Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SPAIN: Women Entrepreneurs Pledge Support for African Counterparts

By Tito Drago
MADRID, (IPS) - Senegalese businesswoman Marie Thiaré makes her business cards by hand, because she has no way to have them printed -- a sharp contrast with the situation faced by women entrepreneurs in Europe, where it is easy to order business cards, and most people even have their own home computer and printer.

Thiaré was speaking to a Jun. 25-27 meeting of women entrepreneurs from Europe and Africa who met in Madrid to discuss how to replicate in the economy the advances that have been achieved in politics in terms of gender equality.

In Spain, the growing number of women managers and executives is already generating improvements in the situation of women and playing a significant role in breaking down existing barriers, Spain's Minister of Equality, Bibiana Aído, told IPS.

The gender equality law passed in 2007 in Spain with the support of smaller opposition parties but not the main opposition force, the centre-right People's Party, established that 40 percent of candidates on party electoral lists must be women.

The law also requires companies with more than 250 employees to negotiate "equality plans" that set a medium-term target of women representing 40 percent of the members of boards of directors.

At the three-day meeting between women entrepreneurs and business associations from Europe and Africa -- the Encuentro de Emprendedoras Africanas y Españolas -- organised by the Fundación Mujeres (Women's Foundation) with backing from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), European businesswomen made a firm commitment to work with and support their African counterparts.

In the opening session, Thiaré gave an idea of the extent of the challenges faced by many African women entrepreneurs, especially in rural areas, by pointing out that even something as simple as business cards is out of their reach.

The Senegalese entrepreneur also stressed that in her country, it is women who are in charge of most economic activity, because so many men have been forced to go abroad, mainly to Europe, in search of jobs that enable them to support their families.

She said empowerment of women is not only fair, but makes sense, since in her country, for example, "Women are more efficient and manage money better."

Microcredit institutions like the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh have found that women indeed do a better job than men when it comes to paying off loans.

The aim of empowering women is to modify the traditional division of labour and roles, Thiaré said, pointing out that they are unequal not only in Africa, but in Spain as well.

She also stressed that women's empowerment in Africa strengthens development in a continent where 80 percent of food is produced by women, most of whom work in the informal sector, "something that should also be put on the list of complaints and demands."

One reflection of the huge proportion of women in the informal sector is the fact that only two percent of African women have bank accounts, said Spain's Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Soraya Rodríguez.

"The poorer the State, the more important is the work of women," said Rodríguez. For that reason, Spain's official development aid programme has incorporated cross-cutting gender policies since 2004, which has made it possible to increase fourfold the number of actions aimed at improving conditions for women in Africa.

A report by the Chair of Entrepreneurs at the University of Cadiz, presented Monday in that city in southern Spain, makes an in-depth analysis of the differences between women and male entrepreneurs in Spain and abroad.

The study, based on a survey of 800 women and men entrepreneurs, recommends the design of public policies aimed at promoting gender equality in business.

One fact that stands out is that in 2009, only eight percent of entrepreneurial enterprises in Spain were led by women, mainly in the area of production of consumer goods, followed by industry.

The study recommends, for example, fomenting closer ties between financial institutions and business enterprises and stimulating the creation of mixed groups of male and female entrepreneurs.
At the meeting, in which women from Spain and 28 African countries took part, around one hundred stands were set up by women entrepreneurs selling products ranging from crafts and farm products to furniture and audiovisual products, financed by the AECID.

ZAMBIA: Need to Mainstream Gender Equality into all Policies

By Kelvin Kachingwe

LUSAKA, Jun 2010 (IPS) - Despite the adoption almost a decade ago of a national gender policy that aims to ensure fair participation of men and women in the development process, most of the Zambian government’s policies still remain gender blind, say civil society and women's rights associations.

Critics say the most glaring of these policies is the country’s national budget that fails to disaggregate resource allocation and incentives by gender. Gender is also not one of the considerations in setting targets for various programmes like access to land and credit by government.

"Gender equity cannot be achieved in the absence of pro-active policies, and such policies have to be mainstreamed into every sector and programme, the various impediments that prevent women from participating fully and equitably in development have to be removed," Sheeba Zulu, a Lusaka-based women's rights activist says.

Government adopted the National Gender Policy in March 2000 to be used as a major yardstick for measuring government commitment to gender mainstreaming. Also, through the policy, government committed itself to changing many stereotypes that impinge on women’s participation in national development by taking appropriate legal and administrative measures to eliminate discrimination.

But this has not happened, Zulu says: "Impediments, such as lack of access to land and credit, unequal opportunities for employment, wage disparities and marginalisation in decision-making processes have to be redressed."

Zulu also critcised the current Land Act which for not being gender sensitive as it does not recognise that women have been long-disadvantaged when it comes to access to land.

However, most civil society organisations say women are unable to contribute effectively towards national development because of inequalities in resource allocation and access to resources. The Zambia Federation of Women in Business (ZFAWIB) say women still face challenges in accessing money from financial institutions because of the conditions that are attached there.

"Most of these financial institutions have insisted on difficult requirements and complex documentation including collateral, which most women don’t have. Most women have difficulties completing documentation to get funds from the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) and other lending institutions," Susan Kawandani, the ZFAWIB Ndola district co-ordinator, says.
"There is also a feeling that lending to women to enable start business or recapitalise their business is a risk. These financial institutions need to review their lending requirements to enable as many women as possible to borrow money."

But the CEEC says 40 percent of its funds have been set aside for women entrepreneurs but women have failed to come up with workable business plans that would allow them to obtain funding from the commission.

Michael Kaingu, minister of community development and social services, says government has, in this year’s budget, set aside about one million dollars for his ministry for the empowerment of women throughout the country. Another million dollars has been set aside in the ministry of gender.

Kaingu says he is waiting for women to form groups or associations, according to his department’s deliberate policy, so that the money can be released as it "is meant for boosting their economic status."

He added that the Women Empowerment Programme, one of the funds under the CEEC, has now been reverted to his ministry because of the sometimes stringent conditions, almost similar to that of a commercial bank, that women were required to meet.

Sara Sayifwanda, the minister of gender, says government has now simplified the application process for obtaining loans under the CEEC and has tasked the district commissioners to handle loan applications to enable women to access the funds.

However, Queen Mumba, who chairs a women’s self-help programme in Lusaka’s Mtendere township, says the involvement of district commissioners, whom many perceive to be ruling party members, does not inspire confidence.

"The fact that most of us think and believe that district commissioners are stooges of the ruling party makes it even worse," she says. Mumba cited the 8 million dollars set aside for youths in the ministry of sport, youth and child development before the 2006 elections, saying that not many youths benefited from it.
But Sayifwanda says her ministry is currently building capacity for women to enable them to develop their business ventures through the provision of access to investment funds. "The policy calls for targeted actions to facilitate the increased involvement of women in leadership positions in all the sectors of the economy," she says.

But Sly Mbewe, executive director at Action for Development (AfD) says gender equity cannot be achieved in the absence of pro-active policies.

"Such policies have to be mainstreamed into every sector and programme. The various impediments that prevent women from participating fully and equitably in development have to be removed," he says.

Mbewe added that such impediments such as lack of access to land and credit, unequal opportunities for employment, wage disparities and marginalisation in decision making processes have to be redressed.

"And there can be no complete poverty reduction agenda without mainstreaming gender into it. Unless this is done Zambia’s poverty reduction agenda will be undermined and compromised."


Finding Life After Rape

BUKAVU, Congo: Twenty-two thousand, three hundred and eighty-one: the number of cases of sexual violence treated in a decade at the Panzi Hospital in the Congolese town Bukavu. And that is just a fraction of the number of survivors in this one eastern province.

The number of women and girls who have survived rape and sexual assault here in this province of South Kivu in the war-wracked east of the Democratic Republic of Congo runs into tens of thousands.

Members of an armed group raped Maramuke in front of her children in Walungu, south of Bukavu, in 2006, and burnt her house down. Her husband disowned her. She came to Bukavu with her seven children.

“An association gave me a micro-loan of 30 dollars. I travel between Kaniola and Bukavu, some 70 kilometres, to manage a little business which allows me to feed my kids,” she says.

Kaniola village lies on the edge of Mugaba Forest, one of the remaining strongholds of the FDLR, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the militia which carried out the 1994 genocide before fleeing into DRC.

Mireille was raped repeatedly in this village in July 2007. “My nine-month-old baby was present the last time. He started crying. A blow from a rifle butt fractured his skull and he died on the spot,” the 45-year-old says. “I relive this horror constantly. I could no longer sleep. I wanted to die. But the people from the mobile clinic (from the Panzi Hospital) found me and brought me here.”

The NGO Family Health International looked after her, but she continues to feel pain in her abdomen. “My menses sometimes last the whole month.”

Women like her in need of long-term assistance are largely shunned. Outside Panzi Hospital, health facilities in this region lack equipment, medicine and trained personnel.

Cecile Mulolo, who works with the Panzi Hospital’s programme for victims of sexual violence, says survivors suffer depression, nightmares, anger, shame, loss of self-esteem, guilt, amnesia, and feelings of aggression.

“These mental health problems are aggravated by the fear that survivors will be disowned by their husbands, rejected by their family or community. The fear of contracting AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases, or of falling pregnant intensifies their trauma.

Many women’s organisations, human rights groups, development agencies and religious associations have opened places of safety and counseling for rape survivors, known as maisons d’écoute.

Centres such as Heri Kwetu (meaning “happiness in our home”) are supported by international donor funds to help women with physical rehabilitation. Here women can be fitted for prostheses, orthotics, or given crutches. Another centre, Sozame-Karhale, deals with particularly difficult psychosomatic cases referred from the Panzi Hospital.

