In 2006 an apex body of women’s groups from different socio-economic activities formed the Gambia Women’s Federation to facilitate support and promote the economic empowerment of women. This initiative was spearheaded by the former Executive Director of the Women’s Bureau, Mrs Ida Fye–Hydara.
Since its establishment, the Federation members are both urban and rural women engaged in Fashion Design, Vegetable Production and Marketing, Fisheries, Professional groups such as the Private Secretaries Association amongst other Small and Medium Women Entrepreneurs.
In her introduction, the Executive Director of the Women’s Bureau, Mrs Binta Jammeh –Sidibeh congratulated President Barrow for his election as well as the nomination on women in his cabinet and in the National Assembly. She asserted that women played a critical role in the elections and appreciated the support President Barrow accorded them.
The President of the Gambia Women’s Federation, Fatoumata Jah said they have five thousand members countrywide. She elaborated on the projects they have embarked upon such the building of a women’s market worth eight million Dalasis with a capacity of 600 shops. She highlighted some of the challenges they faced to complete the construction of the market as planned. So far, a third of the shops have been completed and allocated while the remaining two-third is affected by price inflation and the exchange rate of the dollar. Ms Jah revealed the initiatives they started also included a groundnut oil processing company, food and merchandise companies importing goods to The Gambia. The Federation has also been supporting members through revolving fund from the contributions of its members. She revealed that its plan includes opening regional markets in the rural areas.
The Women’s Federation President asserted that the companies they initiated have been affected by poor groundnut harvest, lack of cold storage facility for food products. Other constraints included the incomplete market, lack of fencing, electricity and water supply. They also lack transportation to reach out to its rural members.
Despite the challenges, Ms Fatoumata Jah said the Federation member organisations are creating employment and taking up their social responsibility to plough back to society.
One of the members, Ndey Awa Khan, informed the meeting that the Gambia Women’s Federation is non-partisan and only groups can be members. She said the purpose is to ensure that proper support is provided to empower women’s economic activities and promote light industries that will add value to local products. Ndey Awa Khan further appealed for The Gambia to negotiate with the United States government to bring back AGOA for them to reach out to the American market. She finally called for Gambians to promote local designers by patronising them.
The West Coast Region Coordinator of the Federation, Binta Sabally and Aji Mariama Secka alias Aunty Yam Secka both paid tribute to the former Executive Director of the Women’s Bureau Ida Fye-Hydra for her hard work and the initiatives she took to bring the best interest of Gambian women to the fore. Aunty Yam further appealed for her consideration to be given to her plight.
The President of the Republic of the Gambia, H.E. Mr Adama Barrow thanked all Gambians for bringing about the change of government. He called on the women to reflect on the situation of the country and the personality cult built around the former President Jammeh. Despite being perceived as powerful, he was removed because the people came together and the women’s took a strong stand during that process.
President Barrow acknowledged the concerns of the Women’s Federation and encouraged them to be patient. He cited his story as a businessman and that with determination there will be no limitation.
He said that his government inherited a bad economy and urged women to build confidence as well as continue to strive harder. He promised them that his government will do their best to bring down commodity prices, and added no development can take place without democracy.
In recognising the critical role of women in governance and society, The Gambian leader acknowledged the importance of gender representation and reminded them of the presences of strong women’s rights activists in his government. He further acknowledged the role some of the activists played in fighting for justice as well as defending the will of the Gambian people during the transition. President Barrow asserted that the change was based on the principle of democracy to provide a level field for all to participate, including women. He concluded that despite the constraints, The Gambian has changed for good. The Gambian leader pledged that the government will review the situation of the former Executive Director of the Women’s Bureau Ida Fye-Hydara. He made a personal donation of D100,000 for Mrs Fye-Hydara’s personal wellbeing.