Have Confidence in Women
Thursday, February 14, 2008
It was Kofi Anan, then UN Secretary General, that posited that "no other policy can raise economic productivity, reduce child and maternal mortality, prevent HIV/AIDS and increase the chances of education for the next generation like the empowerment of women".
We in The Gambia have absolutely no reason to doubt the ability of women, do we? Since the beginning of the second republic, there has been a major turn in the prospect and level of contribution of the women folk in national development, in terms of the role they play at the lower level as well as the limited but key positions they occupy at the decision making level, from the Executive down to the Judiciary and legislature. All this is thanks to the mamouth steps towards their empowerment. Let's first try to put the above statement of the former UN Boss into perspective.
Here in the developing world, women occupy quite a dominant role in the productive sector of the economy, although the routine is that the significance of the role they play remains under constant ploy of tainting.
Women are not only behind the production of the basic needs of families, but also, being entrusted with the life of children from conception to birth, the chance of a child growing to maturity rest almost entirely on the know-how of the mother.
Vulnerability and risk of HIV/AIDS infection is greatest with women than it is with their male counterparts - for instance, mother-to-child transmission stands as a lifelong threat to a whole generation. And also, as the child tends to spend more time with the mother than any other single individual, the mother's health as well as her attitude towards the child's education has the greatest bearing on the latter's well being.
Therefore, empowering women means equipping them with the means to circumventing all problems associated with the above.
One very important way of empowering women is politically.
This way they are given the opportunity to be part of the decision making institutions, which in fact takes various political dimensions. It follows that appropriate decisions are taken only if those that it affect are involved.
As it is in the report on Capacity Assessment of Women in Decision Making Positions: "Women's under representation in politics" ought to be addressed "because there is a strong correlation between under representation of women and poverty''. And the problems of poverty are closely linked to all the issues of HIV/AIDS, education, child up-bringing, so on and so forth.
If, as has been established by a host of other scientific reports, women are the poorest of the poor, then increasing their representation in decision making will drastically uplift their status. This will serve as one of the interventions to give them voice so that they articulate on issues that affect them, which, by extension, affect the rest of the society.
It is indeed beyond emphasis that the Gambia government stands out in the global efforts to promoting the cause of women, although there is a greater room for improvement.
The appointment of a woman Vice President, in fact the first & longest serving woman Vice President in Africa, is a manifestation of how committed the government of the Gambia is. And most of the key positions occupied by women are as a result of a deliberate move by the government to break the social barrier that continue to cast doubt on the ability of the so-called 'weaker sex'.
This move only need replication down the chain to have more women at managerial levels rather than them remaining as mere support tools for their male counterparts.