Magazine article New African

Women at Work: Gender & Development

Magazine article New African

Women at Work: Gender & Development

Article excerpt

From the outset of his presidency, Yahya Jammeh recognised that sustainable economic and social development of The Gambia would be incomplete without the full and equal participation of women, men, girls and boys in all areas of human endeavour.

PRESIDENT YAHYA JAMMEH holds the empowerment of women and gender equity close to his heart. This he has exemplified in more ways than can be quantified, but most notably, by appointing women to some of the key government positions including that of the vice presidency. To this day, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy who became West Africa's first female vice president when she was appointed in 1997, remains Africa's longest-serving vice president. She also serves as the country's Minister of Women's Affairs. Previously, she served in the position of Minister of Health.

Other women ably holding notable key positions include the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Justice Mama Fatima Singhateh; the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Fatou Lamin Faye; and the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie.

Many more women occupy important positions in other key departments, at permanent secretary levels, in the navy, the army and police. But even at the grassroots level, the role of women is highly recognised and empowerment processes are embedded at all levels of the Gambian communities. The government has always recognised the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, while taking into account their development and economic challenges.

President Jammeh appointed the first female regional governor in the history of The Gambia. A popular community activist who supported the 1994 revolution from the very outset, Aminata Siffai Hydara was last May appointed governor of Brikama.

As a woman who has spent all her life mobilising her community, her appreciation of her appointment is palpable. "I have been given this position not because I am a woman and have a beautiful face, but because the president has a strong belief that to advance economically, The Gambia cannot leave half of its population behind. That is not what I would say about the first republic. President Jammeh's government is very different from the last one. Our president is very people-driven and his concern and the basis of his 22 July 1994 takeover, was to uplift and empower everyone without bias based on gender or religion."

She adds: "I hail from this town, Brikama, this constituency is called Kombo Central, it is the second-largest in The Gambia. I know the changes that have taken place in the last 20 years. As someone who has worked in community development for a long time, there are two things that I really appreciate about what has happened since 1994. We have tangible projects that are visible, built by President Jammeh, such as schools, hospitals, roads. Then we have the intangible projects. These deal with people's attitudes, which we cannot really measure. President Jammeh has created self-esteem and confidence in us. That is very good for the national psyche and it helps to encourage people to get more involved in national development projects. And in all this women are not being left behind."

President Yahya Jammeh has put in place the Women's Act, 2010, which seeks to protect and promote the rights of women and girls, as enshrined in the 1997 Constitution of the Second Republic. The Act takes into account the needs of women and girls, at all levels, in relevant institutions and programmes, and in policies, the Act also seeks to enforce The Gambia's international commitments, such as to the UN's CEDAW, the AU's Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa and the AU Protocol, which seek to protect women and girls' rights, and inspire them to better their livelihood.

Under the vice president's helm, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, and the Women's Bureau, have also taken significant strides, with regards to protecting women and girls' rights. …

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