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GAMCOTRAP ENGAGES WITH THE LIVED REALITIES OF RURAL WOMEN PDF Print E-mail
Written by GAMCOTRAP   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 16:30

 

 

 

 

GAMCOTRAP Engages with the Lived Realities of Rural Women

Nine hundred women and religious leaders in the Upper River, Central River and Lower River Regions are targeted to increase awareness on the lived realities of rural women within the context of QIWAMAH AND WILAYAH. The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP), funded by The Tides Foundation, through the New Field Foundation will build the capacity of a critical mass of male and female religious leaders, women leaders and women of reproductive age in the rural areas to foster exchange of experience and mutual support of women’s rights and justice within their communities. This is within the context of the project entitled "Increasing Awareness and Documentation of Women's Rights Issues on the Life Stories on Qiwamah and Wilayah in Three Districts of Rural Gambia." The project is specifically targeting 450 religious scholars and 450 women.

In 2012, GAMCOTRAP as a member of MUSAWAH, a global movement to promote Equality and Justice in the Muslim family undertook a research project on the lived realities of thirteen Gambian women within the context of QIWAMAH and WILAYAH (QIWI). While QIWAMAH and WILAYAH are contextualized as legal responsibilities of men providing protection and upkeep of the family, the data collected from the lived realities of the women revealed different narratives.

The data collected, revealed how women struggled in their daily lives to survive and support their families irrespective of whether the husband is alive or dead, or whether he is around or travelled or whether divorced or inherited. This is irrespective of geographical location, educational background, age or status. The high illiteracy rate among women, the prevalent rate of violence on women, and the strong adherence of deep-rooted culture and traditional practices exacerbate the problem. These coupled with women’s limited knowledge about their rights in their religion all have negative impact on women’s health and livelihood.

This is the main aim of the project sharing experiences and providing evidences of how QIWI concepts actually acts out or manifest for Muslim women in the Gambia. The voices of the thirteen (13) respondents have been developed into a video documentary and a booklet funded by New Field Foundation. These will be used as resource materials to raise the awareness of women, religious and Islamic scholars to effect change. The resource materials will be widely disseminated for people to appreciate what women experience. It will also serve as resource material for feminist analysis within the framework of Islam and Human Rights of women.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 July 2014 16:34
 
NED LET THE FIGURES SPEAK FOR WOMEN IN GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP PDF Print E-mail
Written by GAMCOTRAP   
Tuesday, 24 June 2014 13:10

 

 

NEWS UPDATE

LET THE FIGURES SPEAK FOR WOMEN IN GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP

The mass representation of women in ‘Ashobis’ during public gatherings, having the first female Vice President and Minister of Women’s Affairs, a few female cabinet ministers and a few female parliamentarians give an assumption that women are fairly represented in governance and leadership in the Gambia. Thus the question what more do women want? This question tends to silence the critical minds that say “let the figures speak for women”. It is under this backdrop that the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices affecting the Health of Women and Children – GAMCOTRAP in partnership with the National Endowment for Democracy – NED brought together women and men from different political parties in the Gambia to engage in the discussion the theme: “Women’s participation in Governance and Leadership”. For the first three days, the discussions were held in series of workshops for women from various political parties in the Kanifing Municipality, Kombos of the West Coast Region and Banjul. The fourth day witnessed a consultation with key party representatives from various political parties.

Women participate in governance and leadership workshops

The first elected female politician in the Gambia, Honourable Nyimasatta Sanneh chairing the workshops, said Gambian women cannot continue to rely on the Gambian President’s gesture of nominating women to the National Assembly because the Constitution limits how many he can nominate. She called on both men and women to realise that there is need for more women to be voted so as to have a high representation in the Parliament. Honourable Nyimasatta Sanneh shared her experience during the first regime when she was the only female in parliament and had to talk to only men during her early years. She underscored the importance of the meetings which she noted will increase awareness and empower women will be elected to the National Assembly.

Experts in various fields engage in Women’s Political participation in governance and Leadership

The discussions were led by various experts in their relevant fields, engaged on the legal Context of Women’s Rights to political participation in governance and leadership, Case study on Women’s Political participation, Importance of Women’s Political participation in promotion Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, Role of National Council for Civic Education to Promote Women’s Political Participation in Governance and Leadership, Gender Issues in the promotion of Women’s Political Participation in governance and Leadership, Role of Media in the promotion of Women’s Political Participation in Governance and Leadership. The discussions amongst the participants revealed the need for more women representations and spelt out challenges for effective participation of women in governance and leadership. Amongst the issues raised during the three days specifically targeted to women in political parties, was that educated women shy away from partisan politics, women in opposition parties are intimidated by the arrest of opposition militants, limited financial support to effectively engage in raising awareness for women’s effective participation in politics, women lack resources to campaign for election, and limited access to the media among others.

