The seeds of dictatorship, which were planted on July 22, 1994, have been germinated beyond human understanding. Simply put, our country and its people have been inundated in threats. These threats hang over everyone, including our society’s vulnerable members. Ours is a country where the protector has become the oppressor. The seriousness of our problem has no boundary. In short, we are in a very serious trouble.
We cannot address the plight of women and girls without pointing fingers at those responsible. In that both the government and the society should be blamed, especially when women have become direct victims. At first, the complaint was about disappearance or arrest of husbands whose absence turned wives into desperate and hopeless beggars. These women and their kids have become widows and orphans overnight. Women have now become direct victims of brutality. Several stories, including the illegal detention of Awa Darboe, Mai Ceesay and Lawyer Mariam Denton, all corroborated state sponsored brutality on Gambian women. Our women detainees have been denied access to sanitary tools and in some cases systematically raped. Anyone who denies this claim can tell me how Mile 2 inmates have become pregnant? This sounds immoral, disgusting and irreligious. Not incompatible with a culture we inherited from our ancestors.
Our problem has escalated to the extent that even pregnant women have become victims. Seeing Awa Darboe, the innocent and heavily pregnant wife of Col. Ndure Cham breathing with difficulty in detention at Banjul police in March 2006 was too disturbing. Aye mbalo fale.. Dawna suma yaram. Why would a visibly pregnant woman be arrested for her husband’s alleged crime? What if she gave birth in detention and needed urgent midwifery attention? What if she or her unborn child died in detention? What did the government gain from this stupid act?
We love and cherish the respect our cultures and religions have given to women. But it becomes hard work whenever women’s issues are talked about. You hear people saying “women issues are very sensitive.” Some even said women are as complicated as their bodies. Others argue that for a society to be in peace, that society should preserve the kitchen for women instead of being allowed to be in a classroom where they will be polluted with western education. They fear that educated women launch all-out war on our deep rooted cultures. Sadly, these are the same people who curse male midwives for attending to their wives or daughters at labour. They simply can’t have it both ways.
Our failure to see women as key players have set back our development. In the coming weeks and months, we will help dissect the problems of our women and girls. We have created the platform but we will not stop there; we’ll nurture and develop program. We hope the public will give us a helping hand in exercising our motto of reliance, responsibility and honesty. As activists in our various domains, our central goal centers on empowering, liberating and protecting people.