Source: The Point
TANGO the association of non-governmental organizations in The Gambia is holding another policy dialogue, this time "on the particular issue of women's access to productive resources: knowledge, skills, land, credit, production, storage and market facilities".

It will be held on Thursday at the TANGO conference hall in celebration of International Women's Day 2014. The event is supported by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).

International Women's Day 2014 has as its theme: Inspiring Change.

The theme seeks to encourage advocacy for women's advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women's equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.

The theme comes against the background that while women's equality has made positive gains but the world, including The Gambia is still unequal.

Thus International Women's Day celebrates the social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action.

In a press release announcing the convening of the policy dialogue, TANGO noted that in its analysis of gender equality and women's empowerment, the Gambia government's programme for accelerated growth and employment, PAGE, "highlighted the gains that The Gambia has registered in this area in terms of the legal and policy environment".

"Among these achievements include the creation of the national women's council and women's bureau in 1980; ratification of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) in 1992; the establishment of the ministry of Women's Affairs in 1996."

PAGE, the release continued, also mentioned a series of policies, laws, structures and strategies geared towards promoting women's rights, their welfare, protection and advancement.

Among these are the national policy for the advancement of Gambian women (NPAGW 1999-2009), the national gender and women empowerment policy 2010-2020, and the gender mainstreaming and women empowerment strategic plan (2010-2015).

Furthermore, the women's Act was enacted in 2010, and the same year witnessed the creation of the federation of Gambian women. Then there followed the enactment of the domestic violence Act 2013.

Meanwhile, the country had earlier ratified the African charter on human and peoples' rights on the right of women, commonly known as the Maputo protocol.

The Gambia has also ratified the UN convention of the rights of the child, which has been domesticated into the children's Act 2005, as well as the African charter on the rights and welfare of the child.

"These policy, legal and institutional developments clearly indicate a high level of political commitment, and a conducive legal and policy environment," according to the release.

"This is further strengthened by the fact that The Gambia has the longest-serving female vice president, while at the same time the country boasts of an unprecedented number of female cabinet ministers and managers in strategic public institutions.

Thus in the formal setting, there is all the indication that the situation of women and girls is poised to improve," the TANGO's press release added.

"TANGO, however, notes that in many instances there is a wide gap between policy and Practice," the release further declared.

"For example, despite these legal, policy and institutional gains in support of the empowerment of women and gender mainstreaming, PAGE notes with concern that, 'gender disparities in The Gambia are still significant, and the resulting constraints in education, health, income, voice and legal rights prevent women from participating effectively in national development'."

"'The main barriers that prevent gender mainstreaming and women's empowerment in The Gambia are as follows: Data is not adequately gender-disaggregated. This prevents development planners from addressing gender issues adequately in sector plans; lack of formal professional education of the majority of women; women's access to land, capital and to market opportunities is limited; women suffer from violence, particularly domestic violence and sexual abuse; and, women with disability face multiple disadvantages."

TANGO in the press release added: "Essentially, what the national development blueprint is alluding to is the fact that the vast majority of Gambia's women and girls are not enjoying the fruits of these legal and policy structures. Thus majority of them remain powerless, voiceless and poor.

"For example, in terms of power and decision-making, the Gambia falls far short of international standards. Of the 53 elected and nominated members of the National Assembly women constitute 7.5 per cent - with only 4.2 per cent being elected and 40 per cent nominated.

"In the local councils, women constitute 13.2 per cent of the 114 elected councillors, while the positions for governors, mayors, chiefs and alkalolu are overwhelmingly male-dominated, except for deputy governors, where there exists only one woman.

"In the light of the foregoing, it is therefore an interesting observation that women continue to remain at the bottom rungs of the poverty ladder amidst a situation of voicelessness and powerlessness."

"It is in recognition of this situation that TANGO with support from the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) will convene a policy dialogue on the particular issue of women's access to productive resources: knowledge, skills, land, credit, production, storage and market facilities."

The release further stated that, "in the context of The Gambia, TANGO has observed that the issue of women's socio-economic development, particularly in terms of access to productive resources requires urgent attention in order to genuinely and sustainably transform the conditions of women in all spheres of life.

"Majority of NGOs in The Gambia are already involved in addressing this challenge through the provision of goods and services in the health, education and agriculture sectors as well as providing various forms of materials and equipment for community development initiatives.

"Hundreds of women farmers and young women have been trained on modern farming methods, appropriate technology, and income generation activities among other self-employment and empowerment opportunities around the country.

