I want to extol the sacrifices of the Gambian working class in the face of economic tough times in their everyday struggle to survive. We are all aware of the hardships of workers across the world which has been compounded by poor governance and corruption. The Gambian working class are among the worst hit social groups on account of living standards, a situation which is inconsistent with the country’s development drive. This is why the day is important as it presents the perfect opportunity for us to discuss our collective future and welfare.
Issues with working conditions in both the public and private sectors have been well publicised recently. Various labour rights violations have uncovered, from unpaid overtime and excessively long working hours, to poor living conditions and insufficient training. Some major institutions have found themselves accused of not doing enough to safeguard the wellbeing of workers. These developments are quite disturbing. The plight of Gambian workers has been well-documented because working conditions are in much need of improvement. This is particularly important because improved working conditions especially for women have a domino effect, leading to greater investments in children’s health and education and household income. For women, they need access to independent workers organisations that can empower them and represent their choices and interests in the workplace. Unions must be able to form, organise and to bargain on behalf of workers. Barriers that prevent them from doing so should be removed. By their own admission, workers organisations also have work to do to better represent women workers. There is no doubt that there is a huge development and business opportunity to grasp by investing in good jobs for women and by providing women with the support they need to realise their rights and their full potential in the workplace. Let us all commend our workers, both men and women, for their sacrifices.
Let journalists be free to carry out duties
Allow me to congratulate journalists all over the world on World Press Freedom Day which was celebrated last Sunday. It provided an opportunity to reflect on the role of the media in transforming the lives of citizens. The media’s role in the development of nations has often been taken for granted. This is why the relationship between the media and governments in many parts of the world has been largely adversorial, with numerous attempts to claw back the gains made in securing press freedom and the public’s right to information through a series of laws and other extra-legal means of coercion despite the guarantees provided by their constitutions. I must state here that press freedom and the assurance that journalists can perform their role of informing the society and acting as watchdogs against state excesses, are hallmarks of free, open, progressive, and democratic nations. Sadly, some countries appear to be sliding into the ranks of nations that do not respect the rights of journalists as individuals and the freedom of the media as institutions. Studies have demonstrated an unequivocal relationship between press freedom and democracy and reduced corruption in public institutions. The more a country slides down the ranking of nations where journalists can work unharmed and unmolested, the greater the danger that the democratic gains its citizens have made will be clawed back and the greater the risk that corrupt public officials will go unpunished. Indeed, a free media has been shown to lead to a higher quality of government. Any assault on journalists and media institutions amounts to a direct blow against democracy and public interest. Let journalists be free to carry out their duties.