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US Ambassador highlights women, democracy, others as priority

Dec 6, 2010, 2:16 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The new US ambassador to the Gambia Pamela Ann White, Friday came face to face with journalists at a press conference organised by the embassy to introduce her to the media.

The press conference, held at the American Corner along

Kairaba Avenue
was among others aimed at allowing the Gambian public to know the Ambassador, and to explore the full gamut of bilateral relations, including the Embassy's mandate to forge positive ties and improve cooperation between the two countries.

Speaking to journalists, Ambassador White said during her tenure, she will among others, focus, support and concentrate on women, community work, democracy and free and fair elections.

"I will focus and concentrate on women and community work, listen to what students, journalists, government, civil society organisations and diplomats have to say," she stated.

According to the Chief US diplomat, the embassy will give out some funds for small projects, and continue to provide scholarships for girls through the Ambassador's Girls Scholarships Program, which since inception, has provided scholarships to many young girls.

Ambassador White, who comes to The Gambia from serving as Mission Director for United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Liberia, said access to health care and human rights will also be her priority during her tenure in Banjul.

"We will also be helping in the cashew sector and work with cashew farmers," she added.

She also disclosed plans to help in training the Gambia Police Force and the military, adding that the Gambian security personnel are very good in peace keeping missions in Africa.

Ambassador White, who also holds the rank of Career Minister, the highest rank within the Foreign Service with over 35 years of experience, described The Gambia as a beautiful country with very nice people.

Ambassador White's background

At USAID, Ambassador White served as: community liaison officer in Burkina Faso, Deputy Director and Executive Officer in Senegal and Haiti and Executive Officer in Haitian, Egyptian, and South African missions. As Deputy Director for East Africa in Washington, D.C., she coordinated the delivery of much-needed food to Ethiopia and Eritrea, helped to develop a six-year Ugandan strategy, and oversaw the expansion of programmes in Sudan and Congo.

In Mali, Ambassador White's work as Deputy and Mission Director for USAID is credited with the tripling of the number of girls in primary school, the 200 percent increase in the number of elected women leaders and the doubling of the percentage of children receiving vaccinations. For her extraordinary work, she was awarded the highest decoration given to foreigners, the Knight of the National Order of Merit (Ordre national du Mali). 

Following her work in Mali, Ambassador White was appointed Mission Director in Tanzania where she managed a $130 million aid programme focused on HIV/AIDs prevention, malaria control, primary education, conservation of natural resources, and control of corruption. She oversaw the start of major health initiatives including the President's Malaria Initiative, which led to an 85 percent reduction of confirmed cases of malaria in Zanzibar, and one of the largest President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programmes in Africa. Ambassador White also helped the country to receive one of the largest Millennium Challenge Corporation grants after implementing development strategies to fight corruption and improve accountability.