Lawyer Sagarr Jahateh informed the participants that women have the right to participate in politics because of the constitutional provisions, international and regional commitments the Gambia has undertaken to promote women in governance and leadership.

Amie Sillah in her discussion on Women’s Political participation presented facts and figures that indicated that while there is 30% representation in the Cabinet, only 9% of the National Assembly is female and only 5 (representing 0.26 %) of the 1873 village heads (Alkalolu) are women. There is no female chief or governor in the Gambia.

Mary Small noted that awareness on sexual and reproductive health issues is important for representatives to take appropriate legislative measures to safe guard the rights of women and children against practices such as female genital mutilation and early/forced marriage. She enlightened participants on how practices such as FGM, early marriage, rape, sexual abuse undermine the dignity of women and girls in particular.

In her analysis, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray emphasized the importance of women to be educated so as to have them in the top positions where decisions on policy issues are taken such as the National Assembly. She emphasised that women community mobilizers and leaders also have important roles to play in the political arena but should not be deceived that they should vie for Parliamentary seats if they cannot read and write. She noted that the political landscape is not yet enabling for uneducated women to participate effectively and influence positive policies for women in parliament, because the criteria for the different leadership positions in governance are specified in the relevant national documents. These criteria are reverted to when the chips are down despite the fact that these women have been involved in politics and have something to offer. She appreciated the women mobilisers for their strength and powers and told them that “you can influence policy through your support to educated women and men you trust to represent you”. She underscored the relevance of numbers and called on women to recognize their strengths and advocate for their common agenda to increase the number of women in decision making positions. The social perceptions, religious misinterpretations and the economic status promote patriarchal principles that are entrenched in social structures and institutions that hinder women’s effective participation were discussed. She encouraged the women to reflect and analyse their situation and poor status and to make efforts to address them by improving on female representations at all levels of politics and governance.

National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) officer, Mr. Kebba Jobe shared the relevant Constitutional provisions that empowers his office to do Civic education and appreciates the efforts undertaken by GAMCOTRAP to raise more awareness about women’s participation in the political processes. He noted that women have equal rights to participate effectively in politics and called on all the political parties to consider the gender dimensions when selecting representatives in their various structures to increase the number of women in the various structures at all levels. He also called for tolerance, positive attitudes and perceptions towards women so as to encourage them to participation in governance and leadership.

The IEC Coordinator Mrs. Amie Bojang Sissoho, discussed how the media could be used to promote the image of women.

Participants at Consultation meeting at KMC Hall

During the workshop with key political party representatives, it was reiterated that if women are not well represented in decision making positions, there can be no transformation in the political processes. It was noted that women cannot be divided on rural/urban lines but to appreciate the roles of different women with regards to their strength and ability in mobilising for change. It was noted that while all women have a role to play people should recognise and appreciate the comparative advantages they have to make effective change. There was an appeal for relevant institutions and structures to respect the aspiration of women, to improve the number of women in parliament and other decision making positions. The women noted that the under representation of women in Parliament and key decision making positions have resulted to bills or laws prepared to advance the rights of women are subjected to scrutiny resulting to expunging the real essence of the documents.

Hence the need to promote gender equality and get more women into parliament where laws are?? made or passed for national development. Amongst the recommendations made were to have an ‘all parties’ forum for women and to advocate for the UN call for at least the 30% quota systems in their political parties when identifying aspirants for the various elections both at local and national levels. This will be in line with section 15 (1) of the Women’s Act 2010, which calls for temporary special measures in favour of women, “ Every organ, body, public institution, authority or private enterprise shall adopt temporary special measures as set out in this Act aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women.” They called for intensive Civic Education in raising gender consciousness regarding women and leadership through community (“bantaba”) meetings and use of the national media in particular. The important role of the media to promote positive portrayal of women aspirants and politicians as well as gender stereotypes and misconceptions about women taking leadership in public institutions were highlighted, as well as promotion of peace in politics and respect of opposing views. It was stated that having different partisan affiliation is a Constitutional right and should not create enmity amongst women in particular.