Other associations help survivors earn a living through agricultural or commercial activity, and to regain social status and self-confidence. The women are given agricultural implements, seeds or training.

Rosalie Rudahaba Nyamugusha is coordinator of one such maison d’écoute, the Mamas for Africa centre in Bukavu.

“When the victims regain their psychological balance,” she tells IPS, “we put them in groups and give them jobs according to their interests: in agriculture, livestock rearing or apprenticing them to various trades. We give them micro loans. This allows them to reintegrate into society.”

Jeanine is among the orphaned girls at Mamas for Africa’s premises in the Labotte neighbourhood of Bukavu. She said she abandoned school after being raped.

“We were enrolled in a programme to teach us computer skills, and everything has gone quite well.” Jeanine says the organisation found an instructor for abandoned children and many are now returning to their studies.

But the underlying insecurity in the region continues to threaten efforts at rehabilitation. An NGO in the Fizi-Baraka region in the southeast helped survivors set up a restaurant, but this was then looted and destroyed by the militias.

Most families refuse to take legal action. Josephine Nkulu is an exception. Her 16-year-old niece was raped, and the family is supporting the young woman’s bid to seek justice in the courts.

“Family resistance isn’t the only thing limiting the monitoring of sexual violence,” says Nkulu. “It’s mostly the absence of strong and permanent government agencies that can organise the intake and care of victims.”

Aline Okongo, coordinator of the Congolese Network of AIDS NGOs, says “the government must create maisons d’écoute for victims of sexual violence throughout the country. It is not normal for this important service to only be offered by private institutions.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

"There Is Almost Total Impunity for Rape in Congo"

Jennie Lorentsson interviews MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Margot Wallström

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 28, 2010 (IPS) - Sexual violence against women has become part of modern warfare around the world. In some countries, women cannot even go out to draw water without fear of being attacked and raped.

On Apr. 1, Margot Wallström became the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Her job is to investigate abuses and make recommendations to the Security Council.

The appointment of Wallström, currently a vice president of the European Commission, comes amidst continued reports of gender violence, including rape and sexual abuse both locally and by humanitarian aid workers and U.N. peacekeepers, mostly in war zones and in post-conflict societies.

The incidents of sexual attacks, both on women and children, have come from several countries, including Cote d'Ivoire, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Haiti, Burundi, Guinea and Liberia.

One of Wallström's first assignments was a trip to the DRC, a nation she calls "the rape capital" of the world. Excerpts from the interview with Wallström follow.

Q: Tell us about your trip.

A: Congo has attracted attention in the media [as a place that is suffering] systematic rape in war. One statistic quoted is 200,000 rapes since the beginning of the war 14 years ago, and it is certainly an underestimate.

When in Congo, I met government representatives and particularly women who had been raped and violated. It was interesting but also disappointing - nothing is getting better and more and more civilians are committing rapes.

But I should be fair and say that there has been progress, the government has introduced laws against rape, it has a national plan and there is political will. There is a lot to do to implement the legislation, but now there is an ambitious legal ground to stand on to be implemented by the police, judiciary and health care.

Q: What are the roots of the problem?

A: The sexual violence in Congo is the result of the war between the many armed groups. To put women in the front line has become a part of modern warfare.

Men often feel threatened in times of conflict and stay inside, but the women have to go out and get water and firewood and go to the fields to find food. In many cases they'll be the first to be attacked. Especially if there is no paid national army that can protect civilians, rape is a part of the looting and crimes against the innocent. In addition, there is almost total impunity for rape in the Congo.

Q: The U.N. has its own force, MONUC, in Congo to protect civilians. What is being done to help women?

A: MONUC has had to adjust their operations after the conditions in the country. For example, MONUC has special patrols which escort women to health care clinics and markets.

Q: The U.N. and the Congolese government are discussing when the U.N. should leave the country. What would happen if the U.N. left the Congo now?

A: We have reason to be worried if the United Nations would leave the Congo. It is still unsettled in some parts of the country and the U.N. provides logistics for many of the NGOs operating in the country, and they rely in the U.N.

What is happening right now is that [the government] wants to show that it can protect the country itself - it's a part of the debate on independence.

Q: How do feel when you hear about U.N. peacekeepers committing atrocities?

A: Just one example is too much. It destroys our confidence in the U.N.'s ability to do great things.

Q: There is criticism that the U.N. is a bureaucratic and inflexible organisation. Do you agree?

A: In every large organisation there is critisism like this. After 10 years in the European Commission, I can recognise such trends here, there is always. But basically, there are high hopes and great confidence in the U.N. and the energy and passion that exists for the U.N. is very useful.

Q: The Security Council has promised to focus even more on the issue of violence against women. Which countries should be focused on?

A: Congo is a given, also Darfur and a number of other countries in Africa. We will also focus on Liberia, where it is more a post-conflict society which has been brutalised and where rape is the most common offence. We cannot be in all countries with conflicts, we will comply with the Security Council agenda. This is a problem that not only exists in Africa.

Q: What can your staff do on site?

A: Our team of legal experts can help a country to establish a modern legislation. Impunity is the foundation of the problem, the women have to go with guilt and the men go free. We must try to understand how such a culture is created and how it can be a method of warfare. Then we can stop it.

Brick by Brick, Women Builders Make Their Way in Brazil

By Fabiana Frayssinet *

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 29, 2010 (TerraViva/IPS) - It looks like any other construction site: wheelbarrows full of bricks, boards and steel bars trundling back and forth to a soundtrack of hammering, sawing and drilling. But there is a difference: some of the construction workers underneath the hard hats are women.

The women -- who represent just seven of the 90 workers -- are a new face of the labour market in Brazil, and they worked hard to reach the top of the scaffolding surrounding this eight-floor building that is going up in Rio de Janeiro.

"They told me I wouldn't hack it as a construction worker, but here I am," says 23-year-old Daiana Aguiar, a married mother of one.

She adds that many people she knows doubt that "I really plaster or lay bricks."

Aguiar has no nostalgia for her old job as a cashier in a supermarket. "I only had one day off a week. On a construction site you earn a lot more, and you have the weekend off. And now I have a car, I'm studying, and I'm building at my house too."

She and her female co-workers can thank the Mão na Massa (roughly, Hands On) Project that has been promoting the insertion of women in the labour market since 2007.

The programme, which is also aimed at boosting the self-esteem of women workers, is an initiative of the Federação de Instituições Beneficentes (FIB), a network of close to 250 civil society organisations, with the backing of Petrobras and Eletrobras, the state-run oil and power companies.

The women received 460 hours of teaching and training: 180 hours of hands-on coursework, 120 hours of training in areas like bricklaying, painting, carpentry and plumbing, and 160 hours of classes on subjects like citizenship education, gender and health, and workplace safety.
In the last four months of the course, the women receive the equivalent of a basic basket of goods per month.

The project, which targets women heads of households, also helps them find employment in public and private companies, with a 70 percent success rate so far.

"We are trying to break with the concept that women have no place on a construction site," says Norma Sá, coordinator of Mão na Massa, during a visit by TerraViva to the work site.

The idea first emerged when Deise Gravina, a civil engineer and the president of FIB, noticed that women made good construction workers, and that women in the favelas or shantytowns often helped their fathers or husbands to build or upgrade their homes.

A study confirmed that many women were interested in becoming construction workers but did not attempt to learn the trade because they saw it as a male profession.

Sunilda dos Santos, 36, was supporting her two children and a grandchild on her own by washing and ironing clothes. But she decided to become a carpenter "to prove to myself that I could do it."
The women's self-esteem gets a boost from their new formal sector jobs and from the improvement in pay. "Now I have a credit card and even a checkbook," Santos exclaimed.

"I bought a refrigerator with one of those contraptions on the door that cold water comes out of," she says, as her work-mates celebrate her purchase, making comments like "how chic!"

The men have had to get used to it, Santos says. "They don't totally accept us, because we're invading their field. We try to understand their point of view. It's also difficult for them."

"Some say that if a woman is already dangerous with a broom in her hand, just imagine with a hammer," another one of the women jokes.

Sá says that "few companies are willing to hire women, but the ones that do demand more of us."

"In fact, there basically were no women labourers in the field of civil construction," says Denise Rodrigues, administrative and financial director of the Cofix construction company, which hired the seven women builders. "When trained women workers began to appear, we asked ourselves 'why not?'"

The women have turned out to be excellent workers in areas where it is hard to find good professionals, such as workplace safety, Rodrigues says.

"Women are more detail-oriented and meticulous," and they're less wasteful of materials, which keeps costs down, she adds.

"Are the men jealous of them? On the contrary, now that they're here, the guys show up looking tidier and wearing perfume, and they curse less," she laughs.
She adds that technological development has toppled the myth that construction work is "too heavy" for women.

Andrea Pereira, a 37-year-old mother of one, used to work in a bakery. Her new job helped her pull out of a depression that she says was the result of "never fitting in."

The government's special secretariat for policy on women reports that female participation in civil construction has steadily increased in this South American country over the last decade. From 2008 to 2009 alone, it grew three percent, thanks also to the boom in construction driven by the increase in family income and the greater availability of housing loans.

Another factor is higher spending on public works, which has driven the hiring of women by means of incentives and rules for construction companies.

Since 2009, the secretariat has been carrying out the "women building autonomy in civil construction" programme, with the goal of training 2,670 workers in the first two years in the states of Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul, with backing from state and municipal governments.

