Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ecofepa not here to challenge any parliament - Says President Jammeh, as he launches the Association

The Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh has made it categorically clear that the establishment of the Ecowas Female Parliamentarian Association (ECOFEPA) is not here to challenge any parliament including the sub-regional bloc parliament, stating that it was established to strengthen their resolve to eradicate abject poverty not only in West Africa but in the entire continent.

President Jammeh was speaking Thursday at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi while delivering a keynote speech during the formal launching of Ecofepa in The Gambia. The launching of the Association, with a membership comprising of both past and present Ecowas female parliamentarians, brought together key political figures and gender experts including the Gambia?s vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, the speaker of the National Assembly, the chief justice, cabinet ministers and sub-regional parliamentarians, amongst others.
President Jammeh, whose contribution to the advancement of African women was applauded by the sub-regional delegates, described the launching of the Association as solemn and a victory for participatory democracy in the Ecowas sub-region. "It is solemn because this is the first time in contemporary history that women of substance and vision who incidentally are the elected representatives of not only women but also men from all over West Africa, have come together in unity and purpose and resolve, to complement collective efforts of statesmen and state-parties in integrating the peoples of West Africa," the president explained.
He strongly emphasised that for development to take root in West Africa, all hands must be on deck. The fact that the elected representatives are resorting to an alternative avenue different from the platform provided by the Ecowas parliament, according him, shows that there is the need for alternative views and strategies.
Crucial role of women

To this end, The Gambian leader underscored the crucial role women play in society, citing their critical position in their respective homes. He described women as first schools of thought for anybody irrespective of the person's position in the society, stressing that maximum honour and respect should be given to them. He said the importance of women in socio-economic development cannot be overemphasised, explaining that this has been the reason his government gives women empowerment topmost priority.
He however dispelled any assertion that African women are neglected, given the fact that they are today, especially in The Gambia, more empowered than during the colonial era. He stated that today in The Gambia a woman is not poor because she is a woman, and pointed out that the women of this country are today better-off due to their hard work.
He told the gathering that The Gambian women have been in the forefront in all facets of national development, citing the appointments of women in cabinet including the vice president, as well as three women being at various times speakers of the country?s legislative house, amongst others.
Unity in Ecowas

President Jammeh also used the opportunity to stress the need for unity and a pragmatic approach to the harmonisation and integration of West Africans. He bemoaned the fact that today there are enormous problems in the West African region, saying that despite being rich in terms of natural resources, it still remains poor.
The president attributed the failure and the lack of ability to utilise the region's resources to the political misunderstanding and disunity at the level of the Ecowas bloc. "Despite the 30 years existence of Ecowas, we are still more divided now than before. Thirty years of Ecowas existence, we have not shown any infrastructural development as an achievement. Thirty years of Ecowas existence, we still cannot trade among ourselves, and we cannot even harmonise our common tariff. These are the sad realities," he stated.
He pointed out that Ecowas today has two monetary zones instead of one due to the unwillingness of the Francophone and the Anglophone to come together as one. This, he stressed, is among the factors why Ecowas is still finding it difficult to harmonise and integrate the sub-region.
The Gambian leader then urged Ecofepa to discard any sort of discrimination that will undermine the success of the Association, urging the members to see themselves as one body representing the people of the sub-region irrespective of being an Anglophone or Francophone. He then assured the Association of his government's support, while also assuring the Haddy Nyang Jagne, a Gambian who was elected the first president of Ecofepa of the nation's support.
The minister of Trade, Employment and Regional Integration, Abdou Kolley lauded the Gambia's stride in women empowerment, saying the effective implementation of Ecofepa's activities will provide economic opportunities and assist women and girls meet their developmental aspirations. He stressed the need for the numerous declarations and pledges made for the welfare of women and children to continue working for their total development and protection from economic exploitation and violence in particular.
He urged the members of Ecofepa to redouble their efforts in making the association a driving force for positive change in the region. Speaking earlier, the newly elected president of Ecofepa, Honorable Haddy Nyang Jagne, who is also a National Assembly member for Jeshwang Constituency, said her association seeks to ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of Article 63 of the Revised Treaty of Ecowas. This article, she informed the gathering, enjoins member states to formulate, harmonise, co-ordinate and establish appropriate policies and mechanisms for the enhancement of the economic, social and cultural conditions of women. She expressed her resolve to collaborate with all the various stakeholders with a view to consolidate the gains registered. While commending the Gambian leader for his immense support to the advancement of African women, Honorable Jagne, who is also a member of the Ecowas parliament, thanked the president of Liberia, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for her support.
Gambian-born Aminatta Dibba, director of Ecowas Gender Development Centre on behalf of Dr Adrienne Diop, Commissioner for Human Development and Gender of the Ecowas Commission, said the establishment of the Association will greatly contribute in the ongoing efforts to respond adequately to the challenges posed by the legislative dimensions of the fight for gender equity and equality in the sub-region. She expressed hope that Ecofepa could play a very important role in the consolidation of democracy, good governance, the rule of law and the respect for human rights in the Ecowas region. She then thanked the president for the strides made in the women empowerment endeavours.
For her part, Katrine Wasin, who represented the president of Liberia at the launching, thanked Ecofepa for this achievement. She spoke at length on the need to improve on the capacity gap in our societies, noting that the capacity gap at our institutions leaves much to be desired.
The Liberian president's representative expressed their resolve to work towards the advancement of women and girls, with emphasis on educating girls and protecting them from all forms of abuse and exploitation. Deputising for the speaker of the Ecowas parliament, Honorable Victoria Saidu Kamara, fourth deputy speaker of the same parliament, thanked the Gambian leader for his immense support to the Ecofepa since its preliminary meetings last year to date. She told the gathering that the Ecowas parliament has constantly supported the idea of the establishment of this Association, noting that it issued a resolution to that effect since 2002.
Honorable Mullica Adeola of Ecofepa who delivered the vote of thanks, expressed gratitude to the Gambian leader for his immense support to them, describing him as a leader ahead of many of his colleagues. In the same vein, she equally thanked the Liberian president for her support and encouragement. The occasion, which was punctuated with presentation certificates to the Association's members, also saw the awarding of Presidents Jammeh and Serleaf for their support to the association. The well attended launching was chaired by Modou Saidy, press officer at State House.

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Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.