobiliser. She later served as the deputy youth mobiliser for the entire city of Banjul between 2002 and 2004.
As well as youth engagement, advocacy of women’s affairs is very important to her. She says: “My philosophy is that as a woman, I should be part of the development process of The Gambia. Being a woman does not mean you should stay behind. Because of my interest in women’s affairs, I presently hold the position of the president of WAWA Gambian Chapter which has a membership of over 1,500 women’s groups and individuals across the length and breadth of the country.”
WAWA was established in 1987 by ECOWAS and has a sub-regional focus on engaging women in all aspects of the development process. The 16 member countries of ECOWAS are also members of WAWA.
After a brief spell working at the Gambia Prison Service, in 2002 she applied for the councillorship position for Banjul Portuguese Town Ward. She was unopposed and became the councillor. While serving as councillor, she contested the deputy mayor’s position for Banjul City Council (BCC) and won. She served as acting deputy mayor of BCC between 2002 and 2007.
Mrs Njie-Sanneh is the current assistant secretary general of the Federation of Business Women and Entrepreneurs (FEBWE) Gambian Chapter.
She is also a member of the following civil society groups: Banjul South Development Committee, Banjul Divisional Committee, Joining Hands in the Development of Banjul and Banjul Jegg Society.
It is clear that Mrs Njie-Sanneh is a most valuable citizen thanks to her tireless commitment to civil society and advocacy of women’s affairs. She says: “As a woman, you should always ask yourself what can I do for my country but don’t ask yourself what your country can do for you or what your husband can do for you.” These are obviously words that she lives by.