By Abdoulie John

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Mariam Jack Denton, has reiterated the need for Gambia to eradicate gender disparities in all of its forms as the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) is making giant strides in the formulation of the country’s Fundamental Law.

“It is obvious that gender equality is essential for the achievement of human rights for all. Yet discriminatory laws against women persist in every corner of the globe,” said the House Speaker Mariam Jack Denton in her opening remarks delivered at a one-day consultative workshop held at Senegambia Beach Hotel in Kololi, some 11 km away from Banjul.

The tiny West African nation is emerging from the shadows of two-decade long dictatorship. The new political dispensation is marked by institutional and constitutional reforms spearheaded by the new authorities. Important steps have already been taken to make sure that discriminatory laws against women and girls are repealed.

Speaker Denton deplored the fact that in all legal traditions many laws continue to institutionalise second class status for women and girls in the areas of nationality, citizenship, health, education, marital rights, employment rights, parental rights, inheritance and property rights.

She went further to denounce what many observers have described as a devastating reality that women and girls are confronted with, adding that it is against women’s empowerment.

“It is no secret that women form the majority of the world’s poorest people and the number of women living in rural poverty has increased by 50% since 1975,” she revealed.

Breaking down the disturbing statistics, Gambia’s third-in-command pointed out that women work two-third of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food. She was quick to highlight the ever-shifting gender gap as women continue to earn only 10% of the world’s income and are owners of 1% of the world’s property.

She seized the opportunity to remind the gathering that President Adama Barrow had demonstrated strong commitment to the agenda of women empowerment.

“We are already aware that this government has already set in motion a programme of comprehensive legal reform, which encompasses a review of the current Constitution and existing laws,” she said.

Efforts To Bridge The Gender Gap

For her part, the Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Fatou Kinteh, reiterated gov’t to ensuring that the international and regional instruments ratified by Gambia are effectively used as ‘tools to protect the human rights of women and girls ‘

She cited some of these instruments that have been translated into law such as the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (African Women’s Protocol).

Minister Kinteh also assured that her ministry, the National Women Council and Women’s Bureau are committed to undertaking regular gender reviews of gov’t policies, laws and programmes as stated in the Women’s Act 2010 in line with international convention endorsed by the country.

She also expressed gov’t resolve to undertaking a gender audit of all laws and policies in order to further reinforce the principles of equality between men and women as well as equity in the distribution of resources and power.

Speaking on behalf of United Nations Resident Coordinator, Sandra Lattouf said cooperation and not competition should be the way to go.

While decrying the discriminatory laws that constitute a major hurdles for women to access land, and finance, she clearly stated the current generation has the responsibility to address these challenges.

The high-level consultative workshop was organised by Gambia gov’t and its partners including UN Women, Commonwealth Secretariat, UNFPA, UNDP and the National Assembly.

Ends

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