The participants receive training in bricklaying, moulding, painting, tile-laying, plumbing and even stonecutting, in a 236-hour course that includes skills training as well as business administration and citizenship education classes.

One of the participants in the course, 35-year-old Daniela da Rocha, tells TerraViva that many women from her favela, Morro da Providencia in Rio de Janeiro, "are raising children on their own, and really need work."

They need to upgrade their modest homes too, she says, adding that they could also apply their newfound building skills to community construction projects and improvements.
María Rosa Lombardi with the Carlos Chagas Foundation, a renowned Brazilian educational institution, says the growing presence of women in the labour market has not yet been accompanied by equal pay or access to promotions and higher-level positions.
The sociologist told TerraViva that the labour market in Brazil is still "very machista." She also expressed her concern that the growing demand for jobs for women in a limited labour market would drive up unemployment, which is traditionally higher among women.
Da Rocha, who dreams of becoming an engineer, complains that she has not found work in the construction industry because "there is still a lot of discrimination."
Some businesses hire women for three months, to show that they are living up to government measures aimed at boosting employment among women, "and then they fire us," she complains. Besides offering courses, the government "should enforce the law among private firms," she argues.
Women in the construction industry
In 2007, there were 186,000 women in civil construction in Brazil, out of a total population of 190 million, according to the special secretariat for policy on women.
Of that total, 127,000 had formal sector jobs, 9,000 were self-employed and 16,000 were working without pay, helping family members build. Another 28,000 were building their own homes, and 6,000 were employers.
*This story was originally published by IPS TerraViva with the support of UNIFEM and the Dutch MDG3 Fund. (END)

Wrangling Continues over New U.N. Women’s Entity

Posted by sabina on June 28, 2010
Beatrice Paez

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 27, 2010 (IPS) - Ahead of a week-long meeting on gender equality starting Monday at the United Nations, women’s rights activists have been pushing for concrete progress on a pledge made last September by the world body to create a new, better-funded U.N. agency for women.

After the Gender Equality Reform (GEAR) Campaign, a leading advocate of the new entity, sent a petition to the General Assembly, the president of the GA, Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, said he hoped it would be established by the end of July. However, as of Friday, negotiations had stalled over staffing issues and review of countries’ domestic gender policies, among other things.

The decision to create a separate powerful body to deal exclusively with gender-related activities came years - in some cases, decades - after the United Nations created specialised agencies to deal with specific issues, including children, population, refugees, food, environment, education, health and tourism, among many others.

Its implementation has been bogged down by political wrangling on issues such as geographical representation on the board, and an effort by some countries to use “the gender architecture as a bargaining chip to advance their still undisclosed agenda”, as one activist told IPS in March.

Still, women’s groups have high hopes for the new entity’s mandate. Its head - a position yet to be appointed - will have the rank of an under-secretary-general, the third- highest rank in the U.N. system. The entity will also have greater funding and a more holistic approach to gender issues.

Responding to questions about the new agency’s inception, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave few specifics, but said, “We hope soon to have a dynamic entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment within the U.N. system, that would provide more coherent programming and a stronger voice for women.”

Next week, delegates will gather here for the Annual Ministerial Review from Jul. 28 to Jul. 1. This year’s focus is on gender empowerment and equality. The session is drawing participants from civil society, academia, private sector and other key U.N. stakeholders. It is expected to adopt a declaration on the implementation of goals and commitments to advance efforts in this area.

Roundtable discussions will assess developments in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and highlight breakthroughs and challenges in the implementing Security Council Resolution 1325. Adopted unanimously in 2000, that resolution is intended to increase the presence of women and their concerns during peace dialogues.

The AMR has a comprehensive agenda but “the way it is addressing [these] is separate from the way the Security Council is pressing states to address women’s concerns in conflict situations,” Pollyanna Truscot, Amnesty International’s deputy representative to the U.N., told IPS. “The new women’s agency is more important. It will be assisting governments and U.N. agencies and will adopt a more comprehensive approach.”

Truscot stressed that whether women were living in conflict areas or not, resolution 1325 is also of relevance to those living in favelas and slums, and other circumstances where violence is rampant.

“They are just as exposed to all sorts of violence…they need to be involved in the design of development programmes,” she said.
She attributed the significant lag in progress in achieving MDG 3, empowerment of women and achieving gender equality, to “a huge human rights gap… The MDGs aren’t going to tackle abuses on women that are holding progress back.”

“The actual indicators are not the best because they don’t measure the underlying human rights abuses,” she added.
The MDG Report 2010 tracks progress in relation to Goal 3 by measuring the enrolment of girls compato boys in primary school, employment opportunities for women, and their political representation. The report adopts a regional perspective and does not conduct a separate assessment of women living in war-torn areas or those embroiled in conflict.
In Afghanistan, which has been ravaged by war for the last two decades, the target date for the achievement of the MDGs is 2020, using 2002 to 2005 as the baseline.

“When countries are in especially difficult situations, the priorities are national - the national budget and planning processes, it sort of ignores these direct targets. There have to be special interventions that even in countries in conflict these will be protected,” Nikhil Seth, director of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, told IPS.
Afghanistan has made some steps toward national reconciliation, with the launch of a Peace Jirga - a dialogue among leaders in May - but women remain drastically underrepresented in the process. Out of 1,400 delegates, less than 50 were women.

Asked by IPS about the link between political representation and representation at peace negotiations, Sarah Taylor, executive coordinator of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said, “It is not a matter of causality.”
she added, “What we need is a shift in perspective on what the qualifications are…This expertise does not necessarily come from being elected into office, but often from women doing peacebuilding work within their community.”

source: ips.org

Sunday, June 27, 2010

EnGendering Awareness in Trainee Teachers

HAVANA, Jun 27, 2010 (IPS) - The teacher seats the most attentive girls in the front row and the troublesome boys at the back of the classroom. He punishes the liveliest pupil and lets the withdrawn one be. Dark-skinned boys sit with dark-skinned girls, boys play with boys and girls with girls.
Another teacher may perhaps not openly mock pupils who, from their earliest days, identify with the gender opposite to their biological sex, or show attraction for companions of their own sex, but by tolerating mockery in the classroom she encourages stigma and discrimination.
Breaking this cycle that introduces inequality early in childhood, although boys and girls enjoy equal access to all levels of education, is the focus of a project in the Department of Gender, Sexology and Sex Education at the "Enrique José Varona" University of Paedagogical Sciences, in the Cuban capital.

"Cuba has very good social indicators, but 'machismo' is still very widespread," Alicia González, head of the department, which works with academics and teacher trainees, told IPS. "And teachers are not trained sufficiently in gender and sex education issues."
Professor González recognises that among young people and teenagers, the concepts of equality between men and women and of equal rights are understood. However, "this knowledge is not always reflected in their day-to-day behaviour. That is the duality we have to combat," she says.
Education is compulsory up to ninth grade, and over 99 percent of Cuban children finish primary school (to sixth grade), according to the National Statistics Office.
Studies indicate that although women make up 66 percent of the country's technical and professional workforce, and by law women and men must receive equal pay for equal work, women occupy the lowest-paid posts and have barely 38 percent of management positions.
After several years' work, the Department of Gender, Sexology and Sex Education is assessing a project, supported by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), which is aimed at promoting change among teacher trainers and future teachers.
The Strategy for Comprehensive Education with a Gender Focus, implemented in 2004, has reached more than 500 student teachers and 300 teacher trainers in the Cuban capital and the eastern province of Holguín, by means of group reflection and debates that take as their starting point the identification of problems from a gender perspective.
"The gender focus deals with the relationship between men and women, not just women, as is sometimes mistakenly thought. Women have been discriminated against most, and therefore receive special treatment, but nothing is gained by changing half the population if the other half does not change. That only heightens the conflict," said González.

Unlike an individual's sex, which depends on biological differences between men and women, gender is a category that refers to socially assigned attributes that become stereotypes of what it is to "be a man" or "be a woman," and are the cultural underpinnings of patriarchal power, female subordination and gender violence.

The workshops with student teachers aim, first and foremost, to promote changes in their lives. Among the topics are sexuality and gender construction, self-knowledge of the body and sexuality, myths and stereotypes of feminine and masculine sexuality, sexual orientation, homophobia and gender violence.
Meanwhile, those responsible for training future teachers are educated more theoretically about sexual and reproductive health, sexual rights and integrated sex education from a gender perspective, within school, family and social contexts, and gender focus methodology within the educational process.
"The initial assessment appalled us," Anabel Naranjo, a professor at the "José de la Luz y Caballero" University of Paedagogical Sciences in Holguín, told IPS. "We asked if the sex of a pupil would affect the teachers' communication with the pupil, and 90 percent of the teachers said 'Yes'."
Women and men alike said that their communication, treatment and educational methods would not be the same in dealing with a boy as with a girl, added Naranjo, one of the academics in charge of the project in Holguín province, 740 kilometres from Havana.
"Girls are given more encouragement to study and to learn independently, so the learning process is marked by sexism," she said.
Teachers' tendency to pay more attention to girls in the classroom because they presume they have a better attitude toward studying could be one of the reasons why the proportion of women in the teaching profession is rising in Cuba. At universities, women studying to be teachers make up over 60 percent of the enrolment in teacher training courses.
The reflection groups, created in response to the expressed needs of the trainee teachers themselves, have yielded important results by working through the stereotypes linked to masculinity, raising awareness and tolerance of sexual diversity, and combating homophobia among future teachers.
In the view of Gemma García, an expert with the AECID Technical Cooperation Office in Cuba, the "multiplier effect" of the project supported by Spanish aid is incalculable. "These professional teachers will go into the classroom with a comprehensive knowledge of gender issues," she told IPS. (END)

source: ipsnews.net

President of UN General Assembly receives global petition for urgent establishment of stronger UN women's agency

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign on 17th June 2010 presented the President of the UN General Assembly, Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki with its global petition and pressed for the UN to establish a strong new agency for women by July 2010.

