By Halimatou Ceesay
Two Gambian Activists on 8th March, 2018 recalled some of the problems faced by women and some achievements made over the past decades in honour of celebrating the International Women’s Day.
In an Interview with this Reporter Mbasi Manneh working with Activista the Gambia said it is a network that is empowered by Actionaid the Gambia and that they work on various areas which includes the issue of women.
“Our work started with women’s issues and we started with ‘free the hungry billions’ way back in 2008. We did the land right campaign to empower women in agriculture. If you look at the Gambia, about 65% of the labour force in Agriculture comprise of women. We all know that 80% of the food we consume is provided by women yet women control 1% of land,” she said.
Ms Manneh said that they look at the inclusion of women in district tribunals so that women can also have a seat as members of the district tribunals. “We also embark on civic education of women so that they can also take part in decision making processes. We operate on various Actionaid thematic areas of which women’s right is a core.”
Mbasi said many years back there were few girls in school compare to the number of girls enrolled in schools now has increased. Looking at Agriculture she said few women are moving from subsistence to commercial Agriculture, adding that they have seen women helping their fellow women especially the young feminist in the country by empowering them in entrepreneurship.
“Women are also into politics now, if you look at Banjul, we have two women contesting for the mayoral seat. The number of women candidates has increased in this upcoming election and we are proud of them and wishing them good luck,” she said.
On the problems that women faced in the Gambia despite some improvement, Mbasi said “Women at home suffer a lot. A woman wakes up early morning, enter the kitchen to make sure her husband and Children are fed before they go to school and work. Then pick up her goods, rush to the market to go and sell. Upon her return, she will do the household chores, cook lunch and then dinner and she is the first to wake up and the last to go to bed. That is what is called unpaid care work”. These efforts however are not recognize by some men, as they believe women household chores are easier that the job the men do in office, forgetting that women a greater role in making sure the men are good to go to work, explained Miss Manneh.
She said women have been and are still suffering and that is why they use the International Women’s Day to look into some of these issues faced by women and see how best to tackle them.
“Equality is not happening between women and men. Today we have Managing Directors, Directors and CEOs and they are all men. If there is equality then there will be equal opportunity for male and female. We have a patriarchal society which is disturbing women a lot and when you look at the society what we believe in is that men should lead all the time in the areas of Inheritance and ownership of properties at the Family level,” she said.
She said the Government of the Gambia should look at ways of reducing school fees for women at the tertiary level.
Alasana Gitteh from the Girls Agenda said the Girls Agenda was founded by young dynamic women who hailed from communities where early marriage is common. With a mission to enthusiastically advocates for the rights of women and girls, so as to enable them to live in freedom and dignity. He said they advocate against child marriage through community mobilization, awareness raising, school trainings and the use of traditional and social media.
“We are grateful that things are going good as some changes are happening. Before many people believed that women are not entitled to lands to farm or embark on gardening, but now there is training that teaches women to better manage their gardens and fertilizers, for their crops to do well,” he said.
Gitteh added that then girls are removed from school and married off but now due to people’s awareness, many girls given the chance to be educated, for instance at the University of the Gambia you have more women and men and according the their performance women are doing well, these are all improvements that need to be commended, he said.
“The past Government of the Gambia, the vice president was a woman, at the National Assembly also, we have more women in there now. We also have many civil society organization and NGO’s advocating for women’s rights and advancement. That alone is an achievement. Women also understand their rights to an extent that now if there is a meeting at the village level women take part and speak their mind, contest elections etc compared to before when women were used by politicians to be clapping, singing and dancing,” he said.
On the issues affecting women in the Gambia, Alassan said violence against women is very rampant as sometimes a man will have a problem with his wife and batter her severely that will cause grievous bodily harm to the woman. He said even Islam did not make beating the first option in marriage so why will men who should make his wife happy batter her severely just because she cooked and you do not appreciate the food.
“In honour of celebrating the International Women’s Day, if you are a man who batter your wife, please sit with your wife and evaluate each other and look into the things you have done to her that is not correct and apologize to her. If you are also a man who believe firmly in FGM, please listen to experts and weigh the harm against your believe and join the fight against the practice,” he said.