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What has Road Network got to do with Women’s Rights?

Rural Women’s Day: What has Road Network got to do with Women’s Rights?

Traveling to one of the remote areas of the Gambia, Wuli East with a GAMCOTRAP team to undertake training supported by UNFPA, turn out to be a journey of reflection. In an attempt to get on the best available road we drove from Basse to Fatoto Ferry crossing just to realize that the ferry has not been in service for a month; the hand pulled ferry was stocked in the middle of the river. We drove back for another 45 minutes to cross from Basse to Wuli. We arrived just in time for the ferry to quickly cross over to the other side of the river bank. A two hours journey started to go to Briffu in Wuli East.

The sun was very hot and unbearable, but there is no option. There are few trees to provide shade even though it was the beginning of October and the rains have contributed to the green environment. The grass is green, but the maize is turning brown, drying up in preparation to be harvested. Then I though how are these farmers going to transport their produce to market points like Basse, the commercial centre of the Upper River Region. After working hard under heavy rains, frightening lightening and thunder storm, if they had good roads they don’t even have to travel to the market, entrepreneurs will come for it. The driver will not hesitate because of the hidden cost to maintain their vehicles, the chain of empowerment will be stronger and can contribute to the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger. This is the Goal 1 aim of the MDGs.

After an hour’s drive and the team got half way through to its journey, a sad scene emerged. A young boy about 8 years old stopped the donkey cart he was riding. On the carts lies a woman and an old woman sat in front of her and covered her stomach from public view. As our vehicle drove slowly pass them, it could be notice that the woman was in pain. One of our friends in the vehicle recognized the old woman because he comes from the same village, Sutukoba. The woman was being taken to the nearest health Centre in Baja Kunda, miles away. This struck me to ask, what has road networks got to do with women’s rights?

I thought indeed it has everything to do with women’s rights. Good road network will facilitate quicker and timely access to referral centres for proper health care delivery. Delay in accessing health care service can affect reproductive health rights of women, it will affect safe delivery, prolonged bleeding that can lead to other complications and possibly death. Poor road conditions can complicate delivery; just imaging a pregnant woman in labour on a donkey cart being shaken from left to right front and back for at least an hour or more before she can get help. Such a situation is not contributing to the reduction of Child mortality nor improved maternal health as specified in MDG Goals 4 and 5.

I began to question are we all guilty? Those in authority are guilty for not providing good road networks in rural areas. Even where the funds are not available to construct the ideal roads, the minimum that can be done is to take a tractor or any other facility to level the road. What are the Area Councils doing with the tax payer’s money? Oh they would not see the need for it because they do not travel there often to know, see or understand the condition of the road.

I am concern because I traveled on this very road in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009 and again in 2011 but every time I returned I only complained to myself that the road has still not been fixed. How can one belief in the empowerment of women yet very little or nothing is being done about this poor road condition? As an advocate of women’s empowerment and to fulfill the calling of my profession I thought the only thing I can do is to inform those in position of power and authority through this article that we all owe it to women’s right to health and economic empowerment to construct the minimum standard of road networks in rural Gambia. As we celebrate World Rural Women Day, let us remember the linkage between road networks and the women’s Right to health, economic empowerment thus contribute to Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals - Promote gender Equality and Empower Women.

Amie Bojang-Sissoho
Programme Coordinator, IEC
19th October 2011



Breese's picture

Amie - you are absolutely

Amie - you are absolutely right to bring up this important issue. Roads, and other forms of transportation and infrasctructure, are a key determinant of whether people have access to health services, education, markets, and many other important assets. Poor infrastructure is a key obstacle to poverty alleviation and community development in many places. Thank you for sharing your powerful insight into this issue!

amiesissoho's picture

The indirect link

Breese thanks for reading. It is always important to think about the indirect hindrance and obstacles to development.


MaDube's picture

Wow. You put it in such a way

Wow. You put it in such a way that no one can argue with. Sometimes politicians think achieving millenium development goals requires fancy expensive policies yet here you are showing that all it takes is builing a road. Thank you sisi

amiesissoho's picture

Gentle Reminders

We can keep sending gentle reminders about our responsibilities. Policies must translate to practices. Cheers!


usha kc's picture

Dear Amie,, thank you

Dear Amie,, thank you writting this post . I tatally with your views that basic infrastructture play the vital role.


amiesissoho's picture


Hi Usha,

Infrastructure is indeed key to many development issues.



Dear Amie Bojang-Sissoho,
It is completely right that roads have a connection to women's right and thank you for pointing it out.
However, in some places even if the politicians or the people, who get the taxes and fund see problems like these with their own two eyes, they do not do anything. Even if they have the knowledge how people in rural areas live, they do not want to think about it. If they do not know about the condition different people live in, they do not have the right to be leader or get taxes or funds. Here it is that they think only about themselves and fill their own pockets rather than doing anything which can benefit all even her/him. They do not because they can get more benefit by keeping close their eyes and ears. There are laws for limiting women and forcing them to do things that are "suitable for female", but why there isn't any law for politicians and leaders to be sensual and limited for their own desire. There are voices coming from every part of the world, but there is no one to hear. Even if there are people who can hear, they cannot do anything or might not want to do anything. It is very shameful for "those people" to do so and keep themselves away from humanity.
Thank you so much for what you have written. I loved your article.
Rabia Baig Salihi


amiesissoho's picture

Breaking the silence

Dear Rabia,

Thanks for reading and responding to the article. Ignoring realities have been the norm for so long that it seems acceptable. But we all have conscience and need to think and act within our limits.



Sahro's picture

Important topic

Its a very interesting topic. I never thought about it that much- the link between the two. Enlightening article.

Keep up the good work.

WorldPulse Community Advisory Board Member
Globcal Ambassador at:

amiesissoho's picture


Thanks Sahro. That is what Pulsewire does, keeps you reflecting.


Stella Paul's picture


Dear Amie, the location of this story could be anywhere in the developing country and the validity of your argument would be just as strong and relevant. In remote (rural/mountain) India, hundreds of women don't go to the hospital for delivery because they simply don't have the means. Sometimes, even though the delivery takes place in an urban center, they still lose their baby. Because, post delivery, they develop health complications and due to lack of transport the situation goes beyond control. I therefore totally endorse your opinion!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

amiesissoho's picture

Thanks for the endorsement

Dear Stella,

The universality of the conditions of women is the very reason for global efforts to combat them. Those in position of power and authority own it to women beyond the rhetoric. Thanks for the endorsement.


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