"However, until the vast majority of women have access to productive resources the incidence of poverty, violence, powerlessness and voicelessness shall continue to characterize the lot of the womenfolk who constitute more than half the national population.

"For this reason, TANGO seeks to build the capacity of NGOs to enable them engage

in effective and evidence-based advocacy and policy engagement with the government, the private sector and development partners and other stakeholders such as traditional authorities, political parties and the media to give special attention to this pertinent national issue.

"This is an essential element in the fight against poverty, the attainment of the MDGs and overall national development within the broader framework of empowering women.

"The productive sector, and agriculture, in particular, has long been considered the basis for industrialization and development, thus creating the enabling environment for more investment, job creation and the flourishing of the service industry.

"Development thinkers are of the view that by enhancing the productive sector and empowering people with capital, skills and knowledge, coupled with access, offers opportunities for a society to have the ability to meet its development needs and fulfill the aspirations of its people.

"Given the high number of women farmers in the productive sector, it goes without saying that where women are provided the right and adequate opportunities in terms of access and control of land, favourable credit and reduced interest rate regimes and creation of affordable production, storage, processing and market opportunities, national development can, therefore, be tremendously augmented and strengthened."

According to the release, TANGO will utilize this policy dialogue to advocate for the following objectives:

To advocate for the necessary legal, policy and institutional changes necessary to ensure that women access, own and control land for socio-economic purposes; to advocate for necessary credit schemes be created by the Government and the private sector that gives favourable lending regimes to women farmers and entrepreneurs; to encourage the private sector to invest more in the productive sectors and consider providing favourable credit facilities to women farmers and entrepreneurs; and, to encourage the Government at both central and local levels to create production and processing facilities as well as market centers equipped with modern storage facilities for women involved in horticulture.

Also, to encourage the Government to further improve communications and transportation facilities across land and rivers to allow the affordable and timely movement of women producers to market centers; to encourage hotels, restaurants and supermarkets to patronize women producers; and, to encourage the government to review the number and amount of taxes, as well as interest rates in order to lower the cost of lending, production and prices of goods and services.

The policy dialogue will be moderated by the executive director of the agency for the development of women and children (ADWAC), Mam Samba Joof, "whose organization is one of the foremost CSOs working in rural communities supporting women farmers to acquire food security."

A team of experts, policy makers and development activists will constitute a panel of discussants, as follows:

Keynote Address by Hon. Muhammeh Jammeh on "Opportunities and Challenges in empowering Gambian women: Are we making the right decisions, creating the right institutions and policies, or has it been business as usual: A critical review."

Discussant 1: Abdoulie Bojang, speaker of the National Assembly on "Effective Monitoring and Evaluation: Given the plethora of laws, policies and projects for women's empowerment and gender mainstreaming, how has the National Assembly been effective in ensuring that State and Non-State initiatives for women are bearing fruits."

Discussant 2: Binta Sidibeh, executive director Women's Bureau on "Lessons Learnt: Over the years, there have been efforts to engage communities in order to empower them with skills and knowledge in spite of the high levels of poverty particularly among women, what has been the local issues, concerns, opportunities and challenges on the ground?"

Discussant 3: Fatoumatta Jallow, director-general GIEPA on "What needs to be done: What has been the focus of GIEPA in building local capacity for investment and export? Are their opportunities and what requirements are necessary to generate a highly productive agricultural sector with particular focus on women?"

Discussant 4: Alieu Secka, CEO Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry on "Opportunities for small and medium scale women farmers: Majority of farmers in the Gambia are small and medium scale women farmers who offer immense opportunity for transforming the economic landscape if given the necessary capital and incentives."

About the Policy Dialogues and ACBF

The TANGO Policy Dialogues is a bimonthly awareness creation and advocacy forum aimed at bringing together policy and decision makers, development workers, researchers and the general public to discuss key pertinent and national development issues.

It is convened under the auspices of a four-year project, 'Support to Human and Institutional Capacity of TANGO' funded by the African capacity building foundation (ACBF). ACBF is an independent capacity building institution established in 1991 through the collaborative efforts of three multilateral institutions, African Development Bank, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program, and African governments and bilateral donors. The Gambia attained membership in ACBF in 2010.

The project seeks to empower non-state actors by developing their knowledge and skills in engaging and influencing public policy through policy formulation, implementation and monitoring. It also aims to develop TANGO's strengths in facilitation and coordination of NGO participation in public policy making processes, as well as build capacity of NGOs in development work and project management.

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