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.

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