22 C
City of Banjul
Monday, September 28, 2020

Statement by Madam Agnès Guillaud, Chargée d’Affaires a.i. Delegation of the European Union to The Gambia ‘Women’s empowerment for change’ project launching at Kalaji, on 11/09/2014

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The project aims to promote women’s rights here in the Foni Jarrol District, by empowering vulnerable women and raising awareness about their rights as human beings. It is focused on economic empowerment and reducing violence against women, including female genital mutilation/cutting.

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I have been extremely pleased to listen to the presentation made by the Children from SOS village in Basse on prominent women and especially that they chose Mme Ashton, the High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission. Especially since she is very active in the defence of women’s rights; As an example, when she took office five years ago there were only 9 women heading our Delegations abroad; today we are 29 women as EU heads of Missions around the world.

The European Union is committed to gender equality which is the key for sustainable development. Gender equality has been identified as one of the five essential principles of EU’s cooperation strategies. Equal opportunities and access to resources for both men and women are essential to eradicate poverty and to achieve all MDGs. Women play a critical role in addressing the main challenges humanity faces today, such as health, education, agriculture and nutritional issues as well as climate change.

However, this extremely important role of women is too often underestimated. In Africa, women constitute 52% of the total population, but contribute to 75 % of the agricultural work and produce and market 60 to 80 % of food. By contrast, over two-thirds of the world’s illiterate are women; girls are about 11% less likely than boys to attend secondary school in developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women earn only 10% of income and own only 1% of assets. Marginalisation of women is also present in decision-making: although women constitute half of the electorate, only 12% of parliamentary seats are held by women in Africa, and even less in The Gambia.

As said by a prominent African leader “Women are the future of Africa and the world”. In The Gambia significant progress has been made in the past decades to promote gender equality and women empowerment. The Government’s involvement to address those issues is remarkable and the EU continues to support initiatives willing to tackle inequality and social injustice, which undermine development efforts. Yesterday there was a very important meeting under the chairmanship of Her Excellency the Vice President Mrs Isatou Njie-Saidy on “bridging the gender gap”. This shows how relevant the EU’s initiative on Women’s right is here. We work closely with our international partners, NGOs, Civil society and private sector to promote women empowerment in the country. All the stakeholders are encouraged by the positive results: today girls constitute half of the primary school students and one third of secondary school students and their numbers continue to increase.

However, crucial issues remain to be effectively addressed, in order not to hamper the efforts to achieve our shared development objectives, including the MDGs. Indeed, domestic violence remains a widespread problem in the country. FGM and other harmful traditional practices are still widely perpetrated, especially in rural areas. Such is also early marriage, which can conduct to health complications and sometimes death, not to mention the missing out on education.

The economic dependency is another issue that the EU together with its partners is highly committed to address. In the Gambia, as in many other countries in the world, gender inequality and poverty are closely related. Besides lacking financial resources, women have unequal access to other basic goods and services, namely employment, information, education, social services, health care and education, access to infrastructure and natural resources, access to all their basic human rights, guaranteed by various international and local legislation.

Someone had once said, “Educate a woman, you educate a nation”. I would add “Empower women, develop the nation”, as illustration of our strong willingness to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in The Gambia.

We therefore warmly welcome the involvement of our partners from SoS Children’s Villages The Gambia and UK, Child Fund The Gambia and the Foundation for Research on Women’s Health, productivity and the Environment (Bafrow). We deeply believe that our contribution of 200,000€ (D10.5 million), coupled with their commitment, knowledge and expertise will bring tangible results, fostering women’s rights here in Foni Jarrol District and providing social and economic empowerment to vulnerable women in the Region and beyond.

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