The petition, signed by 34,555 women and men from 165 countries and territories and bound with
the Campaign's slogan "GEAR UP!" was handed over to Dr. Treki, whilst all 192 UN member states of the General Assembly were meeting to negotiate a draft resolution that would establish the agency. "The supporters of the new gender entity are not only from women’s organizations but also are from social justice, human rights and development organizations," said Charlotte Bunch of the Center for Women's Global Leadership, "all demand a UN that works for women."
Seydi Gassama of Amnesty International Senegal added: "It was important to me to meet the General Assembly President today to prove that this is a concern not only for women, but for all human rights defenders."
Bani Dugal of the Baha'i International Community concluded: "Now is the time to adopt a resolution that will launch the new women's entity with increased operational capacity, civil society participation, ambitious funding and a strong leader."
Responding to the petition, Dr. Treki stressed that the situation for women continued to require urgent action, including changes to discriminatory laws and practices that held back advancements in gender equality and women's empowerment. He expected outstanding differences among member states soon to be resolved and hoped the new entity would be established by the end of the month.

Th GEAR Campaign, a global network of 314 women’s, human rights and social justice groups, was represented at the meeting with the President of the General Assembly by Charlotte Bunch of the Center for Women's Global Leadership, Rachel Harris of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, Bani Dugal of the Baha’i International Community, Antonia Kirkland of Equality Now, Seydi Gassama of Amnesty International, and Jan Peterson of the Huairou Commission.
The UN currently has four small entities dedicated to women’s issues: the Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and the Office of the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI). The work of all four entities is fragmented within the UN system. All lack the necessary Page 2 of 2 status, funding and country presence to enable the wider UN system and national authorities to better deliver on their numerous obligations and commitments to advance gender equality, women's empowerment and women’s human rights. These include the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, and the Millennium Development Goals.
In September 2009, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/63/311) supporting the consolidation of the UN’s four gender equality entities into a composite women’s entity, to be headed by an Under Secretary-General.
The GEAR Campaign and petitioners have stressed that the new entity must have:

World coverage and the necessary country presence and strong policy and programmatic mandate to effectively improve the lives of women worldwide;

 Accountability mechanisms in place at both national and international levels, including through meaningful involvement of civil society, particularly women’s groups;

Substantial and predictable resources to ensure the capacity to meet expectations and deliver results at all levels; and An Under-Secretary-General, appointed in 2010, in order to lead the agency.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Reflections on The African Women’s Decade

The African Women’s Decade (2010- 2020) to be launched regionally in October 2010, would coincide with the time that the women’s movement worldwide is marking significant landmarks on gender equality and the empowerment of women. This year, the world is reviewing thirty years of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Again Women (CEDAW), fifteen years of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA), ten years of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, six years of the adoption of the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA), and five years since the coming into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, just to mention, but a few. A pointer to the fact that as far as women’s rights in Africa are concerned, we have reached a stage where implementation has to be given greater attention.
The Africa review of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing +15), which took place in Banjul in November 2009 paints a grim picture of African countries not meeting their commitments on gender equality. The decade presents a new chance for taking women’s rights in Africa to a higher level. One of the first and important steps should be to advocate for the implementation of the mechanisms that our governments have committed to. It is evident that we will make much progress without a framework that highlights what progress if any we are making towards transforming the lives of African women for the better. Advocacy should be accompanied by monitoring progress at different phases of the decade.
Adequate financial and technical resources are very crucial to making dreams come true, therefore approval for setting up a Women’s Trust Fund for African women (as agreed by the Heads of State of the AU under the SDGEA), could not have come at a better time. For the African Women’s decade to succeed the African Women’s Trust Fund should become operational without any further delay. In addition, the gender machineries at the country level, which are mandated with the responsibility of promoting gender equality, should be very well resourced by their governments so that they can carry out their mandates successfully.
Central to these is the need for women to tell their stories themselves. Experience sharing and dissemination of information on good practices would go a long way to avoid duplication. A tracking system to monitor and report on the achievements and progress with regard to the expected output should be developed and shared at the on set for both progress monitoring and evaluation at the end of the decade.
Ten years may give the illusion of a long time, but the reality is that time flies. Before one knows it the decade would have come and gone. It is my sincere hope that at the end of the historic African Women’s Decade we would all look back with pride, congratulate and pat ourselves on the back for having made the best use of this unique opportunity. We should hit the ground running.

Friday, June 25, 2010


There is an Epidemic of Rape in DR Congo that has Reached Epic Proportions.
Today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), people are still struggling after one of the deadliest wars in all history. Millions died and new conflicts threaten peace every day.
Perhaps worse than the loss of life is the staggering numbers of human rights violations – torture, mutilation and sexual violence that has occurred against tens of thousands of women and children.
Field Update: $7 Million Dollar Grant to Aid Rape Survivors in Congo. Read about Women for Women International's Participation

With Your Help Today Women for Women International Can Continue Its Success in the DR Congo

We are making enormous strides in DR Congo, but our work is far from done. The women are filled with hope that you will help them continue to rebuild their lives. You're not only changing the course of one woman's life – you're support and generosity improves entire villages and communities!
In the last two years, we have expanded our program to reach remote villages and have now served over 24,000 women and 131,581 family and community members since our start. Women for Women International program in DR Congo is working:
88% report having improvement in personal and family health

86% report having improved their economic situation

88% of women expressed increased self-confidence

83% report having a greater knowledge of their rights

88% expressed being more active in their community

87% report being more active in family decision making.
"This program has dared me to hope of having a house, of living in peace, of reclaiming my dynamism, my dignity.... I would like to be someone of value again."

- Honorata
Behind the Scenes with 60 Minutes
"It is Monday morning, November 5, 2007. Since I arrived here, we have, on all fronts, been working hard to capture this story for CBS news 60 minutes … on the rape epidemic in the Eastern Congo.”
- Judithe Registre, Women for Women International

Make a Generous $50 Donation Today and You'll Help Provide a Women in the DR Congo or Other War Town Nations Around the World With:

Important rights awareness training

Health and literacy training

Job skills training

Money for food, clothes and schooling

A support system to help her go from victim to survivor to active citizen

Your Donation's are Used for:
Food: 87%

Income Generation: 79%

School/School Fees: 77%

Clothing: 85%

Medicine: 83%

Housing: 15%
source: women for women


Rwanda.Since 1994, the country's name has been synonymous with genocide. The numbers are staggering. Estimates say that up to 500,000 women and girls were raped, tortured and physically abused during the genocide. The impact of these horrors is still felt today, but Rwanda is rebuilding now with the leadership of the women.

Women are paying the highest price.

The deaths of over 800,000 people during the 1994 genocide and the displacement of 2,000,000 more left the country 70% female. Over ⅓ of households are headed by women. And 80% of these are run by impoverished widows.
Women are raising children that are the result of brutal crimes. Many have sexually transmitted diseases – in fact over ¼ million children have been orphaned by AIDS alone. Despite the extreme poverty many Rwandans find room in their hearts to adopt as many as 6 orphaned children, treating every child like their own, a mantra of the country and its President, Paul Kagame.
But the Real Story isn't the Suffering …

It's the Rwandan women's ability to triumph over every obstacle. Because of Rwandan women's courage and willingness to speak, for the first time in history, rape is being prosecuted as a war crime. Previously, in post-genocide Rwanda, rape had been considered a third degree crime. What's more, the election of 2003 put 49% of the parliament seats to women, giving women a voice and a platform in which to use it.
Generous, Caring Support from Women Like You is Bringing Hope and Healing to Rwandan Women.

Women come to our offices like this:
95% of homes have no electricity

98.3% report not having running water in their home

53% of women have only received some primary education

Nearly 30% have received no formal education at all

82% do not speak the official language of Rwanda

After just one year in Women for Women International Programs:

50% of women say their ability to read and write has improved

80% say their economic situation is better

49% of the women plan to start their own business

80% report imrovement in their economic situation

93% of the women feel that their health and their families health has increased

99% say their self-confidence has improved

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Youth Leadership Training underway

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The National Youth Council (NYC), in collaboration with the Dream Institute International (USA) on Monday 21st June 2010, held a four-day leadership training for youth leaders, at the Friendship Hostel in Bakau, geared towards equipping them with leadership skills and technology.

The Deputy Permanent Secretary a the Ministry of Youth and Sport, Alieu K Jammeh who was speaking at the occasion, said leadership training skills is of vital use to young people that constitutes greater number of the population of the country. He added that "developing essential skills of youths is meaningful and important to national development."

Also speaking at the occasion, Mr. Gawlo Nyang, the Director General of the National Training Authority revealed that leadership skills is a major skills, which if acquired by anyone is bound to be a leader anywhere. He said that a complete dedication is very crucial in leadership training.

He advised the participants as leaders to always make a right decision, noting that a change in mind all the time makes a leader very weak.
"Leadership depends a lot on confident, honesty and trustworthy," he emphasized.

For her part, Rachel Wilson from Dream Institute International revealed that they have done such training in many parts of the US. She said that The Gambia was the first place in Africa, where they have organised such training programme. She stated that their institute believes in building capacity of people, adding that they are also engaged in other activities, such as education and empowerment of people. She challenged the participants to join and make the training a success story.

