Jun 4, 2009, 7:56 AM
Women gender activists in The Gambia continue to strive for the well-being and empowerment of their sisters and daughters in this country. The latest attempt in this direction is by Amie Sillah, a journalist, gender and human rights activist, who has taken the initiative to form an organization called WODD.
To know more about the organization, please spare time to relax and read this interview with Amie Sillah.
She She She: Can you please tell the readers about your organization?
Amie: My organization is called WODD meaning: Women in Democracy and Development. It is a civil society organization, actively working in areas such as women's participation in politics, in decision-making, health and nutrition education, and skills training for economic empowerment. We give small grants for economic empowerment. We also train women in adult literacy to enable them read and write in Mandinka and Wollof. We hold our congress every three years. WODD is a unique organization, operating on the basis of genuine democracy. During every congress, we show the members our bank account. I am the founder, and was at the same time appointed by the members to be the head of the administration.
She She She: In case the members decided to elect someone else to be the new head of the administration, will you still remain in the organization, knowing that WODD is your brain child?
Amie: Yes, I will still be there as an adviser, because I would not allow the organization to go astray. We want to serve all the women, irrespective of their political affiliation, economic status, their religion, skin colour, culture etc. Any way, so far so good.
She She She: When was WODD founded?
Amie: We were working on laying the foundation for three years, but it was formally registered in 2005. At the moment, we have 19 study circles, and we have given grants to all of them.
She She She: What inspired you to form this organization?
Amie: This is because there is a gap between women and men. Also many women don't know their rights; even for women who are educated. Some don't know about conventions like the CEDAW, AU Protocol, the 1997 Constitution, the criminal code, etc. It is good for women to know their rights, because you can’t fight for your rights when you don't know them. WOOD is an activist organization, a non partisan organization. We train women on rights issues, and show them how to protect their rights. It is a bottom up organization. The women are empowered to choose their leaders, their board, elect and appoint the executive, secretary general and the officers.
She She She: What are your aims and objectives?
Amie: To empower and enlighten women so that we can create a better Gambia in diversity; a Gambia for all.
She She She: What are some of your constraints?
Amie: Our main constraint is inadequate funds. We need funds to continue our work. When we have grants, we can continue to open more study circles, and we can engage in economic activities. When you give loans to some women, due to poverty it might be a problem. So we give them grants, because we train them on skills, so they know what to do with the grant.
She She She: How many members do you have?
Amie: To estimate country wide, we have over 5000 members.
She She She: How long does an executive stay in office?
Amie: The term is three years and its two terms for every executive member and none of them is allowed to serve for more than two terms. And when their terms are over, they become advisers. Also with their skills, they become trainers; we call on them for training, so the link continues.
She She She: What time do you normally conduct training sessions?
Amie: We do conduct training during congress. The congress is held for two days; the first day is always set for training, whilst the second day is meant for the election.
She She She: What does your training focus on most?
Amie: We trained members on bee-keeping, tie and dye, business, crafts, scientific farming, home management, health education, and nutrition education. Also on empowerment tools, how to become a better parent and wife, and also on religion (Islam and Christianity). We really enjoy the training sessions. We educate and entertain. Its both a sisterhood and brotherhood organization, but the majority are women and the men within us are very cooperative; they help us with everything; they see us as equals.
She She She: What message would you like to send to the Gambian populace?
Amie: My message is: "One Gambia One Nation, men and women to work in partnership to create a Gambia for all." I would also like people to know that gender is not a war; it's calling for access and opportunity for both women and men.
She She She: Thank you for giving us your time..
Amie: The pleasure is mine.