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Women Empowerment Recognized By Gambia’s Icon Of Progress -Veep Tells Development Forum On Gender

September 11
14:14 2014

The vice president of the Republic and Women’s Affairs minister has told delegates attending a development forum on gender Wednesday that gender equality and empowerment of women continue to be recognised by the icon of Gambia’s development and beacon of hope for its progress and prosperity, H.E Sheikh Prof. Alh. Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh Nasirul Deen Babili Mansa. She said President Jammeh recognised it as a pre-requisite for socio-economic development of the country.

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H.E Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy was presiding over the opening ceremony of the three-day development forum on the theme, ‘Closing the gender gaps – The realities in The Gambia’.

The forum is being organised by the Office of the Vice President in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other development partners in the country.

The forum serves as a platform to stimulate intellectual debates and inform policy decisions on key national development issues.

It further provides the opportunity to create networks and links various sectors and industries that are capable of providing innovative solutions to pertinent development challenges facing The Gambia. It creates a real dialogue around economic empowerment of women and specifically on women in agriculture.

The veep, in her remarks, underscored that the forum will serve as a mechanism for advocacy and for analysing development interventions being implemented in The Gambia. She expressed hope that the resulting outcomes of the dialogue will provide concrete solutions that will inform policy making and interventions to facilitate the mainstreaming of gender perspectives into the country’s development process.

“The theme, ‘Closing the gender gap – the realities in The Gambia’ is critical because it has both individual and national implications,” she stated.  The focus on economic empowerment of women and specifically on women in agriculture, women’s access to finance and entrepreneurship development and unpaid work, according to her, could not have been a better choice. “Women are employed more in agriculture, trade and the informal sector and therefore the focus on grassroots women is apt and timely and highly welcomed,” she added.

The vice president described economic empowerment of women as an important catalyst in enhancing decision-making and reducing household poverty among others.  “I would use this opportunity to reaffirm the unflinching support and commitment of government to priority programmes that address gender and the empowerment of women in line with the national blueprints: Visions 2016 and 2020,” she assured.

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Describing agriculture as the backbone of The Gambia’s economy, the veep reminded that the government recognises this significant role women play in producing the bulk of the staple food consumed in the country.

 

She remarked: “When the president made the clarion call for food security and food self-sufficiency, he was clearly confident that women would be the main players in accomplishing the Vision. As a result, he commended women as the custodians of Vision 2016. It is worth noting that the agricultural activities of the vast majority of women farmers stop at primary production level.

 

However, given their hard work, entrepreneurship and the enabling environment and support that continue to be created by government, this phenomenon is changing and women are venturing into value addition and other creative enterprises as part of their diversification strategy albeit support is needed for this process. Women’s agricultural income is often ploughed back to the household, largely in the form of meeting educational expenses of their children, subsidising the daily household expenses and meeting other social obligations as part of their triple roles”.

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VP Njie-Saidy noted that efforts to increase women’s participation in large-scale and commercial agriculture are constrained by their limited technical capacity and skills, inadequate financial and material resources, as well as ownership and control of productive resources. Moreover, the unpaid care work that women undertake as part of their triple roles also exacerbates the situation, she noted.

 

She said government of The Gambia is aware of these realities and has put in place several policies and strategies to improve agricultural production and especially support and empower women farmers to increase their level and quality of production and productivity.

 

She further recognised President Jammeh’s personal contribution to the development of the agricultural sector to enhance production and productivity in the form of farm implements, seeds, fertilizer among others.  “I would like to show my appreciation on behalf of Gambian women for the 100 tractors and cash donations and other support services given to individual women farmers and communities over the years,” she applauded, referring to Jammeh’s gestures.

 

Similarly, the vice president applauded the UNDP for supporting this laudable initiative and for working with her office and other partners.

 

The UNDP Resident coordinator in The Gambia, Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, informed that her office has been organising development forums in the country for over 10 years. She said the forum is a platform for stakeholders and development practitioners to share their perspectives, dialogue and debate on issues that are pertinent to the national development agenda of this country.

 

The choice of the theme, she said, is very timely and appropriate, as the country is conducting the mid-term review of its medium term national development plan – the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) and gearing itself for the preparation of the next successor plan.

 

“The Gambia is also actively engaged in the global development framework that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS), drawing from its experience to inform this process,” Lekoetje stated.

 

She further remarked: “Persistent inequality is repeatedly undermining the progress that humanity has made in improving living standards. Many countries have experienced impressive growth but growth has not been inclusive hence the impact on human development has been marginal.

 

A recent UNDP study entitled: “Humanity divided: confronting inequality in developing countries” shows that income inequality has reached unprecedented levels with 8% of the world’s population earning 50% of the world’s total income while the remaining 92 percent of people are left with the other half. Such gaps have left many on the cliff of steep decline.

 

Among the different types of inequality prevailing in many countries gender inequality is the most pervasive that persistently undermines progress in human development. The World Bank attests that, ‘Gender equality is a longer-term driver of competitiveness and equity that is even more important in this era of increasingly globalised economies’. No country can therefore afford to fall behind because it is failing to enable women and men to participate equality in the economy and society”.

 

The UNDP boss acknowledged that The Gambia has made noticeable progress towards addressing gender inequality and closing the gender gap. She however cautioned that to accelerate and sustain development progress, they need to adopt ambitious policies that expand women’s education and health, and enhance their capacity to participate effectively in the economy.

Author: Mariatou Ngum

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Jide Adesina

Jide Adesina

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