Saturday, August 27, 2011
Remarks were made by all representatives of Gambian political parties, including the ruling APRC, UDP, NRP and PDOIS during presentations at a day-long sensitization forum for political parties organized by the Female Lawyers Association of the Gambia (FLAG) and the Inter-party Committee.
The forum, on the theme: “Temporary special measures to ensure women’s political participation”, brought together political party leaders, as well as a cross section of civil society organizations.
Presenting for the ruling APRC party, Samba Gagigo – First Administrative Secretary of the party, underscored the role of women in the socio-economic development of the country, noting that the ruling APRC recognizes that no national development programme would be successful without the effective participation and full support of the country’s women.
Women, he said, are indispensable partners in Gambia’s development process. According to him, the APRC shall pursue its deliberate policy of empowering women by appointing qualified and capable women in positions of authority and decision making.
“The APRC after coming to power appointed the first female Vice President, female ministers; the first accountant general was a female, secretary general and head of civil service and many other permanent secretaries were appointed,” he said, adding that this clearly demonstrated that the APRC has put women in top positions of decision-making.
He stated that the party would continue to encourage women’s political participation to the highest level, and that special opportunities would be accorded to women in decision making positions
Presenting for the United Democratic Party, Dr. Borro Susso, chairman of the Policy Committee of the UDP, noted that since its inception, his party categorically expressed its belief in the equality of sexes in matters of rights and privileges of citizens.
“This was consigned in the constitution of the party as one of the beacons of our policy. The development of the party from formation up to the present time has been made with the full participation of our members. The UDP women’s policy contained in its policy document of which the party manifesto for the forthcoming elections form part of, addressees women’s rights in all sectors with due recognition of their potential role in the socio-economic development of the country,” Dr Susso stated.
Presenting further, Dr Susso explained that the UDP intends to diagnose discrimination against women in various sectors of the economy, and address the problems they are confronted with. He added that the UDP party has adopted a document as its policy with regard to women.
According to him, the UDP shall address the empowerment of women in the education sector. He said empowerment of women requires their transformation from cheering leaders to decision makers.
“The UDP shall ensure the increasing participation of women in the decision- making process at district, regional and national levels. Participation must be from the decision-making level right down to implementation. Access to political decision-making must be secured at both local and national levels,” he added.
Also presenting was Samba Baldeh, Administrative Secretary of the opposition National Reconciliation Party (NRP), who told the gathering that, as a political party, the NRP has adequately provided special measures to ensure women’s participation in politics and decision-making bodies.
This, he said, is clearly spelt out in the party’s manifesto, which they are working tirelessly towards achieving.
According to Baldeh, it is very clear to all that the role of Gambian women is wide- ranging, and very important to the socio-economic and political development of this country.
However, he noted that the NRP is of the view that there is still considerable room for improvement with regard to women’s empowerment in the country.
“There cannot be any meaningful development without the full participation of women in all aspects of development life,” the NRP administrative secretary opined.
He stated that as part of his party’s future policy, the NRP will seek to make it possible for Gambian women to obtain the highest possible education with training in their profession commensurate with their abilities.
Baldeh further stated that it is his party’s belief that behind every successful man, there is a strong woman. He noted that to comply with the legal obligation, NRP shall endeavor to put up as much candidates as possible in all coming elections.
Renown gender activist, Amie Sillah, who presented for the Peoples Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) said her party is of the view that a strategic vision is needed to guide the formulation of policies and programmes that are designed to enhance greater parity in representative institutions.
According to Amie Sillah, PDIOS’s aims is to establish a democracy which would finally lead the people to exercise full control over the affairs of their society; a democracy based on a non-parasitic and responsive system of representation.
She stated that PDOIS sees the need to transform the party into a school for nurturing the sovereign woman, who is matured and conscious of her rights.
In her view, PDOIS stands for gender parity in appointing the members of all oversight institutions such as the IEC, the office of Ombudsman and National Council for Civic Education. She concluded that the party also stands for gender parity in filling the posts of president and vice president, among others.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
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Fatou C Malang
Thursday, August 4, 2011
The endeavour gave a deeper meaning to her life and turned her into an internationally recognised community organiser. Nevertheless, the real wish of Margarita Barrientos is that there would be more need for soup kitchens for the hungry, like the one she founded in the capital of Argentina.
"This shouldn't have to exist," Barrientos told IPS at the Los Piletones soup kitchen, which she runs. "What there should be is decent work, so that every man and woman could go out and earn a living. But until that is possible, we'll have to keep this going."
