Source: FOROYAA Newspaper
An Action Aid-EC Funded project for promoting women's access to socio-economic rights and economic empowerment in Niamina West, Niamina East and Niamina Dankunku in the Central River Region has been launched on Wednesday, 2nd April, ,2014 at Jareng Village.

Action Aid International The Gambia (AAITG), in partnership with the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia (FLAG) and the National Women's Farmers Association (NAWFA), have signed a project agreement with the European Commission to the tune of €492,599.78 (approximately 25 million nine hundred and sixty thousand dalasi) and that the overall objective of the project is to contribute to gender equity in the Gambia, by promoting women's access to socio-economic rights and economic empowerment in the three districts in Niamina.

In his statement, Mr. Omar Badjie, the Executive Director of Action Aid, said the launching ceremony marks the beginning of a very important and strategic relationship between his institution and the EU in The Gambia and will also further strengthen the relationship between Action Aid and the two implementing partners, i.e. NaWFA and FLAG.

Mr. Badjie said the project being launched is called Promoting Women's Socio-Economic Rights in the three Niaminas. He said it is worth mentioning that women's contribution to the socio-economic development of any nation is seriously hampered due to their limited access to the resources they need for their full engagement in the production system.

He noted that a study carried out by Action Aid two years ago revealed that women, particularly those in the rural area, have low literacy levels and poor access to productive resources which resulted in making them less productive and heavily dependent on the men for their basic needs.

This dependence, said Mr. Badjie, has made them vulnerable to various forms of abuse and violations of their rights and that it is in light of the above that this project being launched was conceived.

The Action Aid Executive Director told the gathering that his institution is highly committed to the advancement of women as their fourth Country Strategy Paper (CSP I V; 2013-2017) puts a lot of focus on women's rights advancement in the areas supporting women to access and own land, the fight on violence against women and girls and the promotion of sustainable and climate resilience agriculture and economic alternatives for women. He stressed that Economic Empowerment for women is very key for them and that he has no doubt whatsoever in his mind that this project will contribute directly to the strategic objectives of CSP IV which in a nutshell is about empowering women to enable them take their rightful positions in society and contribute in a significant way to a fair share of national development.

Mme Agnes Guillaud , the EU Charge D'Affaires, for her part, said the funding for this project comes from the EU's thematic programme "Non State Actors (NSAs) and Local Authorities (LAs) in Development". She said following an open call for proposals in the Gambia on "Promoting Gender Equality through Political, Social and Economic Rights for Women", nine (9) proposals were received and assessed by the EU Delegation and that the subsequent evaluation in October last year established that the proposal from Action Aid was the most relevant and well-designed of those received.

She said the EU then signed a contract with Action Aid in December last year contributing 19million dalasi towards the implementation of the activities to be run by Action Aid in conjunction with their local partners, NaWFA and FLAG.

The EU Charge D'Affaires said the three year project is intended to target 122 smallholder farmer women's groups who are actively engaged in the agriculture sector, adding that each group is made up of around 30 women making the direct project beneficiary population around 3,660 women with a possible knock on impact through the transfer of knowledge and indirect involvement of up to l 0,000 people.

Mme Guillaud said providing women with secure rights to land and access to production resources will without doubt play a critical and significant role in enhancing their self-reliance and self-confidence for more effective and meaningful participation in decisions that affect their lives.

She said increased productivity for women smallholder farmers is a pre-requisite for self-sufficiency in food in this country.

She pointed out that the project aims to address factors hindering women in The Gambia from accessing and controlling economic resources more specifically, access to credit, land through building the capacity of women's groups and networks to advocate for their social and economic rights, and helping them to access justice in relation to their rights.

The EU Charge D'Affaires said once women have better access to land, they will be in a more favourable position to make decisions on how to use the land and feed themselves and their families and that apart from rural smallholder women farmers and groups, the project will also engage traditional and national leaders, media houses, civil society organisations, micro-finance institutions and relevant government ministries and departments.

The next round of EU Development assistance to the country, she disclosed, is planned to target Agriculture for growth and food security as a principal objective. She added that specific attention will be given to the role of women in the agricultural value chain as well as the establishment of a better understanding and monitoring of food security and nutrition situation.

Alhagi Ngangie Touray, the Governor of CRR, said the government is committed to the socioeconomic development of its people and has already created the enabling environment for that to happen and that this project will significantly complement government's efforts in developing the region in general. Governor Touray said socio-economic rights are a vital aspect of the human rights agenda for women and that denying them access to land and other economic resources mean violation of their rights.

He said the bulk of women dwelling in rural area are engaged in agricultural production and they constitute the main food producers and carry out other activities such as processing and marketing of fish, vegetables, selling crafts in the tourism industry and other informal sector activities and which makes them to be key players in the economy.

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