By: M A Jallow,
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) was created in 1996 by former President Yahya Jammeh and was headed by Madam Isatou Njie Saidy who also doubled as the then Vice President (VP) of The Gambia. The tradition briefly continued when President Adama Barrow assumed office and appointed Ms Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang as his VP. However, of recent, President Barrow reshuffled his cabinet and appointed a man as his second. Ousainou Darboe, a fatherly figure to President Barrow is the new VP and supposedly the MoWA. This is where the paradox began to rear its ugly head. When it was announced on June 29th 2018 that President Barrow had relieved Ms Jallow Tambajang of her post and had replaced her with Ousainou Darboe, I went into hysteria. Rhetorical questions kept popping up faster than my brain could process.
Where does the appointment of Darboe as VP and supposedly the MoWA leave Gambian women? Let me make things clear so that I may not be misunderstood; I have no qualms with the appointment of Darboe as VP. However, I am uncomfortable with him doubling as the MoWA. Does The Gambia fall short of competent women to represent the womenfolk? Heck no! Honestly, it is not a matter of if, but when, will the position of VP be separated from that of the MoWA? What do we the women of The Gambia have to do to be given our due? Have we not laid our lives to free The Gambia from the clutches of colonialism and subsequently, dictatorship? Have we not suffered for decades under the entrenched system of patriarchy? These are questions that need serious attention and immediate answers. A national dialogue to discuss the plight of Gambian women is needed now more than ever. Women everywhere cannot afford to be represented by the opposite sex. We appreciate the concerns and efforts of men, but no thank you; we can represent ourselves. Enough is enough!
What will unfold in the near future will determine to what extent the Barrow Administration recognizes the right of women to representation in positions of decision making, especially one of such nature. This move seemingly shows his perception of women in terms of capacity. President Barrow has clearly demonstrated how little he thinks of us Gambian women through his first cabinet appointments. Even though the number of women in his first pick was meager, we settled for it. Now, he had basically wiped us out of the equation and he will add insult to injury if VP Darboe continues to double as the MoWA. We the womenfolk of The Gambia need a pragmatic person (a woman) who had lived our experiences to head the MoWA.
It is only through a woman representative that our plight will be noticed, our voices heard, and our cause championed, and subsequently, our rights respected and protected. President Adama Barrow must put into motion the process of separating the post of the VP with that of the MoWA with immediate effect. He must not only be seen to deliver sugarcoated statements about our plight, but to take actual steps that will materialize and yield unprecedented dividend. Gambian women have defied the odds in the struggle against dictatorship. They have endured decades of abuse due to the patriarchal nature of our society. They have paid the ultimate price. The time has come for positive change to take place. The bigotry in the hearts and minds of men, and some women should be conquered. Keep quiet no more! We the women of The Gambia and women everywhere will reclaim our rightful position in society. A social revolution is needed.
By M A Jallow
July 16th 2018