The soup kitchen and the rest of the installations of the Margarita Barrientos Foundation are in Villa Soldati, a poor district in the south of Buenos Aires where the Los Piletones slum is located. The Foundation is reached by pitted, muddy dirt roads full of piles of garbage.
The 49-year-old Barrientos came to Buenos Aires alone when she was just 11 years old, from the northern province of Santiago del Estero where she was born into a Toba indigenous family. In the city she lived and worked on the streets and often went hungry. When she was 14 she met the man who is now her husband. They have 12 children – 10 biological sons and daughters and two children "of my heart," she says.
In 1996, in response to the hunger and dire poverty she saw around her, Barrientos starting distributing among her neighbours leftover bread and baked goods that a bakery donated to her husband along his daily route collecting cardboard and other waste products to sell for recycling.
Solidarity, not politics
Since she opened her soup kitchen, Margarita Barrientos has received 40 prizes and honours from the city, non-governmental organisations, and different churches, as an "exemplary citizen", "woman of the year", or "distinguished citizen."
Mauricio Macri, the centre-right mayor of Buenos Aires who was re-elected Sunday Jul. 31, invited her to run as a candidate for the national legislature in the October elections – a post she would stand a real chance of winning. But she was not tempted.
"I turned him down immediately," she says. "I never thought about going into politics. That's just not me. I believe in the people who help me with donations to keep this going, and they believe in me. If I were to accept a political position, I would be letting them down."
Barrientos only made it to third grade. Her husband is disabled – he lost one of his arms in an accident – one of their sons has a drug abuse problem, her family lives in Los Piletones, and she faces nearly all the same difficulties as the people she helps.
"You often feel discouraged. Living in the slum isn't easy. But with hard work and sacrifices, you can do anything in life," says Barrientos, who was named as one of the "women who change the world" by the Spanish NGO Mundo Cooperante.
Within a short time, she was cooking whatever she and her husband managed to scrounge up, for 15 people from the neighbourhood. But her budding project grew, and today 30 women work alongside her, providing cooked meals to 1,600 people a day, including 1,000 children, and offering other services as well.
The Buenos Aires and Argentine governments supply part of the food, and the rest is covered by private donations: of food, mattresses, clothing, blankets, furniture, computers, books, building materials and medicine.
"Los Piletones" serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but most of the guests don't eat there – they show up at the specified time and pick up pots or plastic bowls of food, which they take home to their families.
One woman standing in line with her four young children tells IPS that they are from Paraguay, and that her husband found a job and she was able to register their kids in school but that they do not yet have legal residency papers. She stays home to raise the kids, she says.
In the kitchen, three huge pots are steaming. A young woman stands on a high stool to stir the food with a large wooden paddle, using both hands. Other women are busy cutting up chicken, peeling potatoes, or mopping the floor.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census, 9.9 percent of Argentina's 40 million people live in poverty, and 2.5 percent in extreme poverty. But trade unions and other independent bodies say the poverty rate is at least twice that high.
Across the street from the soup kitchen are the Foundation's other installations: a health centre that offers dental services, medical checkups, and gynaecological and pediatric services, and a well-stocked pharmacy.
"People can pick up condoms here without asking," Barrientos says, pointing to a box in the waiting room. The nurse is a volunteer, and the doctors serve the Foundation through an agreement with two private universities.
There is also a pasta factory and a day care centre for children between the ages of seven months and five years. The nine teachers are paid by the city government, and the cook and cleaning woman are local volunteers.
Many of the children are raised by mothers on their own, some of whom work outside the home. "Women have the resiliency to handle things on our own," Barrientos says, laughing.
Next door is the library, computer room, and day centre and dining room for the elderly, which has a knitting corner and large TV set that is turned on but has no picture. "They cut off our cable service because we were behind on the bills, but now we're all caught up and I don't know why they haven't come to connect it again," she says, apologising to the people there.
Raúl Cabrera, 58, comes every day from González Catán, ten train stations away on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. "I've been coming for eight years. I have lunch and take dinner home with me," he tells IPS.
He has seven grown-up children, and takes advantage of his day trips to Villa Soldati to visit the ones who live in this neighbourhood. Cabrera, who lives alone, manages to earn a few coins fixing bicycles.
"Food is so expensive. One kilo of bread costs 12 pesos (three dollars) now, and a kilo of beef is 30 pesos (seven dollars)," Cabrera says. He worked in the construction industry and as a garbage picker collecting and selling cardboard. Now he has neither a job nor a pension.
Barrientos says the Universal Child Allowance (AUH) has done a great deal to improve conditions for poor families in the area.
