“There are hundreds of educated women up to university level who do not know what’s their constitutional rights are”, Amie Sillah the Executive Director of Women for Democracy and Development told the Musoolula Bantabaa (Women’s Forum). The gender activist who spoke to Musoolula Bantabaa after the closing of a two day training for 40 women and 10 men said the main purpose of the workshop is to empower and sensitize women on the Women’s Act 2010 because after the parliament ratified the Act, all women organization were ask to sensitize them on the community level. “And my role as an activist is to promote the rights of women, which I have done for decades by working with the grassroots of rural and urban poor women.” Amie who recently won an award for to her dedication in changing the lives of poor women said her Organisation empowers women with knowledge of Democracy, Women rights. “We also give grants for Economic Empowerment to women”, she said. She said the participants have been trained on Gender Equality and Equity, Good Governance, Social Justice, Social Inclusion and related issues. “By democracy, we refer to the political system where the women in a given society are also given the right and the possibility to participate freely as individuals or groups, directly or indirectly.” The women participating in the forum have always believed that they are owned by their own husbands. Society where male ideology is dominant, where male say “I own the female” has made the poor women, even the conventionally educated women. Madam Sillah added that women issues are commonality and in order to eliminate this philosophy, women should be given equality in the social sphere, access to justice “we want our lives to be protected.” “When it comes to atonalism these women want equal remuneration. But when it comes to the low rank that is where the problem is because there are instances before girls/women are given a job your boss has to go to bed with you. Where are we after our integrity is being violated”, she emphasized. She said the issue of violation is best looked at through the lens of evolutionary psychology. She added that such jobs are not sustainable after losing your dignity and honor. “Our dignity is sacred and should protect it by all means. I know women are very tortured by this.” She also told Musoolula Bantabaa how women are being given loan at high interest rates that they end up selling their properties to pay the high interest rate loans for women make them poorer. She stated that if anyone wants to empower woman they should be given loans at reasonable interest or interest free loans. Before giving a fish to a woman, teach her how to catch fish and then feed her for life.” Politically, she said women have the right to vote and to be voted for. “We have been rallying, dancing, cooking and clapping for men for so long, adding that now it is time that capable women, poor women take the leadership.” She implored that women get the knowledge and stand for election either in the national assembly or council elections. Women in the ruling party have a level of consciousness to take advantage of the opportunity as women can be voted in just as men. She said leadership requires honesty and strength as the destiny of the country lies in the hands of both men and women. Aji Fatou Mboge, participant said the training could have come at a better time like this. She added that they have been edified on the rape of teenage girls, which is becoming rampant, adding that they have been lectured how to protect their girls from being victims. Sharing her story with participant, Fatou explain her ordeal as tears runs down her cheeks: “I once spend a night in a kitchen.” I did everything with my husband and after having seven children with him he went and married a young teenager who was young enough to be his grandchild.” “What is stopping men by helping us and empowering us like the prophet use to do with his wives? Fatou Bah, also a participant said they have been trained on marriage and divorce. “I think divorce should be last stage of marriage. The responsibilities of women are many combined with taking care of the children, which the men have little to do specially if he has many wives.” For her, she said, she sees no reason why men should marry many wives when they are unable to provide shelter and clothing for the first wife. She added that registration of marriage was one of the issues they discussed during the workshop. “It is very applicable to register for marriages for proof. She said that would enable one to know how much the man spent on her in case of any hitch in the future. The elders who tied the marriage will not want to go to court to serve as witnesses when the need arises. As a result, she said the man will obviously win the case taking all your children with him. “If my husband divorces me then I don’t think he will treat my children well”, she concluded. She said because of parents’ lack of understanding she was unemployed; they were poor and the man she was dating with was paying for my training after her form four. “After my parents realized that they stopped the man from paying for my education and get me married to another man”, she said. “Thanks to WODD who helped me realize my full potential”, she said with relief.
An elderly participant, Aminata Camara said illiteracy often excludes women from written knowledge and decision-making. She said lack of awareness is one of the major challenges hindering the advancement of Gambian women who do not comprehend the subject. She said she never dreamt about women expressing their sufferings. “I always thought: Should women bear the brunt suffering until we die and have no right”, the old woman said.