Since the United Nations first initiated the global campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in 1991 the activities and themes have been observed in the Gambia by Civil Society Organisations and NGOs led by the African Centre Democracy and Human Rights Studies.
The 16 Days of Activism runs from 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to International Human Rights Day on 10th December.
Despite the groundswell of public support for this campaign and many others like it, we are still unfortunately a long way from realising a world free of sexism, discrimination and violence against women and girls. For this reason, the UDP has intensified its efforts to achieve gender parity organisation-wide with a policy of at 30% of all positions within the Party shall be occupied by women. Despite our best efforts as the international community, as national governments and as civil society, gender-based violence remains a feature of the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. The reality is that legislative and policy measures instituted by governments cannot alone rid us of this problem.
The 16 Days of Activism campaign affirms the need for all sectors of society to play their part in the fight against gender-based violence. It is up to us all, as individuals and communities, to bring about the change we so sorely need. It is about driving fundamental change in societal attitudes that allow sexism, chauvinism and patriarchy to thrive.
As we gear up for this year’s campaign, we acknowledge the invaluable work being done by non-governmental organisations and non-state actors to combat gender-based violence. The United Democratic Party speak here of the volunteers from Civil Society Organisations, Community Based Organisations Faith Based Organisation INGO.
We thank the leaders and managers in care centres for children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups who have been affected by gender-based violence. We are grateful for the dedication of our social workers, both in local government and in grassroots organisations, who provide critical services to survivors and their families.
Women form the majority of those engaged in care work and it is in the main unpaid. Acknowledging its important contribution not just to the economy but to society, is key to advancing gender equality.
Beyond its devastating effects on the health, safety and well-being of women and girls, this insidious problem has significant social, political and economic impacts. Individuals and families bear the greatest proportion of costs.
Furthermore, the productivity of women in abusive relationships is also negatively affected.
It is clear then that not only is eradicating gender-based violence a moral and human rights imperative, it is also key to us realising our developmental potential as a nation.
During the State of Public Emergency in the Gambia declared to contain the COVID-19 pandemic we witnessed first-hand the integral role played by the NGOs and community-based organisations in providing support to vulnerable women and children.
They worked with government to ensure that the basic needs of women and children in hard to reach places were met, and worked with the INGOs to ensure there was adequate personal protective equipment where they were needed.
UDP knows all too well that while it is government that is the duty bearer that makes and adopts policies, it is the NGOs and community workers who are closest to where our people are. They are a barometer of implementation or the lack thereof on the ground.
This country’s women and children, and indeed all the people of The Gambia will forever remain grateful for the work of our robust, activist and principled civil society organisations and workers.
As we begin the 16 Days of Activism campaign on Wednesday, let us remember that we all share a common goal: to turn the tide on this scourge. Let us continue in the spirit of mutual respect and partnership to make this year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign one that is impactful and that makes a difference.
By the time the campaign concludes on International Human Rights Day, let us be all the closer to achieving a society in which the rights of women and girls are upheld and protected for the Gambia our Homeland.
Ousainu ANM Darboe
Secretary General & Party Leader