The AUH is a monthly cash transfer from the government that covers children up to the age of 18 of unemployed parents and informal sector workers, rural workers and domestics with incomes below the minimum monthly wage. The allowance is around 55 dollars per child, up to a maximum of five children, and is conditional on school attendance and up-to-date vaccinations.
But Barrientos does not see cash transfers as an effective tool, in the long run. "Nearly all of the people who come to the soup kitchen receive the AUH and take food home, but if they get everything for free, they won't understand what it means to make sacrifices and they won't have incentives to work," she argues.
She says this despite the fact that her Foundation asks for nothing in exchange for the assistance and services it offers. "A pregnant 15-year-old, who already receives the AUH for herself – why would she think of working?" she comments.
But the 30 women who help Barrientos run the soup kitchen clearly know the value of hard work. Although they do not receive cash wages, they benefit broadly from the donations.
"Women are much more socially-oriented than men, who won't work if they aren't paid. Women like to take things on their shoulders and bring food home, and help their communities. These women are an example," she says, visibly moved.
One of the soup kitchen workers is Isabel Benítez, a 38-year-old widowed mother of four. When her husband was in the hospital and her family was barely surviving, her oldest daughter came here every day to pick up meals for the whole family.
"I didn't know Margarita, but my daughter brought home meals, blankets, mattresses. We didn't have anything, not even food. One day my daughter said 'mamá, there are women working there, why don't you go?' So I came," she tells IPS.
Benítez explained her situation to Barrientos, who told her: "Bring an apron tomorrow and you can start." She has been working in the soup kitchen for four years now, and says she receives "huge support."
"What I bring home is more than what I could earn, and I feel useful helping people who are worse off than me," she says. "We learn so much from Señora Margarita, who does the impossible to make sure no one leaves with empty hands."
The four armed robbers who gang raped her may be serving time for their crimes, but six years later justice has turned out to be a myth for Mildred Mapingure.
"No post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV was administered to me and there was no ‘morning-after pill’ to prevent pregnancy. I was tossed from office to office, meanwhile I was silently praying I was not pregnant," Mapingure told IPS from her rural home in Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe.
It is illegal to terminate a pregnancy in Zimbabwe unless the ‘pregnancy endangers the life of the mother and/or is a result of unlawful penetration (rape)’, according to the Termination of Pregnancy Act. And abortion is only allowed in the first trimester.
When Mapingure realised the inevitable had happened two months after being raped, prosecutors rushed the application for a termination of pregnancy order through the Chinhoyi regional magistrate’s court in Mashonaland West.
But long court delays resulted in the order being granted when she was eight months pregnant. Mapingure had no option but to give birth.
Four years later, and with the assistance of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), she has sued government for 52,000 dollars for wrongful birth and child maintenance.
"Until now, I am still waiting to hear the outcome of my case. And as my boy is growing up, his needs are also increasing. I am unemployed and not married but am still expected to provide for him. I haven’t paid this term’s school fees," said Mapingure.
She declined to discuss her feelings for her son at length, insisting she loved him despite the circumstances surrounding his conception.
But Mapingure’s case is not the only one of failed justice in this southern African country.
Director of ZWLA, Emilia Muchawa, told IPS that for anyone to access justice in Zimbabwe, resources and family support are paramount.
"In any jurisdiction, adequate finances are key for one to access court justice. In Zimbabwe, it is even more difficult for women to access justice because women neither have those resources nor do they have access to free legal aid. Courts are far-spaced making it worse for women seeking to get justice for whatever wrong they have suffered," she said.
She said the few brave women who have approached the courts for justice are hardly represented, while the men they seek justice against have legal representation because they can afford to hire lawyers.
"Court procedure and court language are a hindrance to women in Zimbabwe, the majority of whom are less educated than men. We have received reports of women who have been turned away at the entrance, before they have even lodged their cases, by mere court guards," Muchawa said.
Women are required to go to a magistrate’s court for maintenance order applications, the distribution of a deceased’s estate, custody and guardianship of minor children, and protection orders. Divorce and property distribution is done at the High Court
"After being turned away for simple things like court dress code (for wearing jeans, slacks, short dresses), most women never come back again. And because the courts are far removed from the general populace, bus fare becomes a hindrance," said Muchawa.
She said a woman’s family had to be supportive but, because of cultural beliefs and a conservative upbringing, most women face resistance when they seek justice through the courts.
In May a law officer in the Attorney General’s office, Wallen Chiwawa, accused his wife (whose name cannot be published because of a court order) of infidelity and physically tortured her.
However, ‘after a dialogue between their families’ she withdrew the charges.
