Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Standard, Esther John Audu said: “I participated in the recent Africa Women’s Advancement Forum in The Gambia. The conference was trying to address those issues that have been set as goals or targets for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It was all about assessing the MDGs, knowing whether we have achieved them or not and if we have not, try to find out why we haven’t achieved them, see how we can achieve them and then improve on the existing MDGs. Since the existing ones may be ending by next year, there’s need to see where we go forward from there. What have we been able to achieve? Some countries have done very well like The Gambia in the area of gender equality. But we still discovered that we are still lagging behind. How many women have contested elections if we talk about gender equality in political affairs? So, we are still encouraging women to not just sit back and expect men to give them jobs but move on and work with the men in order to get that equality.
“From the grooming that President Jammeh is doing, I think he’s putting women through so that one day a woman can be president in The Gambia. From my own perspective, that’s what I have seen and that is making it clear that everyone has a right to go to the farm. Women have also moved into farming and they are the biggest farmers that I have seen since I came to The Gambia. I have supported in my capacity one or two groups including women rice farmers in Sitanunku, Niumi. I give my little assistance for what I have seen them doing and there’s another group of women who produce vegetables which I have supported. We were able to have a borehole because of this seasonal rainfall that we have so that they can have some form of irrigation. I have seen The Gambia encouraging and educating women, and automatically I have seen the country educating everybody”.
Reminded of the patriarchal nature of society with some religious leaders voicing misgivings about the effectiveness of women leadership citing inherent weaknesses, she retorted: “I don’t agree with that because I’m a woman and I have led in different ways. I have stood for elections and won two elections. So I’m not waiting for anybody to come and give me a job or to come and fix me up before I can be up there. I contested my first election and won to be a people’s representative in the National Assembly of Nigeria representing Abuja Municipal Area Council and Abuja Federal Constituency. I contested and served as mayor of Abuja, executive chairman of the Abuja Area Council by election and I started as an elected person. I thought I was going to rest after my tenure in office then I was appointed ambassador and this was based on merit. So for women that are in positions through elections or by appointment I have discovered that they have stood the test of time and have stood out. And so the different presidents make sure that they appoint them even though they have not contested elections. Our present minister of finance was with the World Bank and because of her capability, the president sent for her to come and serve as minister of finance. Today, Okonjo Iweala is the finance minister in charge of the entire Nigerian economy and since she came to office, Nigeria has progressed and we are now the emerging economy in Africa.”
By Sainey Darboe & Lamin Njie]]>