Dear Fellow Gambians,
Over the past weekend, two Gambian Women organisations celebrated the achievements of Gambian Women in all walks of life namely She Awards Gambia and The Woman Boss. Both are private initiatives, taking creative initiatives is what our women do every day to keep our families and society healthy and peaceful. Such progressive efforts are highly commendable, and I join all Gambians in celebrating the organisers and the all the Awardees.
Today March 8th we join the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day.
This is a day to celebrate achievement and progress, but it is also a day to focus on what must still be done to achieve equal rights and opportunities for women. At the centre of this effort is the economic empowerment of women. We must tackle the many challenges that stand in the way of women’s full participation in formal economic activity.
From the beginning, we must ensure that girls and young women have equal access to education and an equal chance to succeed. They need to be able to pursue studies of their choice, especially in areas that have traditionally been the preserve of men. One of the achievements of the Gambia since independence is that girls and boys are equally represented in primary and secondary education. There are currently more female students enrolled at institutions of higher learning than males.
This is great progress. But it has yet to translate into our boardrooms and the formal economy, where women are more likely to be unemployed than men. Around half of all women in The Gambia are unemployed, including those who have given up looking for work. Moreover, on average, women still earn far less than men.
We must overcome the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Even women who have jobs are often expected to do housework and childcare, making it more difficult for them to find employment, earn a decent wage, be promoted, or start a business. This situation is simply unacceptable we must work inclusively to change the status quo in the Gambia and advocate for change across the world.
The economic empowerment of women is an important pillar of our struggle to achieve gender parity. We have recognised that unequal access to resources and economic opportunity makes it more difficult for women to escape situations of abuse and violence.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we call on men and women across society to intensify the fight against gender-based discrimination.
Globally, The Gambia is actively involved in the UN Women’s Generation Equality Campaign, which is mobilising countries and people worldwide to achieve gender equality in this generation. Through this we must work tirelessly for economic transformation that empowers and benefits women. Practically, this means improving access for women to financial services, business opportunities, land and technology.
On the African continent, our nation must support the adoption of the Protocol on Women in Trade to promote the participation of women in the African Continental Free Trade Area.
This is a huge opportunity to enable women-owned businesses to benefit from the rapid growth in trade between African countries over the next few years.
The Gambia needs to be ready to make use of the opportunities that arise on the continent.
As a country, we must shift economic power into the hands of women through, among other things, earmarking 40% of all public procurement for women-owned businesses.
To achieve this, the Gambia Government must provide training for women entrepreneurs so that they can tender for government contracts and successfully provide the goods and services that Government needs. But that should be only the start of a process of radical gender mainstreaming .Our ambition as a people must be to open up opportunities for women businesses in the broader economy.
On this International Women’s Day, we should celebrate the diverse achievements of women in all walks of life. But we must also recognise that the gap between the economic position of men and women is still huge. We must use this day to reaffirm our shared commitment to work even harder to narrow that gap and to, within a generation, get rid of it.
Happy International Women’s Day!
With my best wishes
ANM OUSAINU DARBOE