That educated women should come out of their comfort zones and present themselves to engage in electoral politics and not wait to be offered positions. All the women noted with appreciation that bringing all the political parties and creating the inter-face between them was towards the right direction in advancing the effective participation of women in governance and leadership positions. They also appreciated the support of the “men who care” and noted that both men and women can be leaders.

Prepared by GAMCORAP

April 2014

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 13:40
 
RISING FOR JUSTICE OBR 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Written by GAMCOTRAP   
Thursday, 10 April 2014 10:52

 

 

 

 

 

Press Release: One Billion Rising Campaign 2014:

Theme: Rising for Justice to End Gender Based Violence

 

It is sixteen years ago when the Executive Director of V-Day Eve Ensler started a worldwide movement on the 14th February  to highlight the various forms of violence women and girls face across race, status or geographical location when she wrote the Vagina Monologue, which gave case studies of different forms of violence on women.

V- Day is celebrated on Valentine’s Day to bring focus to all forms of violence such as rape, early marriage, battering,  Female Genital Mutilation, amongst others and to contribute to the global efforts to end these atrocities in every country and community. According to the UN, 1 in 3 women is a victim of one or more forms of violence. The WHO says that violence against women - particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women - are major public health problems and violations of women's human rights.  Recent global prevalence figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

It is in this context that V-Day started the one billion rising campaign to present women as survivors of violence and determined to demand for justice to all forms of violence against women based on gender wherever they are situated.  In a tele-conference with journalists worldwide, Eve Ensler described the 2014 One Billion Rising as “powerful revolutionary energy that is rising around the planet and the plans that the people have made in 180 countries in towns, villages and cities is astonishing.  It all started with a vision of how to address the issue of I in 3 women being violated.”

V-Day Coordinator for the One Billion Rising in West Africa, Dr. Isatou Touray is on a tour in the West Africa sub region to visit Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Mali, Senegal and the Gambia to organize and coordinate the 2014 One Billion Rising on the 14th February.

In an interview with journalists, Dr. Touray noted that the One Billion Rising Campaign started with the Zero Tolerance to FGM Day on the 6th February through media advocacy.  She highlighted that FGM is wrongly associated with Islam as it continues to affect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls.  In her capacity as Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, a leading women’s rights organization in the campaign to end FGM in the Gambia, Dr Touray asserted how women as survivors of FGM and their communities have been empowered to realise that they can end FGM, early marriage and other forms of violence against women by rising and making public declarations marked by the dropping of the knife celebrations.  Dr. Touray appreciates the support of partners who make it possible for her organization to reach out to communities and thanked the media, the radio stations in particular for disseminating the messages in the local languages to the masses.

Speaking in the area for justice to end FGM, Dr. Touray called on the Gambia government to move the gains made by the communities further by enacting a legislation to prohibit FGM. It could be recalled that a draft proposed bill to prohibit FGM has been subjected to a national consultation and submitted to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs at the Office of the Vice President and Minister for Women’s Affairs, the Women’s Bureau, the Justice Ministry and the office of the Ombudsman.  The GAMCOTRAP Executive Director said it is justice for the voices of the communities calling for a law to end FGM to be honoured and thanked the local religious leaders in their various communities for supporting the campaign to promote the dignity of women and girl children.

The V-Day West Africa Coordinator, Dr. Touray called for political will to support the coordination of the efforts to end FGM with legislation.  She concluded that Rising for justice is about showing solidarity by coming together to celebrate the courage of women survivors of violence.  Dr. Touray emphasized that V-Day amplifies and support grassroots organizations and animate for mass solidarity.

The rising in the Gambia is organized by GAMCOTRAP in partnership with TANGO on Friday 14 February 2014, starting at 9 am with a street parade from the traffic lights on Kairaba Avenue along Bertil Harding Highway to TANGO head office. An open forum on ‘Rising for Justice’, the global theme for the 2014 One Billion Rising Campaign, will continue at the venue. It will bring together children, youth, women and men from all walks of life including people with disabilities, among other actors in the wider civil society as well as NGOs and development partners.  The media have started rising by offering airtime and space in the newspapers for discussions and publication of articles and press releases.