Delivering a statement at the opening ceremony, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Youths and Sports, Mamabanyick Njie described leadership as a responsibility. He said that leadership skills are very essential for a successful management. He noted that a leadership quality consists of high qualifications, ability to make sound judgement, based on knowledge, information and experience, communication skills, the capacity to multitask and interpersonal skills.

He stressed that at the end of the training participants would be well equipped to serve as competent youth leaders, and then commended the National Youth Council and their partners for the development of young people and the nation in general.

Training on gender mainstreaming underway

Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, Tuesday presided over the official opening of a two-day Capacity Building Training on Gender Mainstreaming, Roles and Responsibilities, for the National Women's Council and women leaders, organised by the Women's Bureau at the conference hall of the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.

In her official opening remarks, VP Njie-Saidy disclosed that the 2008 decision-making study on capacity needs assessment of women in The Gambia has indicated that limited capacity, lack of confidence and resources are the main obstacles hampering women leadership positions. The study, she said, recommended capacity development as one of the main strategies that should be adopted to address the situation of women empowerment.

She told the women that the training does not only aim to ensure sustainability amongst them, but also to improve on the gains they have already made. The vice president further disclosed that during the training participants would be trained on confidence building skills, public speaking as well as networking and partnership building and negotiation skills.
VP Njie-Saidy also pointed out that the government of The Gambia and its' partners have made some significant efforts to provide the enabling legal and policy environment for the advancement of the country's women as well as to improve their social, cultural and economic status. "This is evident in the establishment and operationalisation of a National Women's Machineries, the ratification of international and regional instruments on the rights of women," she said.

She noted that the division of labour along gender lines has resulted in daunting challenges for women as they carry out their productive, reproductive and community roles. She added that women are also engaged in some number of economic activities both paid and unpaid in the formal and informal sectors of the economy. While women comprise 50 percent on the agricultural labour force and 70 percent of the unskilled agrarian wage earners and produce 80 percent of the vegetables and 99 percent of the staple food rice, VP Njie-Saidy observed that increasing their productivity in agriculture is constrained by limited access, control and ownership of productive resources, which include time, land, credit, machinery and technology.

She further explained that in the area of governance, women's invisibility is pronounced especially in local government administration. She pointed out that there are no women governors, mayors, and chairpersons of councils or district chiefs. Out of the 1,873 villages in the country, she went on, there are only five female Alkalolu, while on the other hand some of the few women who find themselves in leadership positions at the national level find it difficult to effectively contribute and influence decisions due to their limited capacities.

Women leaders, she said, must be seen supporting one another rather than engaging in trivial quarrels. "We are at a threshold of attaining social transformation, but we still require attitudinal change, particularly in terms of our outlook, perception and mentality," she reminded the women. While reassuring of The Gambia government's resolve to providing the enabling environment for the operation of women in the country, VP Njie-Saidy used the occasion to thank the UNDP for all the support and partnership it rendered to her ministry not only during the hosting of the Beijing +15 meeting, but also the commitment they have shown as true partners in promoting women's participation in decision-making.

Ida Faye-Hydara, the executive director of Women's Bureau said they decided to organise the training on gender mainstreaming because they felt that women are left behind. She added that the training will empower the women to take up their responsibilities more effectively. She then commended the leadership of the country for providing the enabling environment for women and assured that they [Women's Bureau] will always do their best to empower the women.
The mayor of the Kanifing Municipal Council, Yankuba Colley, told the women that they must have one common objective in order to move forward for sustainable development. The training, he said, will help the participants to understand their roles as leaders and to apply their leadership skills effectively.

Sunday, June 20, 2010



The Gambia is a nation with an acute sense of unity amidst its diverse ethno linguistic composition. This is a function of the advantage of small size, which nurtures familiarity, inter-marriage, miscegenation and a high degree of mutual tolerance. This sense of togetherness, which is at the root of the extended family system, also provides the mental framework and attitudinal disposition which enables us to manage tensions related to the cleavages of class, caste, religion, ethnicity and gender relations.

Thus, while the familiar problems of women exist in terms of limited access to development resources, modern educational facilities and health care; a patriarchal legacy that restricts decision-making power at the various levels of the state, the community and family to men; a traditional agricultural system that relies on the labour of women while at the same time discriminating against them in land ownership and employment; The Gambia has never lost sight of the importance of our womenfolk.

A National Women's Council Act was enacted in 1980 to set up a body to advise government on women 's affairs and a Women's Bureau established to implement decisions of this council. Non-governmental organisations have also been encouraged to operate in areas that address women's issues and this experience has heightened awareness on the concerns of women.

At the international level, The Gambia participated in fora that brought women issues in the forefront of development concerns and the recommendations of such gatherings have been taken into account in the appropriate sectoral policies and programmes. These international conventions include The Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Plan of Action. This high level of commitment to the woman question led the World Bank to identify The Gambia as a pilot site for the Women In Development Project in 1990. This intervention that was jointly funded by the African Development Bank, the government of Norway and the government of The Gambia, experimented on a multi-sectoral approach to the gender problem and one of the activities called for the development of a national policy for women. The project thus sought to mark a point of departure from the piecemeal, ad-hoc and incremental approach to the advancement of women, which had since been the modus operandi and a comprehensive approach and the strengthening of the machinery of government for women to directly manage their affairs. Thus, the structure of government in the transition period featured an unprecedented proportion of women in Cabinet and a rational allocation of port-folios allowing women to run the sectors that are strategic to the elevation of their status and their socio-economic advancement.

Cabinet in the transition period included four female members assigned with the portfolios of Health, Social Welfare and Women's Affairs, Education, Tourism and the Law. The majority of health personnel in The Gambia are women and women teachers are a high percentage of the teaching force. The informal sector and the horticultural sub-sector, which are linked to the tourism industry have women as the main agents just as their numbers are significantly increasing in the legal profession. Further, the priority programs of the transition period, which expanded educational, and health services were inter all predicated on the intention to increase access of such services to women. Similarly, the agricultural program in the transition period was oriented toward support of women activities in rice, cereal and horticultural production.

Naturally, the government of the Second Republic intends to build on achievements of past programs and to sustain and improve upon the momentum of the transition period. Through this policy, the framework exists to translate the objectives of the national Vision 2020, which is to harmonise the relationship between the sexes through the elimination of inequalities and the empowerment of women. It was therefore, reassuring that the process to formulate this policy embraced the principle of collective self-reliance which is central to the philosophy of the Second Republic, by consulting a wide spectrum of all categories of women, contracting national consultants and the setting up of a review committee composed of Gambians with the institutional memory of past interventions and with the knowledge and expertise on the development concerns of women. It is evident in the policy that this core of expertise was successful in anchoring the policy in the national strategic vision and in integrating it with the policies and programs of other relevant sectors. This has ensured the internal consistency of the policy and its concordance with both the macro-economic framework and the thrusts of sectoral policies.

The development in thinking and intervention activities that have influenced the national policy on women have of necessity, created an imbalance between the original legislation and the policy itself. The need therefore, arises to revisit the National Women 's Council Act in order to revise its provisions accordingly. The outcomes of the preliminary review by the national consultants have been quite instructive. However, my government will further subject these into more vigorous scrutiny with a view to amending the relevant provisions of the Act to create the appropriate environment to implement the policy. Implementation capacity is however, not only constrained by an obsolete level environment, but by limited human resources, a weak institutional framework and the scarcity of programme resources. The Action Plan for the Advancement of Women that is being developed will document such needs in the form of programs and technical co-operation proposals. This Action Plan along with this policy will then serve as the basis of partnership in program and project development and implementation on the advancement of women between government and the donor community. Already, government is in collaboration with DFID to mainstream poverty and gender with a �1 million grant from the British Government.

I therefore, commend this policy on the Advancement of Gambian Women to all friendly donor agencies and take the opportunity to extend an invitation for partnership to execute it and implement its corresponding programmes in order to achieve its objectives which are reflections of joint international commitments towards the global advancement of women.


As we enter the 21st century, Gambian women are poised to take control of their destiny, and in the process, recreate a new and developed Gambia in partnership with the men of the country. As a result, the National Policy for Advancement of Gambian Women focuses precisely on improving gender relations, whilst taking cognisance of the constraints Gambian women face, as a result of lack of equal access to education, adequate health care, finance, jobs, and related matters. The policy aims to mainstream women '8 issues into the national development process, by setting goals and strategies for the various sectors to ensure the implementation of concrete and sustainable programmes for the advancement of women.

This move attempts to bridge the gaps of inequality and deprivation between men and women, by offering a framework through which Gambian women can become active participants in the national development process. Gambian Women according to our national statistics comprise 49.93% of the Gambian population in relation to 51.085% males (1993, Central Statistics, Population Figures). The majority of Gambian women are rural based and are engaged in agricultural production. As agriculturists they produce the bulk of the food for local consumption.
Inspite of their important role as producers, there is still an adherence to the traditional processes that has made women a marginalized group of people in the society. The priority given to male children in our patriarchal society has ensured male dominance in the decision making process. To redress this lopsided situation, the focus of the National Policy on women has been on the socio-economic conditions of the girl-child and women. The challenge is to undergo a transformation in attitude to promote fundamental changes in gender relations that redress the inequities in the traditional division of labour, which restricts women into subsidiary roles and stifles their participation in public life. These are the preconditions for the successful mainstreaming of gender issues in fulfilment of the main strategic objective of the policy and our international obligations as spelt out in the Beijing Platform, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the African Platform for Action and other international conferences. We are well aware of the fact that, at the international level, the 1975 International Women 's Year and Decade influenced policy formulation for women globally. At the United Nations initiative, national governments were called upon to adopt the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies. The Gambia had enacted the National Women's Council Act of 1980. This legislative set-up the National Women's Bureau and National Women's Council, making the Council the highest advisory body to the government on women's issues and concerns.

