It is common to hear people talk about women's empowerment and the liberation of women from poverty and domestic oppression and exploitation as pre-requisites for national development. Issues concerning women are hence integrated in the national policies and programmes. What is different, however, is the practicalisation of such policy statements.
Often we highlight the giant steps taken by President Jammeh in ensuring that women in The Gambia take full control of the issues that affect their lives - from the homes to the farm lands, to the functioning of the state machinery. Modern equipment are made available to them in the rice fields to ease the intensity of labour, they have access to improved health service delivery, thus reducing the infant mortality rate, and, at the core of decision-making, ensure tangible representation of women.
This is why our women continue to recognise that they have a president who is standing by them at all times and anywhere as he gives women free maternal health, educating the girl child for free and initiating a series of development projects that go a long way to better the lots of women. As the Women Advance Forum continues here in Banjul with African First Ladies demanding for more to be done in women empowerment in their respective countries, we hope all other African states will take lessons from the Gambian experience. The degree of a country's development can be gauged by the participation of its women in the development process. Much more, history has proven that despite their exploitation and subjugation, women, particularly those in Africa, have contributed immensely to the advancement of humanity. They were vanguards in the African revolution against imperialism; hence they deserve the right to become active actors in the shaping of our collective destiny.