Gender-based violence is prevalent in the Gambia because of a deep-seated socio-cultural beliefs and practices that inform our social, economic and political ideas, systems and relations. In our homes, work places, institutions of learning and in our communities, women and girls continue to face various forms of abuse and exploitation from their male partners, be they fathers, uncles, husbands, brothers, superiors and colleagues among others, which go unnoticed sometimes, and at times deliberate, but all the time absolutely wrong! Because of the entrenched patriarchy and misconceived Islamic teachings, both men and women are socialized to believe and practice these forms of violence against women as part of our culture and therefore normal. We are oblivious to the fact that as society, so long as we continue to marginalize, suppress and exploit one half of the population, then we are harming ourselves and retarding our progress and freedom, thus limiting our humanity. GAMCOTRAP and TANGO call on all individuals, institutions and organizations in the public, private and civil society sectors to realize and fulfill their obligation to the protection of the human rights of women and girls. This is both an individual and collective responsibility that must be fulfilled if we are to ensure a decent environment for the unfettered development and empowerment of women and girls, hence the overall advancement of our society.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 12:14
 
CELEBRATING ZAINAH PDF Print E-mail
Written by GAMCOTRAP   
Thursday, 19 June 2014 14:45

 

 

 

A Letter to Zai, A Muslim Feminist and Activist

Dear Zainah Anwar,

As you celebrate your birthday in April, allow GAMCOTRAP to seize the opportunity to share your story with the world. It was in 1987 when you and some like-minded people challenged the global perception that Muslim Women cannot enjoy their basic human rights, thus establishing a now well recognized and respected organization Sisters in Islam- SIS. In less than a decade, this influence brought birth to yet another global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family - MUSAWAH. This is important because the dominant perception that the life of Muslim women can only be within the private space yet that space is muzzled with patriarchal interpretations of Islam and control over women. Your leadership has contributed to the struggle in search of the alternative voices for us within and outside of Islam. More Muslim women have gained cognizant that a religion that calls for peace, unity and respect for humanity cannot undermine its own people based on gender or sex.

Your leadership has contributed to challenging the notions of violence against women justified in the name of Islam. Today, MUSAWAH Advocates throughout the world, have learned from your courage and motivation to understand Women’s Rights in Islam from the lived realities of women perspectives as well as contextualized the text within the lived realities of Muslim Women.

Thus, Muslim women today have the ability and courage to question such patriarchal interpretation of Islam. Indeed you were right to say,

It’s as if in Islam, women don’t have any rights at all. One woman asked, if the house were on fire, would she then have to seek her husband’s permission to flee! Women cannot even use their common sense to save their (own) lives. This cannot be Islam. God is just. Islam is just.”

It is not by chance that the French government awards you its highest award, the “Legion of Honour”. It is with pride and indeed real honour that GAMCOTRAP joins the rest of the MUSAWAH advocates to celebrate this award and many of your great achievements in bringing women’s rights in Islam in the forefront of the global debate. You made us realize that we can have it all, be a Muslim, Feminist and Activist at the same time because they are compatible, we don’t have to choose one or the other.

GAMCOTRAP celebrates and congratulate you for boosting the image of all Muslim women. Thank you for everything you have given to humanity and particularly to women.


With Much love,

From GAMCOTRAP

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 15:01
 
RECOGNISING WOMEN'S STRUGGLE PDF Print E-mail
Written by GAMCOTRAP   
Thursday, 10 April 2014 09:16

 

 

 

 

Recognizing Women’s Struggles

International Women’s Day 2014

International Women’s Day has become a day that is recognized by the United Nations through the struggles women have made throughout the world. In the Gambia, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray has been a leading Activist who ensured that women’s issues are in the public domain.   The celebration of special events regarding the lives and circumstances of women are key in the calendar of activists.  Increasing, the agenda to promote and protect the rights of women is geared towards recognition of women as human beings and women’s rights as human rights.  As the world once against engage to recognize and remember the significant roles of women in human development and respect for their rights as citizen, in the Gambia, organization, institutions and the media have engaged to ensure that people continue to recognize, respect and celebrate the women in all works of life.

The voices of Women’s Rights Activists on the themes of International Women’s Day

( L-R) GRTS and Activista interview with Executive Director of Dr. Isatou Touray

It is such a recognition that has warranted the Women’s Programmes on the State Radio and Television Services (GRTS), individual journalists, community and private radios have approached GAMCOTRAP to speak on the theme for celebration of International Women’s Day 2014.  As the United Nations official theme is “Equality for Women is Progress for All.” At the National level, “Progress made in achieving the MDGs” is the focus of the celebration.  It is then fitting for GAMCOTRAP to take the national theme further in reminding the stakeholders that “Having a law to protect girls from FGM is progress for humanity.”   In solidarity, GAMCOTRAP also participated at the Activista Panel on Zero Tolerance to FGM as its theme for celebrating IWD at Star FM radio.  Paradise FM also recognizes the efforts of GAMCOTRAP and sent an invitation to partake in its celebration of IWD 2014 which states “Paradise FM recognises your uncompromising efforts to support women and girls to be the best that they can be, despite the major challenges that they face.

