By Gambia Correspondent – The Federation of Gambian Women was launched Saturday with an appeal by Fatou Mbye, Chairperson of the National Women’s Council, for support to raise D280 million for another project to establish a Women’s Multi-purpose Market Complex.
The one-day event also witnessed the launching of the African Union Women’s Decade 2010-2020, and the commemoration of International Women’s Day 2010, in The Gambia. The launching brought together women from all over the country, and from walks of life, and was attended by cabinet members, members of the National Assembly, and diplomats, among others.
Highlights of the day’s activity included a march past by women, schoolchildren, representatives of voluntary organizations, security forces, as well as women militants of political parties such as the opposition United Democratic Party.
The launching of the new Federation of Gambian Women, held under the theme “Grassroots Approach to Gender Equality and Women Empowerment”, was presided over by President Jammeh.
In his launching statement, President Yahya Jammeh described the occasion as a milestone in the history of The Gambia, and that it represented victory for Gambian women, “who have never failed” to respond to his call for support and “have always been” at the forefront of national development.
“Gambian women have never taken a back seat in any national development endeavour, and today’s occasion is another demonstration of this reality,” Jammeh remarked, while congratulating the women of this country for their patriotism, honesty, hard work and loyalty for the past 16 years of his administration.
According to President Jammeh, as a government, they have put in place legislated policies and strategies in support of the empowerment of women and the girl-child in an environment of equity, fair play and justice.
“As enshrined in our national constitution, my government will always live to see to it that the rights and freedoms of all women in this country, and their protection against all forms of abuse and marginalization, are guaranteed without fail,” he declared.
These, he added, includes the right to equal access to work, national resources, as well as participation in national decision-making processes.
“You are granted equal opportunity to occupy key decision-making positions in my government, just like the men,” Jammeh assured the women, noting further that the stage for these has since commenced in virtually all the sectors that are critical to national development.
“In education, my adage has always been that the ‘sky will be the limit’, especially for the girl-child, whose education means the education of a whole community,” he stated.
The Gambian leader also noted that, “despite the advancements we have achieved in providing health facilities in all parts of the country, one of the most challenging areas is achieving significant reduction targets in maternal and child mortality as well as morbidity rates”.
“It is a challenge we are seriously tackling in order to significantly reduce their incidence in this country,” he said, assuring further that his government will also honours its commitments to regional and sub-regional treaties and charters including the Dakar and Beijing platforms for action, among others.
All of these, President Jammeh further stated, provide useful frameworks that are geared towards gender empowerment in all aspects of socio-economic development, particularly entrepreneurship and the promotion of agriculture and food security.
The chairperson of the National Women’s Council, Fatou Mbye, speaking at the launching ceremony held at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, said the National Women’s Bureau conducted a feasibility study to ascertain the viability of the proposed market complex.
This was followed by the development of a business plan and proposal, she added, further announcing that the Gambia government “has since provided land for the construction of the said multi-purpose market complex”.
The chairperson of the National Women’s Council declared: “The complex will have a food market unit, restaurants, supermarkets, a women’s finance company, day care centre, clinic, conference facilities, skills training centre, administrative block, multi-media office, storage and processing facilities, trade fair grounds and a car park.
“The total cost is estimated at D280 million which will be raised through grants and other bilateral and other multilateral donors, as per the business plan.
“We, therefore, call upon the government, bilateral and multi-lateral institutions, foreign embassies, private and public institutions and individuals to support Gambian women in the realization of this laudable venture.”
Mrs. Mbye, in her welcome remarks, noted that women groups exist at all levels, especially in the informal sector, but continue to face difficulties in accessing credit, storage and marketing facilities for their produce.
According to her, although mechanisms to measure progress exist, there is a need to strengthen human resource capacity, improve logistics and financial resources for the national gender machineries.
She also stated that the main goal of the federation is to provide a platform for women’s effective participation in national development through institutional strengthening, improved communication and partnership, among women groups both within and outside The Gambia.
“Despite the achievements, the National Women’s Council and Womenâ€™s Bureau under the leadership of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, is grappling with series of challenges to effectively sustain the gains already registered, especially in relation to limited mobility to enhance our outreach programmes, particularly in the rural areas”, Mrs Mbye continued.