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Working Towards PAGE Backwards

“Working Towards PAGE Backwards”

The goals of the Government’s Gender Policy are “to eliminate all forms of inequality between women and men and to create an enabling environment for the promotion of women’s participation in all spheres of life.”(source:http:// www.statehouse.gm/women1.htm).

With the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE), the Gambian government’s stated goal is to accelerate the implementation of the government’s commitments to development.

However, there is need for the Department of State for Communication and Information Technology -DOCIT to orientate its line institutions such as the national broadcaster, Gambia Radio and Television Services to synchronize its practices with the government policies, especially the unequal access to the national media. It is contradictory for the policies to be calling for the empowerment of women, while public personalities use the national media to say things that will impede the implementation of the policies without giving similar access to women to share their part of the discourse.

PAGE launched in December 2011 is being used by government officials to advocate for effective implementation of the development agenda of the government. Various important issues have been recognized in the document. These include social protection, child protection, disability, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

It could be recalled that the Gambia has ratified several international conventions, regional protocols and has made attempts to incorporate them into national laws such as the Children’s Act 2005 and the Women’s Act 2010 to promote gender equality and empowerment.

It is common for government institutions to set up task forces or advisory bodies to facilitate the implementation of government policies especially ones dealing with social change. Such committees are usually dominated by men who do not believe in gender equality and equal gender representation in the public sphere. Patriarchs against gender equality and gender justice have infiltrated many of such committees and task forces that are supposed to facilitate the implementation of national plans. An example of the resistance created by some patriarchs concerns the issue of Female Genital Mutilation –FGM.

The Imam of State House Mosque is against NGOs working on the campaign to stop FGM, to promote Family Planning and to advance many other issues being addressed to complement the government’s efforts in the implementation of its Policies and laws protecting the rights and wellbeing of women. His misogynic sermons are also broadcast over the national radio and television services, contradicting the policies of the government, yet he sits on the committee on Violence Against Women under the Women’s Bureau. Such contradictions need to be addressed, because they slow down progress but cannot inhibit it. Despite all the resistance to the campaign against FGM, the masses have been responding positively to the campaign to protect girls from FGM as illustrated by the public declarations in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

The government attributes achievements in gender equality to the efforts of women’s rights organizations, especially in the campaign to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation, in its own document on the Situation of Gambian Women published in the State House website. Yet, Women’s rights activists working in this area are denied equal access to the national radio and television as provided to the Imam of State House.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Women’s Bureau have to double up their efforts in the protection of vulnerable girls who cannot speak for themselves to say no to FGM. The context has already been set. The Gambia government in 2006 ratified Article 5 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa which calls for legislative measures. Communities are dropping the knife and calling for a law against FGM. What is now needed is to accelerate the process of protection of girls against FGM. Government should respond with a specific law against FGM as has been done with early and forced marriages laws.

To accelerate the gains, it is recommended that the government scrutinizes its own institutions and partners who are brought in to address women’s issues. The national broadcaster should be aware of what government policies are to promote them through dissemination of information, education and enlightenment of the populace so that the country will not be working ‘towards PAGE backwards’.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Comments

Stella Paul's picture

Best wishes

Dear Amie

I really appreciate your bringing up the issue of FGM again and again - it shows your dedication to abolition of a very inhuman practice. I am saddened to know that religious leaders are in favor of FGM. It must be making NGOs' jobs much more difficult. Advocating for media activism to end the practice is a good suggestion. I wish the govt policy a success.

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

amiesissoho's picture

It the religious leaders with

It the religious leaders with access to the state media who are against the campaign and women's empowerment in general. The local newspapers and community radios after going through training and understanding the issues have been very supportive in the campaign. We need the political will to take the advocacy to another level of legal protection.Thank you Stella for taking time to read the article.

Amie

usha kc's picture

FGM- only hearing the word

FGM- only hearing the word makes me so cry,, it's extreamly crule practice It must be stopped to make our girls free of pain, free of cultural violence.

thank you Amie you spoke up against it.

amiesissoho's picture

Dear Usha, I am victim and I

Dear Usha, I am victim and I had the opportunity to be empowered to stand up against it in my community, so it is a duty to empower others to protect the next generation. However, the government and policy makers in particular need to take responsibility to create the protective environment for girl against the practice.

Amie

Monica Clarke's picture

Dear Amie

Dear Amie

Your speaking out against FGM is very, very powerful. The passion of your message comes through again and again, and I admire, particularly, your braveness in not being phased by religious leaders to whom we often shut up even if we know they are ignorantly blocking our path to an end to suffering and progress. I admire you for speaking up once again.

