Speaking in a keynote address yesterday at a Tango policy dialogue on the theme ‘women and productive resources’, Mr Jammeh stated: “If we focus on women empowerment alone and forget the other aspect of the gender, the tendency is that we might lose track of the whole thing. I always used to ask people, should we always concentrate on women empowerment? Should we only have a women’s bureau? We should also have a men’s bureau. So I call for it to be renamed gender bureau rather than women’s bureau then you can have the participation of males and females side by side. I think gender is becoming much broader than we used to know because we now have hermaphrodites, gays, lesbians and so on and so forth. If we call it a gender bureau, it becomes more inclusive. That involvement will empower both men and women so it becomes gender empowerment. I think that may be more sustainable than focusing on the women aspect alone which becomes a challenge. It is a challenge we must all ponder over and see whether it can move us somewhere. It is not supposed to be business as usual but it’s got to be innovative. Policies need to be reviewed from time to time to reflect changes in society.
“Policies are not sacrosanct. They are not the Qur’an or the Bible. We have to look at gender equity versus gender equality. Equity must go with equal responsibility. We have to ask, are women ready for that? If they are not, then we are not facing the challenge in the right manner. So if women crave gender equity they must be ready for equal responsibility. However, there are people who are not only calling for gender equity but gender equality. If you look at creation, God has made the gender parties different? Can you have equality becomes the question. So we have to be very careful when we talk about gender equity and equality. If we are going that far, one needs to ask one self, is it a possibility because you look at things that are feasible? Can a woman impregnate a man? It is a very touchy area. What I am trying to say is that when it comes to equity, there is a very big potential for that but when it comes to equality, the opportunity is much reduced. It is far-fetched. Why don’t we go for the one that has greater opportunities? I think that will be better. It is important we have gender empowerment because it will encompass empowerment of men and women. God has made us in such a way that we are partners. When we are all empowered, I think that partnership will be enhanced more.”
Responding, a clearly exasperated executive director of women’s bureau, Binta Sidibeh asserted: “There are issues that I do not agree with him on and I cannot sit here without reacting to them. We have to look at the gender gap and when we look at that we realise women are still at the lower level. That is why we are focusing all these discussions on them like International Women’s Day, Women’s Bureau et cetera. He talked about issues like policymaking situation. How many governors do we have? There is no single woman governor. When it comes to the area councillors, how many women do we have? When you look at the National Assembly which is making laws, where are the women?
Women have to be there to make matters more gender-sensitive because men would not fight for us. We have to fight for ourselves to bridge that gap. When it comes to gender violence, men are just the minority. Men have more power than us and they use that power to abuse us. So we need to have those laws and policies in place so that we are at par. We should all try so that we reach that level and when we reach that level we will call it gender bureau or whatever you call it”.
Not be outdone, journalist and writer Amie Sillah vitriolically charged: “All empiricaI evidence shows that women are disadvantaged socially, politically and economically. Women are disadvantaged in all aspects of human development. That is why we are talking about empowerment. I do not think any man who loves his country would really dispute that. All men should join us and make sure we get there. God has made us equal but with different functions. It is a patriarchal society and it is affecting women. Men should join us and we build a better Gambia”.
Also weighing in on the debate, programme officer for Pro-pag, Jainaba Sarr, enunciated that more stringent systems evaluation and monitoring mechanisms should be in place to sustain recent gains in the quest for women empowerment. “We have more enrolment of girls in schools but there is the problem of retention. What are the causes of that drop-out rate and what are we doing as civil society and government to address those issues? I think the drop-out of girls has to do with expectations of girls culturally and the roles that they play at home which takes a large chunk of their energy and intellectual ability.
“What are we doing to address those issues? On the issue of policy and systems evaluation and monitoring, who is responsible for monitoring all these beautiful policies we have in place? Women have the disadvantage of having very low confidence. That is an area we have to work on in building up confidence. We have the abilities but we are not confident enough to bring them out and that’s where men have the advantage. In terms of monitoring and evaluation, there are issues; women don’t report these issues but they are there,” she asserted.
By Sainey Darboe]]>