By Sailu Bah
Women fish smokers at the Banjul beach have expressed their fear of a looming threat to dislodge them from the place they are currently occupying based on a purported notice emanating from the Department of Physical Planning. The women explained that the ownership of the place is being claimed by a Lebanese businessman who, they said, wants them to vacate the area.
Speaking to this reporter on Saturday, 26 July 2014, at the beach in front of the main Banjul market, Yama Colley, one of the women fish smokers, said they now live in a state of constant fear of removal from the place where they work to earn income to sustain their families.
“This place is our only source of livelihood as we have been toiling and moiling here for many years in order to earn a living for ourselves and families,” she revealed.
Mai Sonko, the spokesperson of the women fish smokers, said they are facing the problem of removal from the place as it is being claimed by one Lebanese businessman. She explained that they have once received a notice from the Physical Planning Department asking them to vacate the place. She said their response was that they have nowhere to relocate to in order to continue with their work. She said they even went with a delegation to the Banjul City Council (BCC) to express their concern to the mayor of Banjul who, she said, told them to continue working until the place is needed and an alternative is found for them. She claimed that the Lebanese national had even promised to clear and give them the area behind the place, but that when this was done, he eventually changed his mind and told them that he needs both places.
Madame Sonko explained that they have started working at the said place since 1995 and that they were the ones who cleared the grass, shrubs and trees that grew there and then built the sheds and ovens they use to smoke the fish.
“We are pleading with the government to help us maintain the place as this is where we earn our livelihoods as wives, single parents and breadwinners to sustain our families, pay our children’s school fees, house rent, and attend to other pressing needs. We would also want the government to help us with proper storage facilities,” she appealed.
Fatou Jammeh, another woman fish smoker, said “We are women who are powerless and helpless, so the little place we have here should not be taken away from us by anyone and government should intervene and help us.”