Gambia’s vice president and Women’s Affairs minister has reaffirmed government’s unrelenting devotion to upholding social protection programmes in the country, saying it has always been the government’s policy priority.
In the last decades, she said, The Gambia has made significant progress towards reducing poverty and advancing the Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2063, particularly with regard to food security, basic education, health and child protection and women empowerment.
In her keynote address at a local hotel in Kololi during the fifth National Social Protection Forum and launching of the Child Protection Strategic Plan yesterday, Her Excellency the Vice president Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy said the social protection policy document will, without any doubt, further strengthen the coordination and implementation of national agenda.
Organised on the theme: From Planning to Implementation, the main goal of the fifth Social Protection Forum on social protection in The Gambia, the event is to provide a platform for policy makers, civic society, researchers and development partners to change knowledge, ideas and experience implementation effectively, integrated and inclusive social protection systems in The Gambia.
Vice President Njie-Saidy revealed that in The Gambia, like many other countries worldwide, implementation of an integrated and inclusive social protection system to reduce poverty and vulnerability, diminishing peoples’ exposure to risks and enhancing their capacity to manage economic and social risks has started.
She said those priorities were first spearheaded by the First Family with the introduction of Operation Save the Children Foundation, spearheaded by the First Lady. She said in addition to providing social protection, the Foundation equally support school meal interventions for disabled children.
“We also have the Jammeh Foundation for Peace programme activities in the areas of agriculture, education, health, women empowerment and youth empowerment. We also have the government’s Vision 2016 programme, which was the brainchild of His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, Babili Mansa. Vision 2016 support farmers through mechanisation for the improvement of production and productivity, thereby fighting against poverty and promoting food self-sufficiency,” she said.
“An example is school meals; the largest social protection safety net intervention, targeting over 100,000 children in over 350 schools countrywide with an annual budget of over US$2 million per annum. I would like to urge all development and state partners to align their programmes of intervention with this policy and Strategic Plan of Action for Child Protection for effective implementation.”
She said there is an urgent need to build and upgrade capacity in the government ministries responsible for social protection and their partners for effective implementation of the policy, saying The Gambia promotes South-South cooperation and knowledge sharing. “The Gambia is eager to learn social protection experiences from the developing world,” she said.
In his launching statement, Ebrima Njie, the deputy minister of Works said the main objective of the policy is to facilitate national social protection policy, saying government recognises the need for the adoption of a system approach for child protection.
The five-year protection plan, he said, seeks to develop human capacity, create the necessary acknowledgement and promote social protection and programmes.
Nadia Goodman, a representative from the World Food Programme Center for Excellence against Hunger said her office is helping in collaboration with many countries mostly in Africa and Asia to act as a hope for experience sharing with governments based on their agreement. “As we share the zero hunger approach, we work with different countries connected to local agriculture and share with them, Brazil’s experience with sharing political commitment which we allocate more on the school feeding programme.”
Goodman said between 16th to 18th November this year, WFP will organise a social protection forum in South Africa that is related to food and security among others, saying this year they have launched series of programmes with expectations to strengthen global partnership. “We are determined to bring innovative solutions to national development and since 2013 we have been supporting The Gambia in the social protection and school feeding programmes.”
Madam Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, the United Nations resident coordinator in The Gambia said the main focus of the forum is to provide the platform for an inclusive social protection system for The Gambia, saying social protection is a set of interventions that aims to reduce vulnerability.
She said through the program, government and its partners would be able to mitigate at times of economic adjustment.
by Amadou Jallow