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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Letters: The march for ‘Gambian Women’s Lives Matter’

Dear Editor,

We had the march to express our concern, disapproval and disappointment at the sheer lack of basic facilities and services to give pregnant women and mothers quality healthcare in our public hospitals. It is scandalous that in far too many cases a pregnant Gambian woman should die giving birth to a Gambian child simply because of lack of electricity while the standby generator either has no fuel or battery or the attendant was nowhere to be seen at that very moment.

It is unacceptable that a Gambian woman should die from pregnancy and childbirth simply because the necessary drugs and medical equipment are not available.

What this shows is that The Gambia Government has no will nor commitment to offer the best of facilities and services to Gambian mothers and children. From EFSTH to each and every health facility up to Fatoto should be well equipped such that maternal mortality is hugely reduced to its lowest minimum as in other countries.

Not that The Gambia cannot guarantee such remarkable achievement. This country can do so because the financial resources are there to buy the best medical equipment and medicines and hire the best doctors. I challenge the President Adama Barrow or any Gambian to counter my claim and show us that indeed The Gambia lacks the resources to provide the highest standard of healthcare to our women. I am ready for a debate on that issue.

Pregnancy is special. It is a blessing and should only be a cause for joy and happiness. Pregnancy should be safe and comfortable hence women should be able to carry pregnancy without having to worry about their lives! Women are the source of our existence on earth hence any society that respects human life must ensure that the woman, as the source of that life has all the necessary services and protection to go into and out of pregnancy with happiness and safety.

But to show that The Gambia Government lacks any iota of will and commitment to Gambian Women’s Lives can be found in the amount of the national budget given to healthcare in general and to maternal health in particular. The AU Abuja Declaration of 2001 has called on member states to allocate at least 15% of the national budget to health. The Gambia has signed up to this declaration but it has never fulfilled this commitment!

Then you look at this march itself today. First the IGP denied it flatly. Unreasonably. Then he decided to turn around to reluctantly give permission but limiting the march within a distance of less than 100 meters and within 2 hours. He does not care that this is an initiative for Gambian Women! Rather the permit conditions clearly show that the IGP did not like this march. He would have preferred not to have it!

At the march, no Government official bothered to show up despite invitations sent to them. The announcement of the march was also on social media and in mainstream media hence no one can claim to be not aware. If there was true political will and commitment one would have seen action from them.

For example, the Vice President Isatou Touray would have been there. The Minister of Health Amadou Lamin Samateh would been there. Fatou Kinteh, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare would have been there. Even the Government Spokesman would have issued a press release to highlight the efforts of the Government. The heads of Women’s Bureau, Department of Social Welfare as well as the Director of Health Services and the CEOs of EFSTH and Kanifing hospitals and many others would have been there in the middle of the march to show solidarity.

But none of them came thus highlighting the incontrovertible fact that this Government has no political will and commitment to the health of Gambian Women.

But even more disappointing is the fact the masses of Gambians just failed to turn up. Women are the base of society. No human being is without a women. When women suffer, all of society suffers. When women are protected, then society is safe. Literally. Hence Gambians should have turned up in their thousands and thousands. It’s a mark of duty and sense of purpose, individually and collectively.

After all, if we are aware that democracy and good governance are the tools and processes through which citizens get what is good for society then we must involve ourselves in such activities. Democracy is not a football match in which some are players and others are spectators. Never.

In democracy, everyone is a player. How well one plays his or her part will determined the quality of governance in that society. It is good governance that guarantees and provides the protection of rights and the fulfillment of needs. It is good governance that eliminates poor leadership, corruption, inefficiency and ineptitude in public service.

Without citizen participation, democracy is a farce. Only it’s semblance will surface but the substance will be gone. Therefore, Gambians, the quality of public services in this county is in your hands. If we refuse to participate in the important issues, rest assured our women shall die as they give birth to another Gambian!

 Madi Jobarteh

 Kembujeh Village

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