"The case of Chiwawa’s wife is a good example of how women are pressurised by their families or communities to let culprits off the hook. Because of the docility of women, cultural pressures have presided over injustices they suffer mostly from these same families," said Muchawa.
Deputy Minister for Women’s Affairs Fungayi Jessie Majome, who is also a member of parliament and practicing lawyer, told IPS that court procedures and court officials who "carry patriarchal baggage remain a challenge for women who use courts to seek justice."
"Babies and children are not allowed in court. And most women who seek justice at the courts have suckling babies or toddlers whom they can’t leave alone," the deputy minister said.
She said she once represented a physically abused woman who ran away from her husband with her twin 10-month-old babies.
"She was not allowed in court with her babies as she sought a protection order. And this is just one woman who had me as a lawyer. What happens to the rest of the women like her?" asked Majome.
Besides that, women are required to pay administration fees to obtain protection orders in Zimbabwe. And in a country where, according to the World Bank, 96 percent of people are unemployed, this is difficult.
A protection order application form consists of 17 pages and an applicant is required to make four copies of it. The cost of photocopying that document and the additional five-dollar duty stamp ensures that legal protection for abused women remains a pie in sky, said Majome.
She said some court officials, including magistrates, are also a hindrance to women seeking justice.
"In early 2000 I handled two cases of a teenage girl and middle aged woman who had been raped and fell pregnant. The magistrates who heard the cases separately kept delaying granting (the) termination orders.
"The Termination of Pregnancy Act gives magistrates exclusive discretionary powers to order termination and I think sometimes these powers are abused to serve personal beliefs and convictions at the disadvantage of the affected women," she said.
But she said government plans are at an advanced stage to set up a family court that would be sensitive to women.
Director of women’s rights organisation Musasa Project, Netty Musanhu, said despite receiving training some court officials are gender insensitive.
"You will hear the presiding officer chastising a woman during a (domestic violence) trial (saying) ‘I have no time for tears.’ That alone can ensure women don’t come to court seeking justice," said Musanhu.
Research conducted by Women and Law Southern Africa (WLSA), an organisation dealing with human rights, showed that women are frustrated by financial, geographical, cultural and social factors in using the higher echelons of the courts.
"Problems emanate from the structure and nature of (the court) system in its form. Maintenance matters, domestic violence and administration and distribution of deceased estates remain the major points where women seek justice," said WLSA national coordinator Slyvia Chirawu.
source: ips news
Dr. Isatou Touray, Executive Director of Gamcotrap, yesterday told the court that Gamcotrap’s agreement with Yalocamba Solidaridad of Spain was to sensitise women circumcisers to abandon the practice of FGM and to protect the girl-child.
Dr Touray was continuing his defence testimony in the trial involving her and Amie Bojang-Sisoho, program co-ordinator of Gamcotrap, at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court before acting-Principal Magistrate Alagba.
The two women’s rights activists were alleged to have, in 2009 in Banjul and diverse places in The Gambia, jointly stole 30,000 Euros being money provided by the YALOCAMBA SOLIDARIDAD of Spain to Gamcotrap.
Continuing her testimony, Dr.Touray told the court that she and her team used the same Gamcotrap computers to prepared ID “A”.
She said that exhibit B was the document that was submitted by Suci from YOLOCAMB SOLIDARIDAD in Spain.
“Gamcotrap had the record of Suci’s visit to The Gambia. This was when the Yolocamba Solidaridad team visited The Gambia from January 29 to 6 February 2009,” Dr Touray added.
She said exhibit B9 was a binding document between Gamcotrap and Yolocamba Solidaridad, adding that after it was prepared they shared among the staff and a copy was given to Suci.
At that juncture, defence counsel Amie A.A. Bensounda applied to tender the document in evidence, which was admitted as exhibit B10.
She said the second document was the appraisal report, when they visited Gamcotrap project sites together with Suci at the villages of Brikama-Ba and Koina.
Dr Touray said Gamcotrap prepared this appraisal report in February 2009, when they came from visiting their project sites, and the said appraisal report was also tendered in evidence as an exhibit.
She said the other documents were the minutes of their meetings with Suci, adding that there was no agreement between Gamcotrap and Yolocamba about micro finance.
“It’s even reflected on our activities that micro finance was not part of the project agreement,” she continued.
“Gamcotrap had agreement with Yolocamba to sensitise women circumcisers in the community in order for them to abandon the practice of FGM and protect the girl-child,” Dr. Touray told the court.
The case at that juncture was adjourned till 9th August 2011.
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.