The Gambia on Saturday, March 8th, 2014 joined the international community to commemorate International Women's Day. The day is set aside by the world to reflect on the oppression, exploitation and marginalisation women have been going through for so long. It is a day set aside not only to remember the atrocities meted out against women but also to assess the achievements made and find ways to improve the condition of women for more equity.
Before the advent of the new development theories and practices, women were relegated to the bottom of the social ladder. They were seen as docile, weak and unimportant in national development; their contribution to national development remained anonymous. Their economic activities were seen as insignificant in the economic growth system of their countries and so experts and policymakers did not include their economic activities in the national accounting system. They were thought to be fit only for the informal sector and for reproduction. They were denied security; are forced to pay for expensive insurance and can rarely save enough to protect themselves against emergencies.
In many areas, especially in our part of the world, it was a woman's responsibility to make up for the failures of the system. It was a mother's job that bridged the gap between daily subsistence and relative security. It was her wages that enabled the family to eat better food. It was her responsibility to keep her family healthy despite the cost of decent medical care, and to make a comfortable home. She was the one to struggle to make ends meet despite inflation.
Today, with the advancement of civilisation and emergence of theories borne out of clear thinking, the role of women in societal advancement, particularly in national development, is highly recognised. Through education, women are emancipated to some degree from the chains of exploitation. Women are now in the forefront of development. They have become principal actors in decision-making processes that affect our lives. They are actively involved in politics and have access as well as equal rights to paid labour like their male counterparts.
In The Gambia, the government is conscious of the indispensable role of women in national development and so gives the women all the necessary backing. Numerous projects are being initiated to promote girls and women to ensure gender parity for even and meaningful development. The President's Girls Education Project and a host of other programmes in support of women empowerment explain our commitment to the liberation of women from exploitation and poverty.
There can be no development without women. In all aspects of society, their contribution to success cannot be overemphasised. Development policies and publications must continue to integrate both sexes and provide the enabling environment for each to satisfy his/her need.