Together with its development partners, The Gambia has made significant strides in addressing women 's needs and concerns. The National Women 's Bureau and Council have been fully established. There have also been such other initiatives as the implementation of the Women in Development Project, setting up a Committee on Post Beijing activities, the Strategy for Poverty Alleviation and the implementation of various sectoral programmes and projects.

However, as evidenced by the policy document, there are gaps to be filled. In this respect the policy goals are twofold:

a) To catalyse all possible courses of action necessary to eliminate all forms of inequality between women and men, and

b) To create of an enabling environment for the promotion of women's participation in all spheres of life.

For these goals to be reached, a number of objectives have to be achieved. Notably, to ensure that specific and sectoral policies are gender sensitive, planning systems will have to take into account women's needs, concerns, gender analysis, impact assessment frameworks and research findings into women's issues. Projects and programmes for women will also be based on the strategies specified in the policy, the international instruments on gender mentioned above; and implementation arrangements will take a multi-sectoral approach and include monitoring and co-ordination mechanisms that will ensure that targets and objectives are attained and that participation of government, NGOs and the international donor communities mutually reinforce each other for maximum impact.

The policy on women is timely and relevant in the context of the country's recently formulated VISION 20/20 aimed at transforming The Gambia into a self-reliant and developed nation. This transformation cannot however take place without women taking an active part in the activities necessary for the realisation of the vision. The policy document is based on the recognition of the premise that security and economic empowerment for women through the elimination of poverty and promotion of sustainable livelihood, is a critical requirement for achievement of sustainable development. This policy recognises the need for support of women's issues from all members of society, as there will be no gender equality without the full participation of the males and females as equal partners in the development of our society.


Mrs Isatou Njie-Saidy

Vice President,


The National Policy for the Advancement of Women in The Gambia is presented in three parts:

Part 1: Provides an in-depth comprehensive analysis of the current situation. The National machinery for women's affairs and the sectors of education, population, health, agriculture, environment, tourism, youth and employment are critically reviewed in terms of their area of competence. The issue of poverty and violence in all its facets is also discussed. The general observations as far as the sectoral policies and interventions are concerned are that practical achievements have been made, but in terms of strategically changing the status of women the challenges are still overwhelming. Intersectoral and inter-agency networks are weak and need to be developed and given direction by the National Women 's Council and Bureau and the

Department of State responsible for Women 's Affairs to guarantee the mainstrearning of women 's issues into overall national socio-economic development under the framework of this policy.

Part 2: Is a synthesis of international instruments such as the Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW and The African Platform for Action and National Strategies. These should be used to measure the successes and shortcomings of the various sectors in policy formulation and implementation. Goals, objectives and strategies be proposed for the National Machinery that emphasises their capacity building and human resource development functions and de-empha- sizes their implementation role. Goals and strategies are drawn up for the various sectors to provide a framework for policy formulation and implementation of concrete and sustainable programmes for the advancement of women. This policy initiative is an attempt to bridge the gaps in addressing the concerns of women, and offers a framework within which Gambian women can move out of inequality and deprivation towards greater participation in national development processes.
Part 3: Proposes institutional arrangements for implementation of the National Policy for the Advancement of Gambian Women. The Department of State for Women's Affairs will continue to be the focal point. The National Women's Council will be the National Assembly for women. The selection of Council Members would ensure the democratic nature of the Council and provide broad based representation giving the Council mandate to represent women's interests rather than that of politicians and to function as the supreme national body that promotes women's participation in the development process. The Bureau would serve as the support base for the National Women's Council.

In this respect the Bureau's role would include information gathering, dissemination, research and analysis of data. It will take the lead role in the monitoring of women's programmes and on co-ordinating women's issues and provide the necessary backstopping for other institutions and organisations. The capacity of the divisional offices is to be strengthened to raise their status to enable the Bureau to reach grassroots organisations. Desk officers at the Bureau would provide the link between the national machinery and focal points, who would be appointed in all the sectoral ministries and NGOs.

At the ward, district, divisional and national levels, women 's groups will be registered to ensure ease of communication. These groups will select their representatives who will represent them at the divisional level and be selected to the National Women's Council. This will ensure that women with demonstrated capabilities and interests are the true representatives of the women.

Gambian women presently constitute 49.93% of The Gambian population in relation to 51.085% males (1993, population figures). The majority of Gambian women are rural based and engaged in agricultural production constituting the main food producers and also carrying out other activities such as processing and marketing fish, fish products and fresh produce, selling crafts in the tourism industry, and other informal sector activities. In Gambian society today, the traditional roles of women are still recognised and inequality in the society is taken as given, having been reinforced by massive illiteracy (73%) and women's lack of self-worth due to the way they are socialised.

Available data indicates that women comprise about 50% of the agricultural labour force, 70% of the unskilled agricultural labour force and are responsible for about 40% of the total agricultural production. This data suggests that women are a labour force, as opposed to being managers in the agricultural sector. In the area of crop production, women produce 3% of the maize, 6% of the millet, 2% of the sorghum, 3% of coarse grains, 99% of upland rice and 24% of groundnuts, (population Data Bank, 1993). Horticultural production (vegetables) is predominantly a female activity and women livestock farmers raise and manage most of the small ruminants and rural poultry. In fisheries, women foffi1 80% of the fish off-loaders, 99% of the traditional fish processors, 50% of the processors in the major coastal areas (Saine and Williams, 1995). In forestry women are engaged in planting seedlings and wood lots.
In the area of health, maternal mortality remains unacceptably high at 10.5 per thousand live births. In fact the maternal mortality rate may be as high as 16.6 per thousand life births in the rural area. The under 5 mortality (U5MR) is 160.5 per 1000 (GCPFDS, 1990) and its amongst the highest in the region. However, data available from maternal mortality figures show a declining trend. Presently, 90% of women are provided with antenatal care and about 60% of all deliveries are attended by a trained health worker, whilst traditional birth attendants (TBA's) carry out 65% of deliveries in homes in the rural areas. In the area of childcare, 85% of children are fully immunised.
With an annual population growth rate of 4.1% (1993 Census) and a high total fertility level of 6.1, the implications on our socio-economic development are indeed profound. This is exacerbated by a youthful population that comprise 63% of people below the age of 24 years, 45% of those under 15 and 18% within the 15-17 age bracket. Other population related issues affecting the welfare of women include but are not necessarily limited to, infertility, early marriage, boy-child preference, harmful traditional practices and inadequate representation of women in decision-making.
As regards education, women are equally less disadvantaged as in other sectors. At the moment, the primary gross enrolment rate stands at 56% of which young girls' enrolment represents 4.6%. Female enrolment at the Junior Secondary level is 37% and at the Senior Secondary level 31% (Education Statistics 1994/95). Preference is indicated for Madrassa education, particularly for girls because of the moral and religious education it offers. Girls enrolment is constrained among other things by cost of schooling, distance from home to school, the offering of a non broad-based curriculum, gender biases on teaching/learning materials, stereotyping and other socio-cultural deterrents both at home and in the school.
In the non-formal education sector opportunities have been created for women and girls to become literate in their own languages. However, these efforts are limited by factors such as heavy workload of women, lack of labour saving devices and poor attitude of men towards women's literacy. As a result of the foregoing, women 's access to employment is limited in terms of getting employed in the first place, staying in employment and making it to the top. Women occupy 12.8% of managerial positions, 13.9% of the professional and technical 26.3% of clerical, 9.4% of the skilled labour force and 61.9% of the unskilled labour category (Population Data Bank, 1994).
While domestic workers fall within the informal sector employment category, they are excluded from the Labour Act of 1990, thus reinforcing society's perception of domestic activity as a female domain and not worthy of legislation or monetisation. Domestic workers are mainly young women and face problems of sexual harassment, long working hours and poor wages. The gendered nature of poverty has been well documented and continues to be a threat against human rights. It is integrally linked to other conditions which restrict human potential such as-hunger, poor sanitation and hygiene, illiteracy, lack of access to education, lack of access to health services, high fertility rates, prostitution and child labour. According to an ILO study, 3% of urban households and 33% of the urban population are food poor as compared to the rural areas where the figures are 37% and 54% respectively.

Women play a central role in the tourist industry, a major source of foreign exchange for the Gambia. They serve as food and craft vendors, but also provide labour for the hotel industry. In spite of their central role, women face a number of constraints in the industry. Constraints such as, inadequate access to permanent employment, lack of access to senior level management positions, lack of access to training for senior level positions in the hotel industry, lack of access in the fine and creative arts, clothing and textiles and consistent exposure to sexual exploitation.

The absence of an organised structure for women and the inadequate linkage between the industry and production groups in horticulture and small ruminants has restricted the optimal realisation of the potential in the sector. With 44% of the population being under age 15 (Population Data Bank, 1995), the need to maximise the potential of this group cannot be over-emphasised. In this regard a variety of schemes have been introduced to reduce the problems of youths and enhance their effective participation in national development. These include the National youth Service and President Award Scheme, NGO training programmes in family life and various skill development and income generating programmes.

