By Abdoulie John

As part of its efforts to create a positive working environment in the media,  the Women’s Journalists Association of The Gambia (WJAG) held Thursday a half-day long seminar to review a policy document geared towards fighting sexual misconduct at workplace. The meeting was convened at Gambia Press Union (GPU) Secretariat in Fajara, some 8 km away from Banjul.

WJAG President Sarjo Camara told this medium that the idea to come up with a policy document culminated from a recent meeting  they had with their general membership.
“A lot of cases of sexual harassment was reported that day, prompting the association to initiate this process of providing a legal backup to victims,” she told this medium shortly after the seminar ended.
Funded by UNESCO, the project is spearheaded by WJAG with the support of GPU gender based violence committee. The project comes at a time when the spotlight was put on an emblematic case of alleged sexual assault  involving ex-dictator Jammeh and a former beauty queen Toufah Jallow.
Sarjo Camara said if they have to put an end to a phenomenon that is spreading in media houses or face the risk of exposing female journalists to a situation that would negatively impact on their work.
But she was quick to add: “This harassment could come from both sides. Women can be harassing men and vice-versa.
Sexual harassment cases are under reported in the country as a pervasive law of silence continues to prevail on many cases.
UNESCO’s Maimuna Sidibeh who took part in the review process lauded WJAG and GPU for embarking on a process outlawing sexual misconduct in media houses.
“We need to raise awareness, to protect female journalists. We need to come up with a policy document that protection to those working in the media,” she said.
She expressed hopes that the next review session will be punctuated by a massive participation of  media practitioners.
“It is of utmost importance for media chiefs to endorse the policy document we are working on,” she added.
Renowned Gambian activist and Westminster Foundation Rep. to Gambia, Madi Jobarteh, who spoke to this reporter, said it is important for the country to have legislation that would serve as deterrence to sexual predators.
“A lot of women are going through sexual harassment, but a good number of them are not ready to come forward and tell their story,” he deplored. “It is very widespread in our society.”
Jobarteh said the move taken by Toufah Jallow was revolutionary. He then commended the uncompromising stance taken by the country’s press body on the issue.
GPU clearly stipulates in its anti-harassment policy that the union has “zero tolerance for sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, exploitation or abuse of any kind among media professionals at the work place.”
Ends

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