The recognition of the works of women’s rights activist in the Gambia are beyond the borders of the Gambia and it is with pride an honour that as the world celebrates women, His Excellency, the United States Ambassador to the Gambia, Michael Arietti Charge d’Affairs a.i paid a visit to GAMCOTRAP to learn about the work of the organization in promoting and protecting the rights of women and children in the Gambia.   In a meeting with the staff, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP welcomed the Ambassador and briefed him on the successes made in the campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation and how communities and their Circumcisers have responded positively through the dropping of the knife celebrations in the different regions of the Gambia.  Dr. Touray informed the US Ambassador that despite the challenges, more communities are calling for GAMCOTRAP to engage their people as there are some regions that are yet to be reached.  She appealed for support to further consolidate on the gains made.

Ambassador Michael Ariette (3rd Left) and Yusupha Gomez (1st Right) with GAMCOTRAP team

In response, Ambassador Ariette expressed appreciation that communities are responding to protect their girls and women from FGM and other harmful practices that are misconstrued as religion.  He shared his experience in working in other parts of Africa where FGM is practised by non-Muslims and argued that the practice is a deep-rooted practice that pre-dates Islam.  He promised to do his best within his purview to give support to promote human rights of the people.

In another engagement, GAMCOTRAP visited the family of late Ms. Bijou Peters an honorary live board member of GAMCOTRAP at their resident in Fajara to pay condolence to the bereaved family.  One of her daughters Oremie Bidwell received GAMCOTRAP staff and thanked them for the love her mother found in serving the cause which GAMCOTRAP stands for.  This was cited in her tribute as she noted “one of her particular concerns was the work and beliefs of GAMCOTRAP and she joined them in their fight to eradicate harmful traditional practices such as FGM...”   Indeed there is progress, because when GAMCOTRAP started in 1984, FGM was a taboo subject and today, it s subject of debate for all, globally, nationally and locally at household levels where it is being questioned, challenged and people take courage to say “no to FGM, protecting girls from FGM is progress for all.”

In a struggle to serve humanity, there is nothing that is considered minor, because every little step is a way forward to achieve the objective of making progress for women and girls in particular in the campaign to end FGM.  As the search to support can lead to different destinations, this is how Katy Stenhouse could not but depart with her Pound Sterling to contribute to the cause GAMCOTRAP stands for.    In a presentation of the GBP100 on her behalf, Kate Mayall said she was in GAMCOTRAP to deliver a message from Katy and that was to make sure the organization received the token she had.   This was highly welcomed by the Executive Director and her staff and she  said there is nothing that is considered small and it is the thought behind the gesture that is valued, the desire to support a cause, no matter who you are and where you are from, if you respect and honour humanity, you are welcomed.

Kate presenting to GAMCOTRAP

Indeed, it is an honour for the world to remember women but it is more honourable for the world to realize that it is time to stop using women’s bodies as a site for political debates and abuse of power.  In the Gambia, once again, GAMCOTRAP appeals to the government to take the appropriate stand to respond to the calls of communities and citizens of the Gambia to legislate a law to prohibit FGM to save lives and improve on the health and wellbeing of women and girls.  Indeed FGM affects millions of girls and women and everyday Gambian girls and women are equally at risk of FGM.   When the Government realised that smoking affects  health and that putting on a seat belt  is a protective measure for its citizens, there was little debate on whether there should be a law or not.  A decision was taken and the Parliamentarians passed two laws because they know they have responsibility to protect the citizens.  It is therefore a moral obligation for the government and the legislators to take equal responsibility to prohibit FGM by law, because the risk of even one girl- child dying because of FGM is worth the law.  If celebrating International women’s day is to recognize the progress made in achieving the Millennium development goals 3, 4 and 5 having a law against FGM should be an indicator for progress. The global concern of the post 2015 agenda is “To achieve the development goals it is essential that the future development agenda be explicitly shaped by, and grounded in, human rights and environmental sustainability, ensuring gender equality, the realization of women’s rights and women’s empowerment.

Happy International Women’s Day 2014!!!

From GAMCOTRAP

March 2014

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 10:42
 
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