By Rohey Samba
Young people, inspiring a generation is today’s topic of deliberation. How can young people inspire a generation and what can I relate to this group about my life’s journey that would be an inspiration to them? As a result of this reflection, I have divided my speech into two parts. To begin with, I would talk about us, the youth of The Gambia, as a collective body and finally, about my industry-how I came to be where I am today.
The ethos of the topic: Young People Inspiring A Generation, is largely meant to encourage young people to feel part of something big, in our country and in our lives. I believe we already have.
Gambian youths have inspired a generation to value persistence, pursue their determination and cultivate success, during the period of the political impasse from December 4th, 2016 to January 19th, 2017. This is a novelty in Africa and a model worth emulating. For wherever there is social strive, the major contributors to that strive are the youth.
I was part of the April 10/11 demonstrations that got out of hand, while I was attending Ndow’s High School. Today, I do not feel proud of this event, which left a number of youths dead and their families in needles mourning. In the aftermath of the demonstration, an Indemnity Act, was enacted to protect and indemnify the oppressors, namely the armed forces that shot, maimed and killed some the demonstrators, who were mainly students exercising their right to protest.
The December 2016 elections brought a vibrant, inclusive and energetic feel towards politics in The Gambia. Something which has been absent in Gambian politics since 2006. It was definitely a very emotional time for all Gambians. Many political rallies were intense, with the youths screaming, cheering, thumping and ushering their candidate of choice for very long distances without seeming to tire. The atmosphere on Election Day was somber and grueling in light of the happenings on that day, namely the inception of the internet and so forth.
When the election results were officially announced, on the 2nd of December 2016, the joy and cheers on that day would not be replicated in the history of this country. The euphoria displayed on the streets and in the recesses of our homes knew no bounds. Even when Jammeh refused to step down, some eight days later it did not put a dim to our shine. Most especially, the youths of this country instead of rioting and turning the country into a State of emergency, the likes of young men like Raffie Diab and others used their talents and skills to print shirts and distribute them for free to the populace…thus beginning the silent war of words with ‘Gambia Has Decided!’
Billboards followed and other slogans were coined to the same effect. Gambians made it clear that no matter what, Jammeh must go! These slogans inspired Gambians, youths and peoples of the advanced ages alike, to stand firm and unite in face of our common adversity. I have never felt so proud to be Gambian, as I did, during that period.
Thus the turning of conflict into an emblem of hope during the period of the political impasse imposed on us, by an entitled dictator, who too many Gambians have tolerated for far too long, as one would a petted child, left us, Gambians, with immense pride and has also push us to cultivate a greater sense of responsibility than before, to uphold the change we have all fought for peacefully, in order to attain the ideals of a great nation that we now dub The New Gambia.
To me, what the new Gambia represents is a change from a dictatorship to democracy, a change from fear to hope, and a change from business as usual to youth empowerment and motivation!
What is business as usual we may ask?
This is when my relative from the village wakes up at 2am to rush to hospital in Banjul, her ailing child in her arms seeking for medical treatment. She arrives the hospital at 5am only to wait for the Doctor in charge of the paediatric unit, or whichever unit in may be, who arrives at 9am, strides unapologetically into his office, leisurely eats his breakfast, and attends to the Director of Planning’s son, who arrived a few minutes after 9 a.m.
Business as usual is when I rush to the bank, jump the queue and receive my money before the persons I found there who have waited for hours to reach the cashier’s stand, simply because the Bank manager is my cousin or my mum’s friend.
It is when I am given a privileged position in my institution, not because of what I know but because of who I know.
It is when I am made CEO of a mining company, when my expertise is accountancy, by virtue of my tribe rather than the requirement of the job designation?
Does these sound familiar to you?
Thus we must ask ourselves, are we up to the task to launch the change to a new Gambia?
The glow of euphoria is all but faded since the new Gambia took off with the swearing-in of President Barrow on that joyous day in February 18th at the Independence Stadium in Bakau. The woeful tales of returnees from the ‘Backway’, if they are anything to go by, is a kick-off on the wrong foot altogether for the new government.
Needless to talk about the shunning of the youths in political appointments. Whilst youth is not a condition for taking up posts of responsibilities, nor even a mark for appointment, the youth of this country have a lot to give. We are the most educated generation, in Gambia’s history, with rising literacy levels and numerous advanced degrees bagged within the period of the Jammeh era. I was quoted as writing in the “New Africa magazine’ that:
‘If there is anything that the jammeh era has taught Gambians, it was the demystification of the capabilities of the women and youth of this country…’
The lack of investment in youth entrepreneurship and innovative practices is a long history in The Gambia, but to date, it is more flagrant because to usher in this new democracy after 22 years of dictatorship, the whole world has opened their floodgates of support to assist the Gambia. The government of the day needs to take advantage of these opportunities to invest in the youths of this country in order to create an entrepreneurship culture and enable access to all.
To keep the legacy of this country alive, the youth must be given the opportunities to get involved national and/youth service schemes, to create apprenticeships and opportunities to get involved in a range of national, social, political and cultural activities. Apprenticeships should be available to all youths and not serve a commodity to be acquired by a few.
Today, statistics reveal that 63 percent of Gambians are youths under 25 years. If the youth of The Gambia are not empowered through capacity development, skills training and institution into the echelons of power, this is a great loss to our great nation and a big mistake on the part of the new government. For indeed we cannot shun 63% of the population. The youths must be integrated in the workforce as a colossal necessity for development. Thus we continue to inspire for affirmative action set by national law towards this end.
I was not chosen by hazard to speak on this occasion. And I know I will be a sore disappointment if I fail to share my wisdom and experience with members of your association.
Most of you know me as a writer. This is what I choose to be identified with. My industry expertise is however in maritime matters. The secret of my success is hard work and diligent pursuit of excellence in everything I do. I have excelled in academia all of my life largely due to the force of my resolve and mainly as a result of the quality of my teachers. Hence the role of teachers in helping their students achieve success for national development cannot be overemphasised.
It all began in 2001 when I had just finished my WASSCE and saw an advertisement on newspaper for the position of Trainee Sea Pilot by The Gambia Ports Authority. I applied for and was recruited by the Ports and thus my journey in the maritime industry began.
I have had the opportunity to travel and work in numerous projects in this country as a result of my post. I have also learned from and assisted key specialists in their many areas of their respective expertise.
To date, I am interested in a new challenge and an opportunity to use my technical skills and experience in a different capacity than I have in the past. There is so much you can do in a particular field within a specific period of time. Therefore, I’m now keen to further my career by taking on increased management responsibility and build on my technical expertise in an area other than the maritime field, where I have persevered for the past 16 years.
I have opened a publication company and consultancy to publish books, work on other people’s projects and so forth. I write for various local newspapers and online on issues that are important to me, such as gender, youth empowerment and so forth. I focus more on my publications, which are geared towards ensuring parity in our societies.
Parity is the offshoot of globalization, the filtrate of which comes from the increased involvement of women in world affairs due to the stringency of population growth. I believe that any progression towards women empowerment cannot be garnered from further regulative advances but rather the stimulation of wider participation of women in every sphere of endeavor, as well as the implementation of existing provisions on Women’s rights, Gender Equality and so forth.
I will continue to tackle the challenges of women in my writings for general awakening. These includes such challenges as the problems of acceptance, prejudice, stereotyping, having to prove courage and competence and so forth. As with the youth, the women of this country who constitute more than half of the population, cannot be ignored.
I encourage you in this endeavor for youth development and will continue to support you whichever way you want me to.