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US Embassy focuses on supporting projects, Ambassador Staples

Dec 5, 2014, 10:44 AM | Article By: Bakary Samateh

US Ambassador to The Gambia, George M. Staples, has said the Embassy of the United States has focused on supporting projects that promised to strengthen Gambian democracy at the grassroots level, with particular emphasis on women and youth.

Ambassador Staples was speaking recently at a 3-day training for youth parliamentarians organised by the National Youth Parliament (NYP) and held at the President International Award in Bakau.

The training was meant to equip the youth with the requisite skills and techniques to facilitate the creation of a platform where young people and their elected officials would engage in discussions geared towards the development of their various communities and the nation.

“In 2012 and 2013, we funded projects to help educate Gambian women to learn about their rights under the Women’s Act 2010 and the Local Government Act 2012,’’ he said.

He was excited and optimistic about the civil involvement in the legislation project funded through a $45,000 grant for governance and democratic programme from the US Department of State.

He said when constituents were not heard or their legislators become unresponsive the system breaks down hence people need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities in a democracy.

Without accountability, democracy cannot exist, he said, adding that accountability serves as an implicit check-and-balance system.

This was why the work of the national youth parliament is so critically important to tackle the issue of this lack of awareness by communicating directly with the Gambian people through highly accessible mediums such as the radio, Ambassador Staples said.

“You facilitate a dialogue around the idea of accountability, and embolden Gambians around the country to expect more from their governments,” he added.

Ambassador Staples said further that too often the issues and concerns of young people get swept under the rug, stating that young Gambians must start championing their own cause.

“By equipping youth with knowledge about civil involvement and local government, you are turning them into leaders in their own right by providing them the voice to speak out on issues that affect them,” he stated.

The US Embassy has a commitment to the youth of The Gambia and his colleagues and him are dedicated to providing opportunities for the advancement and growth of youth and their peers, he said.