The vice president and Women’s Affairs minister has reaffirmed government’s relentless will and political commitment to ending of all forms of violence against women and girls. Her Excellency Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy was speaking at the launching of the 2016 United Nations Population Fund’s State of World Population report, yesterday at Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.
She said this action has been optimised in the enactment of the Women’s Act 2010 and the ratification of the Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The State of World Population report is part of a global campaign to draw support for the newly adopted United Nations 2010 Agenda for Sustainable Development that aims for equitable development that leaves no one behind. The report was launched on the theme: 10: How our future depends on a girl at this decisive age.
VP Njie-Saidy said a girl arrives at a critical-cum-vulnerable point in her life at 10, where she must negotiate a tricky transition to being an adult. She said this stage in the girl child’s life is accompanied with rapid changes in body and mind and dramatic shifts in family and social expectations. “Although risk abounds for girls and boys, gender discrimination makes these worse for girls in almost every day and every way,” she said.
Quoting Patrick 2007, the vice president said girls are at risk of violence virtually everywhere; in the home, walking to collect water or firewood, travelling to school or the market and even in classrooms.
She said a 2013 World Health Organisation report has shown that globally, one in three girls will experience violence in their lifetime and many will experience it during adolescence. “Violence towards 10-year-old girls is also exposed through harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation or cutting as well as gender-based violence, coerced sex and psychological abuse including bullying and harassment.”
According to her, the report clearly indicate that forced marriage, child labour, female genital mutilation and other practices undermine girls’ health, rights and threatens the world’s ambitious development agenda.
VP Njie-Saidy further maintained that the range of proven policy options available to governments has grown over the past decade with the banning of harmful practices such as child marriage and providing cash transfers to parents of girls in poor households to help defray costs of schooling, thereby keeping girls in school longer.
In The Gambia, society patriarchal system, she went on, male hegemony and other social-cultural factors influence the interactions of the genders and social groups. “These inequalities have resulted in some cases, the exclusion of women, girls, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups from actively participating in certain sectors and at certain levels of the development process of the country,” she added.
She said domestic violence continues to be a problem in The Gambia despite the ongoing efforts undertaken by the government and civil society organisations. These challenges, she added include a culture where survivors suffer in silence, constrained factors such as fear of reprisals, unequal power relations, stigma, discrimination and undue pressure from family and friends; especially if the perpetrator is from the family. “Only 85% of abused women sought help to stop the violence. 41% of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence at least once since age 15.”
She said Gambia has registered an impressive increase on the girls’ enrolment and completion rates at the lower basic level between 2012 and 2015, thanks to President Jammeh’s Empowerment of Girls Education Project (PEGEP) that provides scholarship for girls in various levels of academic endeavours and many other government education programmes.
At the upper basic level, she went on boys registered a completion rate of 66% in 2015 compared to 63.5% registered by girls. “A similar trend has been observed at senior secondary level with boys registering a completion rate of 36.3% compared to 33.5% for female.”
The VP told the gathering that given the importance of health and education to the socio-economic development of women and girls, Gambia government committed a significant amount of the national budget to the social sector, separate from the contributions of development partners. This, she said has resulted in marked improvement in education and health infrastructure development, quality service delivery and accessibility to the existing network of health facilities countrywide.
She said the government will strive to step-up for the 10-year-old girl, bearing in mind that if “we fail her; we do so at our own peril, squandering a powerful triple dividend from investing in the potential of all 10-year-olds, as children, as future adults and as parents of the next generation.”
The vice president then commended the UN family and all other development partners working in the area of population and development, for their support in addressing population and development issues.
by Amadou Jallow