By Oumie Bojang
The United States Embassy in Banjul last week gathered over 100 women leaders representing various sectors, including the diplomatic and consular corps, government, private sector, to deliberate on insightful discussions and engaging dialogue to tackle pertinent empowerment issues crucial to women in the society.
The event which was held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel brought together CEOs, women leaders from all regions of The Gambia as well as male counterparts.
Ambassador Sharon L. Cromer, quoting Maya Angelo, said “she did not see womanhood as limiting, she saw it as a gift, I am grateful to be a woman, I must have done something great in another life. We are here today to share our struggles, to celebrate triumphs, to learn from one another, and to find our collective and individual voices, and to identify ways in which we can support each other when things go bad. I have traveled throughout this country listening and talking to women and girls. I have heard from women farmers who cannot get access to credit to invest, the tools and fertilizers they require to grow the crops to feed this nation. They can’t get titled to the land they sew and toil everyday. These women after working the field all day long return home to cook, and care for their husbands and children. I have heard from the female community health workers, volunteers who despite not being paid or having medicines or resources to execute their jobs, continued to track the health status of every household in their community, particularly pregnant women and children. I have to talk to young girls from Barra to Basse who dream of one day being entrepreneurs, Lawyers, Doctors, and Educators but fear that they will never have a chance to live out their dreams because they may be forced into early marriage.”
Mariama Darling Jallow, representing the First Lady, said in The Gambia like all over Africa, women are underrepresented in leadership positions, face significant challenges accessing resources and support. “Women constitute the majority of The Gambian population yet the poorest of society, however acknowledging these challenges is just the first step. We must actively work towards dismantling these barriers, subsequently establishing resources and empowerment centers as well as food processing factories will undoubtedly equip women with the training and skills necessary to set up their businesses and become successful entrepreneurs,” she said.
Susan C. Solomon, US public affairs, during her deliberation, said this is their first conference of its kind, but certainly not their first initiative on women’s issues. She said under Ambassador Cromer’s leadership, the embassy has made gender equality a priority and engaged in many activities. “We are deeply committed to women’s well-being, recognising that when women thrive, so do their families, communities and nations.”