‘Engage, Consult Women in Reform Process’ – DPS Gassama

By Amie Sanneh

The Deputy Permanent Secretary Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Binta Gassama, has said that it is absolutely necessary for Gambian women to be actively engaged and consulted in the reform process of the new Gambia. This, she went on will ensure that the needs of women and girls are understood and the structural inequalities affecting women and girls is addressed; that most importantly it will ensure that the ongoing and planned mechanisms, will lead to a transformative change for women and the societies they help rebuild.

DPS Gassama was speaking yesterday, while opening a days’ forum organized by the West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP), on the theme “Women’s Role in the Reform Process”.

The aim of the forum is to capitalize on the transition, period being a strategic opportunity to adopt legislative and policy measures to eliminate discrimination against women.

She emphasized the need for women not to be left out in the process. She described women’s roles in all these interventions as important and said it cannot be overemphasized. “It should be noted that women are amongst the most vulnerable in society and are usually the ones subjected to most violations. Notwithstanding, history and research have shown that women play a critical role in rebuilding societies. It is therefore imperative that their perspectives are not heard but also implemented in the reform process,” she said.

Gambia Government has engaged in various levels of the reform processes aimed at consolidating the democratic process in The Gambia, since its ascension to power. She explained that government is strengthening the justice and security institutions to render them accessible and responsive to the needs and rights of all people in the Gambia; that Government is also engaged in a comprehensive security sector reform and has recently commenced training of members of the Gambia Police Force, as part of the reform. Government, DPS Gassama states, has commenced the implementation of the Transitional Justice process which is a critical component aimed at strengthening democratic governance and the rule of law. “This involves a range of mechanisms which include prosecutions, reparations, truth-seeking and institutional reforms, amongst others, to achieve redress for the mass human rights violations,” she said.

She described the forum as important noting that it provides the opportunity and platform for women in the Gambia, to share their perspectives on the ongoing peace and reconciliation processes whilst identifying challenges and opportunities for their role and inclusion in the process.

The National Coordinator, WANEP, Anna Jones said women in The Gambia have for so long been marginalized politically, socially and economically. She stressed the need for women’s perspectives to be incorporated to right the wrongs women faced in the past and to ensure that they have equal opportunities to participate in the new democratic dispensation. Madam Jones also urged participants to explore the critical and unique ways in which women can contribute and participate to strengthening the women’s rights agenda in the transition period, to inform policy and practice, highlight new thinking or important trends, identify challenges and map solutions.