1 December 2010

Gambia: Women's Act 2010 Launched

The vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy Tuesday presided over the launching of the Women's Act 2010 and Gender Women Empowerment Policy at the Jerma Beach Hotel in Kololi.

The act, among other things is meant to implement the legal provision of the National Policy for the Advancement of Gambian Women and Girls and to also incorporate and enforce the internationally agreed instruments and protocols of both the UN and AU to which The Gambia is a member with a view to eliminating all forms of discrimination against women. The timely launching of this very important document is also part of activities marking the recently launching of the National Women's Federation by the Gambian leader.

In her launching statement, VP Njie-Saidy expressed gratitude to the Gambian leader for what she described as his support and leadership throughout the process of drafting, consultation and enactment of the Women's Act 2010. She said: "We are equally grateful to the National Assembly, Action-Aid The Gambia, and Pro-PAG for their financial and moral support during the consultations and drafting stage. The timely launching of this very important document is part of activities marking the recently launched National Women's Federation by the Gambian leader on November 27, 2010. The awareness among policymakers and the high level of political will of the government towards gender equity and equality and women's empowerment is visible and unquestionable."

She explained that since the advent of the Second Republic, Gambians particularly women and girls have witnessed an unprecedented support and political will to enhance their status in all areas of the socio-economic endeavours. "For example, success has been registered in the areas of agriculture, education, health, women participation in decision-making and at all other levels. Favourable policy programmes and projects are being put in place in support of the attainment of the MDGs, the PRSP 11 and the Vision 2020 development agenda. Capacity development and institutional strengthening for enhanced gender mainstreaming is one of the priorities of the Ministry of Women's Affairs," she added.

VP Njie-Saidy maintained that strategies of the Women's Policy called for the harmonisation of the provisions of CEDAW in the national legislation, adding that The Gambia has also signed and ratified the protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and on the rights of women in Africa in 2006 without reservation.

She went on to disclose that apart from these capacity development strides, other initiatives being implemented include a study on gender-based violence and drafting of a gender -based violence bill; and capacity assessment on gender sensitivity of policies and gender profile, with a view to develop or update relevant legal instrument and policy framework. These studies, she noted, will also provide them with the much needed baseline data to continue to monitor and assess implementation of the Women's Act. She then thanked development partners like UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, ADB and the Commonwealth for the technical and financial support they rendered to her office.

Speaking earlier, Ida Faye Hydara, the executive director of the National Women's Bureau, said the launching is among the series of launchings that the UNDP is supporting her office with as part of the Gender Mainstreaming and Empowertnment Project 2010-2011.

The objective of the launching, according to her, is to further create awareness and sensitise the public for the effective implementation of the Women's Act. She said: "Because it is one thing to legislate but another thing to ensure effective implementation, and for implementation to be effective it requires the involvement, participation and cooperation of everybody particularly the women to whom the Women's Act is meant to empower as well as men."

She used the opportunity to thank the UNDP and all stakeholders who supported the Women's Bureau in their ongoing works. The UNDP resident coordinator in The Gambia, Chinwe Dike, for her part, said the launching of this document really shows that women are moving from 'commitment to action', adding that the latter was the theme that was enshrined in the Africa Review of the Beijing +15 meeting, held in November 2009 in Banjul.

"Three days ago, we all witnessed the launching of the National Women's Federation by the Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh and this inauguration was with the purpose of enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness in women's participation in national development," she stated.

She told the gathering that the inauguration of the Women's Federation is in consonance with the creation of the United Nations Women Council, an umbrella agency that incorporates and brought together under one umbrella, the Women Agencies of the UN that are dealing with gender and women affairs, which include UNIFEM among a host of others. "The launch of the Women's Act therefore provides and creates an enabling environment for the women's forward march in achieving gender equity and ultimately gender equality in The Gambia," she added.

She further explained that the main aim of the Women's Act is to domesticate regional and international conventions and to make them enforceable in the courts of The Gambia. She commended VP Njie-Saidy for what she described as her relentless contribution and efforts, saying her leadership for the well-being of Gambian women has been exemplary.

Dawda Jallow, a resource person from the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) also made a power point presentation, detailing the overview and objectives of the new Women's Act.

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