I also would like to say to you that your being prepared to stick your neck out, shout your voice loud and have your face there for all to see is very brave. You are giving to all of us in your community, remote and especially near to you, the power to do the same. When brave others in the community speak out against taboo's it gives everyone listening the courage to speak as well. You are indeed a broadcaster for good!

With lots of loving and hugging from Monica in France

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

amiesissoho's picture

Dear Monica, It is the

Dear Monica,

It is the encouragement from people like you that what we stand for can benefit others, and that keeps up our spirit to continue. One extra life protected is worth a life time of fighting a cause. Thank you so much.

Amie

Celine's picture

Dear Amie, It is unfortunate

Dear Amie,
It is unfortunate that the people put to head the task forces are not passionate about the issues, especially eliminating the FGM practice. which they are meant to address and enforce implementation-- instead they work against the progress of the policy. What a frustration to the NGOs. One question that comes to mind is: what is the government's criteria for selecting heads of the task force? Your suggestion of media activism might help.

Best in your work.
Celine

amiesissoho's picture

Thanks Celine for

Thanks Celine for understanding the challenges NGOs working on FGM and the promotion of women's sexual and reproductive health rights are faced with. The task force members are usually identified by the institutions responsible for the coordination of such activities.

Activists engage the media to be aware of the government commitments and policies to be able to engage the public more effectively. However remember that the media is equally influence by the society and thus it takes training and awareness amongst reporters, editors and owners to have concerted efforts to bring about mass awareness. Hardly do the government institutions engage the media to educate journalist about government policies and to promote them.

Regards,

Amie

ikirimat's picture

Again you bring out the

Again you bring out the plight of women and girls so clearly. Indeed governments need to do more. Women constitute more than half of the population , a reason for urgent attention.

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."


amiesissoho's picture

Thanks for taking time to

Thanks for taking time to read it. We must engage our governments to take the commitments on Women's issues in particular with more actions.

Amie

Lehner's picture

Wonderful article!

Dear Amie,

You are holding your government to task in really following through on their commitment to gender equality. I found your article very interesting and certainly you made a compelling case for getting more women's voices out there.

Congratulations!

Monica Lehner

amiesissoho's picture

The challenge in dealing with

The challenge in dealing with issues affecting women in my country is how men believe that they have god-given right to direct the lives of women even if the women are in a better position to decide. Most hide behind the name of religion and culture to silence women. We have to continue to remind them that women are equal citizens and if they have the ability and the expertize, their opinion should be respected. I hope the article would bring attention to the issues of policy and practice in addressing development issues.Thank you Monica for taking time to read the article.

Amie

mrbeckbeck's picture

Equal airtime

Amie,
What a wonderful op-ed! I'm impressed at how you call the government to task, and demand equal airtime with an Imam who does not respect or understand women's issues. I think that your government is making progress by having laws and policies on the books, but the next step, like you say, is integrating that across all sectors. Great leadership here, and great vision for a better future!

Well done!
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Manager

This is a little way continue to call people and institutions for the recognition of women's concerns as national issues affecting citizens and the need to address them with justice. Scott thanks for taking time to read and comment on it.

Amie

Greengirl's picture

Thank you

I am so glad that you've just re-echoed the need for people to first be the change they aspire to bring about. Round pegs must be in round holes!

amiesissoho's picture

Thanks for the comment my

Thanks for the comment my Sister, at time i find it difficult to understand how some people just can't see the injustice around them. We shall continue to increase the volume on our voices until we are heard.

Amie

Ellie's picture

Fearless

Dear Amie,

The issues you bring up are very important and dear to you - thank you for your courage to speak up so fearlessly! Your call for action is strong and well-thought. As an op-ed piece, you shouldn't be afraid to make your voice and take on the situation even more prominent. Well done. And I bow to you for feeling empowered and embracing it as your duty to empower other women to protect themselves and the next generations!

Ellie

amiesissoho's picture

Dear Ellie, I am humbled by

Dear Ellie,

I am humbled by your comments. We fear when our inner feelings tell us we are wrong. I am glad that one of the local papers published it both in its hard copy circulation and online (www.dailynews.gm) It think it shows the desire for people to share their views, women in particular.

Thank you,

Amie

Ellie's picture

Congratulations!

Congratulations for getting your op-ed published, Amie! That's amazing!
Ellie

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