In realisation of the importance of sports to the development of one's body and mind, women have been introduced to various sports, although, with limited success. The media constitute an important pillar of development by not only setting the agenda but playing a "gate-keeping" role as well, until recently women have been perceived receivers of messages. However, efforts have been initiated with the introduction of women theatre groups, local communicators, village video halls and similar initiatives to make women playa lead role in information, education and communication processes. At the professional level the formation of WAMNET -The Gambia Chapter of West Africa Media Network for Gender Development has the basic objective of ensuring the positive portrayal of women's success stories, achievements and challenges.

Institutionally women's groups existed at village level during the pre-colonial and colonial era. These groups provided financial, physical and psychological support to their respective members. Following the attainment of independence an urban based Gambian Women's Federation emerged to provide focus and attention for women's groups and organisations. Subsequently, more concrete opportunities to address women's issues emerged with the promulgation of the National Women's Council as the policy advisory body to government on women's issues supported by an executive arm, the National Women's Bureau. This provided the framework for addressing women's issues. In the 1981-86 five year plan, government reassured its commitment to the development of women by introducing policy measures both at the national and sectoral levels aimed at integrating women in the national development process, promoting equality, and improving services to and the productivity of women.

The government's commitment reflected international trends. the Women's Bill of Rights, the declaration of 1975 as international women's year and decade, the call for the adoption of the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies for the advancement of women, the UN Convention on The Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which The Gambia ratified in 1992, and more recently the Beijing Platform for Action, 1995 amongst others. Regardless of the foregoing, the National Women's Council and Bureau continues to face limitations in addressing women's issues and empowering women due to weaknesses related to the legal framework in the setting up of these institutions and internal organisational constraints due to inadequate support.

The recognition of the important role of women in the development process was in 1980, when the first policy statement to this effect was made. This was however not complemented by the articulation of an overall national policy for women. This lack of articulation tended to weaken the way that women's issues are dealt with both at national and community level to the extent that there has not been the necessary policy orientation to guide the co-ordination of the different strategies geared towards promoting the advancement of women.

This policy initiative is thus an attempt to bridge the gaps in addressing the concerns of women, and offers a framework within which Gambian women can move out of inequality and deprivation, towards greater participation in national development processes.

In agriculture where women constitute 50% of the agricultural labour force, several interventions have been initiated to uplift women's productivity. This is as a result of constraints. Constraints such as, low level of education, inadequate labour saving devices, poor transport systems, the middle person phenomenon, and marginalisation of women once mechanisation is introduced, inadequate access to and control over production resources and inadequate female representation in top level agricultural management (2.6% for women as compared to 8.6% for men (Population Data Bank 1995).

The problem is further compounded by limited appropriate post harvest technologies and other factors such as maintenance, cost of spare parts and limited managerial capacity at community level. In the health domain, evidence exists to show that the introduction of Primary Health Care (PHC) program in 1978 led to an improved health status for women and children. This includes, the substantial decline in infant mortality from 213/1000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 213/1000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting live births in 1960 to 19/ 1000 in 1980, and 126/1000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 126/1000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting in 1995 (above the regional average of 106/1000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 106/1000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting) and in under five mortality from 375/1000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 375/1000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting in 1960 to 250/1000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 250/1000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting in 1980 and 110/1000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 110/1000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting in 1995; a drop in the maternal mortality ratio from 2000/1 00 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 2000/1 00 end_of_the_skype_highlighting,000 live births before the introduction of PHC, to 1,050/ 100,000 lives births in 1993; an increase in the percentage of births attended by health staff from 54% in 1985 to 65% in 1990; a decline in low birth weight from 35% in 1980-82 to 10% in 1990; 88% of children being immunised against measles and 93% against DPT in 1995.
Despite this progress, maternal and infant/child mortality and morbidity rates remain unacceptably high. More substantial contributions to health status improvement has been due to the stagnating or declining public sector resources, low quality of health services, especially for women and children in rural areas.

In the area of population and development despite an increase in the contraceptive prevalence rate to 12% for all methods (modem and traditional) in 1995, and a decline in total fertility rate from 6.5% in 1980 to 6.1 in 1993, the situation remains precarious. The Gambia has both one of the highest population growth rates in Africa at 4.1% per annum 5 (1993 census) as well as the highest population densities at 97 persons per square kilometre.
This population trend has serious implications for our socio-economic development as well as for the uplifting of the status of women and needs thus be addressed. 2.5 In the field of education, significant improvements have been registered and the National Education Policy 1988-2003 attempts to further increase enrolment in grades 1-6 by 95% and transition rate from grades 6- 7 by 100% by year 2003. However, the present trend is indicative of a need to focus attention on addressing issues of access, retention and performance as they impinge on the education of the girl child. Efforts in this direction are consistent with the 1997 constitution (Section 30) which guarantees to all persons the right to equal educational opportunities and facilities, and compulsory basic education, as well as requires the state to provide free education to all Gambians.
While in the recent past significant achievements has been made in creating women's employment opportunities both in formal and informal sectors. The disparity between employed women and men continues to be unacceptably high and this requires to be bridged if significant strides are to be made particularly in economic empowerment of women. Women's low education levels, absence of affirmative action policies in training institutions or work place, distance of formal sector employee from home of employee, the dual career role of women i.e. child care and family responsibilities vice versa career responsibility stifles women's employment opportunities or retard their progress while in employment.

As a result of the foregoing, there is need to address the issue of poverty. A recently completed analysis of the 1993 Household Survey found that 33% of the population are poor and women constitute the majority. It was also found that poverty is most prevalent in the rural areas. Women's poverty is accentuated by inappropriate gender relations particularly that of the sexual division of labour, women's lack of credit and production resources, and their relatively poor health among others. Unless these issues are addressed women will remain poor and voiceless.

Despite the central role women play in the tourist industry, the benefits that accrue to them from the sector remains marginal. Women's low educational levels relegate them to lowly paid menial jobs and their upward mobility opportunities are restricted by several socio-cultural factors both in the work place and home. Perhaps more importantly is the absence of the necessary linkages to provide the market for women's horticultural and small ruminants' products.

Indeed significant and sustainable women's advancement can only be attained if the problems of the girl child are addressed. The problems of early marriage and unplanned pregnancies inhibit their career development prospects and perpetuate high fertility rates. The lack of employable skills resulting to dependency and the inadequate attention to their other concerns would need to be appropriately addressed to enhance the optimum utilisation of our human resource base.

Ultimately women 's empowerment is about making women and girls visible and their voices heard, and enable them to take full control of their lives. The role of the media in this regard is phenomenal. But to achieve the desired effect women must be able to set the pace and the agenda to their strategic advantage.

Furthermore, a strong National Machinery for women's affairs is imperative if significant achievements are to be made in women's advancement efforts. The present institutional framework has demonstrated weaknesses due to several factors including inadequate mandate, poor staffing, lack of support and weak horizontal and vertical linkages.

These must be addressed to enable the Bureau and council to provide the necessary co-ordination and directions that will steer women's empowerment on a career and well designed path.

Hitherto, the non-articulation of a policy not only meant that interventions were piece-meal and dissipated but ineffective, resulting in little gain in the security, equality and economic empowerment of women. This policy is thus expected to provide the co-ordination that will eliminate poverty, promote sustainable livelihood and ensure sustainable development for women. This is consistent with the country's recently formulated vision 2020 aimed at transforming The Gambia into a self- reliant and developed nation which naturally requires women's active part since they constitute nearly one half of the nation's population. The policy is also consistent with and complementary to international conventions. Conventions such as, The Convention of Elimination of all Forms of Discriminations, (CEDAW) adopted in 1978, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, The Nairobi forward looking strategies and the World Women's Conference in Beijing 1995 Global Platform for Action amongst others.
Furthermore, it is an attempt to maximise the full utilisation of our available national human resources as well as facilitate its efficiency and rational development relative to our prevailing socio-economic trends.

Apart from the link between this policy and the fulfilment of Gambian commitments made at Beijing, The Beijing conference underscored the fact that it is incumbent upon everyone, governments, international bodies, NGOs, individuals and groups to see that women are recognised as human beings with every right and privilege afforded human beings. That women have a voice in their own destiny, That women are given equal access to jobs, education, finance, land ownership and soon and that women participate actively in the world economic and security order as equal partners in the development of the world, This can be more readily promoted where there is a clear policy statement to provide direction and guide interventions aimed at achieving this.' The National Policy on Women is expected to provide this policy guidance,

From the point of view of where Gambian women are today, statistics show that women are still highly under-represented in the formal economic sector and dominate the informal sector as unskilled workers. Women generally have a higher unemployment rate (19%) than men (14%) (The Gambia National Report on Women: The Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, 1995, p.30), and Gambian women in decision-making positions are few. For Similar comparisons can be made for the professional and technical occupations where females consist of 1.9% as opposed to 86.1% for males, and in the clerical positions where they are 26.2% compared to 73.7% for males. In the distribution of skilled and unskilled labour, women consist of 4.9% of the skilled labour force and 61.9% of the unskilled labour force, and males 90.6% of the skilled and 38.1% of the unskilled labour force, indicative of women's lesser educational qualification and access to training. In access to education, girls consist of 42.6% of the gross enrolment rate for the primary level, 37% of the Junior Secondary and 31% of the Senior Secondary levels (Population Data Bank 1995).

To promote women's equal access to and control of production resources.
Advocate for an increase allocation of public expenditure towards women's economic opportunities in terms of access and control of resources.

Advocate for National Assembly Members to review Bills, and legislation discriminating against women's ownership of productive resources.

Promote credit and savings programmes for disadvantaged resource-poor women.
Support initiatives aimed at women's access, control and ownership of land.

By the year 2004 knowledge would have increased on the actual and potential role of women in national development and ensure that gender concerns are integrated fully at all levels of development.

Promote dialogue among women of different classes, ethnicity, and caste to identify common ground for coming together to improve their position and status as women.

Raise gender consciousness through seminars, workshops, traditional communication and other media forms.

Promote use of women peer communicators to reach other women.

To strengthen the National Women's Council and Bureau so as to better address the needs and concerns of women.

Train Bureau staff in gender, policy and impact analysis and other managerial skills.

Strengthen the research, documentation and other units of the Bureau.

Enhance the reach of the National Women's Council to women.

Increase resource allocation to Women's Bureau.
Train National Women's Council members in their roles, responsibilities and other relevant areas.

Establish the offices and strengthen the capacity of staff of the Bureau at Divisional level.

Strengthen the capacity of the National Women's Council to serve as an advocacy group.

Promote community and donor participation in resource mobilisation for financing activities of the Council and the Bureau.

To ensure that women have access to decision-making positions.

To create and update a database of women in top level positions

Advocate for a quota system of job allocation to get more qualified women in the mainstream of development.

Sensitise the public to the benefits of women in power and decision-making positions.

Provide training to enhance women's access to and performance in decision-making positions.

Address the constraints of women who are in decision-making positions.

To genderize the main employment documents such as the General Orders, PSC

Regulations and the Schemes of Service and Labour Act 1990.

To ensure an increased membership of women in boards, commissions and other bodies

To ensure an enabling work environment and increase access to training facilities for all categories of female workers.

Create more training opportunities for uncertified female staff members, particularly those in the education and health sectors.

Ensure equal access to training opportunities for women.

Provide adequate and secure housing for female employees posted in rural areas.

Encourage domestic workers to join existing registered labour unions.

Advocate for the amendment of the 1990 Labour Act to include domestic workers.

Provide day care centres for women.

Increase in budgetary provisions for addressing women's issues in all government and non-governmental institutions to more appropriately address women's issues.

Ensure that the government increases the annual grant and subvention to the Women's Bureau.

Ensure that gender concerns in the sectoral Departments of State, Departments and NGOs are adequately funded.

Conduct annual gender audit of the national budget and NGOs.

Promote analysis and debate on the national budget as it impacts on women.

To enhance grassroots women 's participation in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the National Women's Policy.

Establish a database of national level and grassroots organisations involved in promoting the advancement of women.

Promote linkages between policy makers and all women at community level.

Promote regular consultation through workshops and seminars with all parties.

Strengthen the divisional planning units of local government councils.
To eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.

Educate girls and women about existing Laws and Conventions protecting their rights and freedoms.

Provide legal assistance to poor women, disabled women and girls.

Train and sensitive security personnel to respond to domestic violence in a gender responsive way.

Ensure the codification of the CEDAW and other laws.
Enhance monitoring of implementation of CEDAW and Convention on The Rights of the Child.

Advocate for removal of legal and traditional barriers against the rights and freedoms of women and girls.

Advocate to de-emphasise the rigid sexual division of labour to ease the domestic burden on women and girls.

Educate and sensitise the public to report domestic violence.
Provide temporal shelter for women suffering from acts of violence.

Create awareness on existing laws and conventions against the discrimination of women.

Advocate that maximum penalties are imposed against perpetrators of violence against female youth and children.
Provide a legal adviser for the Women's Bureau and Social Welfare.
To encourage the participation of women in the promotion of peace.

Include more women in peace commissions and negotiations

Improve peace negotiation skills of women leaders.

Support women's groups and organisations promoting peace.
Ensure that girls are given a chance to continue their education.

Provide a Scholarship Scheme for girls.

Increase literacy programmes for women.

Improve girls and women's access to functional literacy, vocational education and training.

Increase opportunities for women to attend literacy classes and link the non- formal education system to income generating activities.

To improve the quality and to increase access to healthcare services for women and children by the year 2009 and also reduce infant maternal mortality by 25% by the year 2009.
Enhance quality and reach of health care programmes.

Strengthen and support women's role as family health promoters.

Implement health commitments made at International Conferences.

Carry out annual gender audits on health programmes and projects.

Improve access to health services by women and girls i.e. adequate logistics, maternity waiting homes, and improved referral system.

Ensure availability of staff trained in life saving skills at all levels for quality management of women and girls at risk of dying from female related diseases.

Improve staff retention in such cadres as midwives, nurses, anaesthetists and public health officers through the provision of better conditions of service.
Increase the involvement of women at grassroots level in the planning, implementation and management of health services especially the Bamako Initiative.
Design and implement post-natal services for women and girls.
Create more health awareness to maximise community participation by developing and disseminating gender sensitive health education materials.
Improve counselling methods on family planning and disease specific to women.
Promote nutrition education programmes at all levels.
Enhance the capacity of Traditional Birth Attendants in Health Care Service Delivery System.

To increase the income earning opportunities and potential of Gambian women.

Promote the use and maintenance of appropriate technologies by women.

Support studies and research on appropriate technologies suitable for women.

Support initiatives and organisations that promotes markets, storage facilities and transportation for women's produce and products.

Sensitise women on the opportunities and role institutions involved in enterprise development.

Encourage banking institutions to provide loans to women entrepreneurs.

To enhance the capacity of Gambian women in environment and human resource management.

Support initiatives and organisations that promotes sustainable environmental development and management.

Promote initiatives that provide women with the basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and education.

Help increase the access of and availability of appropriate technologies aimed at reducing the burden/workload of women.
To enhance the participation of disabled women and girls in the national socio-economic development process.

Support the development of initiatives for disabled women and girls.

Support the education of disabled girls in the official and non-official school systems of schooling.

Support organisations that work with disabled girls and women.

Promote income-generating ventures for handicapped women and girls.

Advocate for provision of easy access of the disabled to all-public buildings and facilities.

Advocate for the protection of disabled girls and women from sexual exploitation and harassment.

Sensitise the public on the rights of the disabled to education, health and access to other facilities.

Support the mainstreaming of disabled women and girls in the labour force.

Promote positive images of women in the media.
Portray successful women as role models.

Sensitise Media Practitioners to be gender sensitive.

Encourage Media Practitioners to include gender perspective in their work.

Ensure gender training to be mandatory for all personnel in Media Institutions.

Ensure the a11ocation of resources for a gender sensitive curriculum for training of communicators.

To enhance the capacity of communicators to address gender issues.

Training of women in Media for Management and Editorial positions.
Encourage women to invest and own independent women media houses.

Provide resources and facilities for the training of media personnel.
Encourage all institutions to make financial provision for gender sensitive communication activities of their programmes.
Involve Media Practitioners in the formulation of gender-based communication programmes.
Support traditional means and channels.


Within the framework of this National Policy for Women, the legal framework, the National Women's Council Act 1980, which set up the Women's Council and Bureau, as well as the institutional set up of the two national machineries have been reviewed.

This part addresses the institutional context within which this policy is expected, to be implemented, successfully. The Department of State responsible for Women's Affairs will continue to be the line Department of State for women's issues, and would have ultimate responsibility for providing policy guidance to government on issues affecting Gambian women. The National Women's Council would continue to function as a national assembly for women.

The National Women's Council would be empowered by an Act of the National Assembly to playa governance role. The Policy would seek to enhance the capacity of individual Councillors and Bureau and Council would have all the administrative and financial support and recognition they need from both government and the public, and remain institutions that are relevant to the needs and concerns of Gambian women.

The selection of Councillors would enhance the democratic nature of the Council and provide broad-based representation, giving the Council mandate to represent the interests of women and to function as the supreme national body that represents and promotes women's participation in the development process.

The Council would have technical committees selected from among its members to facilitate policy reviews and co-ordinate implementation of Council decisions. The respective Councillors would be responsible for liasing with the women they represent at the decentralised level and would promote awareness raising and confidence building among women. The Women's Bureau would serve as the support base of the National Women's Council. In this respect, its role would include information gathering, dissemination, research and analysis. In addition, the Bureau would assist Council in monitoring trends, forging links with other institutions on the socio-economic and political front, reviewing Bills, legislation, policies, programmes, new technology and so on and providing information as to how this is likely to affect women. The Bureau would also help in identifying capacity building and training needs of various stakeholders and animators at field level and linking them with institutions that can assist with their capacity building and training needs.
The Bureau would be pro-active enough to take on a lead role in co-ordinating women's issues and provide the necessary backstopping for institutions and organisations requiring this.
The Women's Bureau would have on its staff technical personnel to serve as desk officers and provide the link between the national machinery and focal points in the sectoral Departments of State and NGOs. The Bureau would monitor and assess sectoral impact in addressing the various constraints affecting women and where necessary would call for sectoral reviews and the realignment of efforts. Bureau staff and planning units of other agencies would also need to be involved in sectoral assessments/reviews of projects and programmes to determine the gender dimension of impact, and the various interventions.
At the divisional level it will be necessary to increase women's representation on the Divisional Co-ordinating Committee to take into consideration the needs, and concerns of women as they are articulated at the Ward and District level, and to include them into divisional plans and programmes. Selection of women representatives should not be on partisan political basis.
The field officers will have to be strengthened to bring them in line with other sectors in the field such as education, health and agriculture. A more appropriate designation should be used for the field officers to give them the status they deserve and to give them greater standing in the Divisional Co-ordinating Committee. At the Ward level all women's groups will be registered in relation to the activities they engage in. These groups will select their representatives who will represent them at the district level. This is to foster networking at the group and individual level and to ensure that it is women with demonstrated ability and contributions to issues that are the selected representatives of the women.


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.