A Tribute to the Late Honourable Aja Nyimasata Sanneh-Bojang 1941 – 2015 GAMCOTRAP BOARD MEMBER
GAMCOTRAP pays tribute and honours the late Honourable Aja Nyimasata Sanneh-Bojang, The Gambia’s first female elected Member of Parliament in the then Jawara regime and continued her stewardship with the second regime. The late Nyimasata was born to parents from the heart of the Kombos – Brufut and Sukuta Sabiji. The late Honourable Nyimasata Sanneh built her career by briefly joining the nursing profession as a young woman but quickly moved on to the teaching field. She started as an unqualified teacher but with determination she later qualified and taught in different schools in the Kombos and in the North Bank Region and rose to the position of head teacher. Being one of the rare role models at the time, especially from her Mandinka ethnic group, the then young Nyimasata engaged with the local social structures and became part of the peer group – “fulang kafo”. This availed her opportunity to senitize her peers and encouraged them to engage into meaningful and gainful activities and development. As Public Relations Officer of the Women’s Bureau in the 1980s; she organized, sensitized and mobilized women to participate in all spheres of nation building mainly supporting the existing status quo. She held many portfolios as a politician, including the Minister of Health.
She broke the barriers for women to participate in elective political position despite the rough and difficult terrain she faced during this process. During the first republic, she held the position of a Parliamentary Secretary. She also served as a Member of Parliament (MP) during the second Republic. Her charisma has been utilised by leaders to advance their political ambition and she has always been a staunch supporter of the APRC. She influenced the hearts and minds of people within her circle to support the ruling party. During her engagement with the current dispensation she was among those who led the campaign during the transition up to the election which ushered President Jammeh as the leader. During her career as a political figure, she engaged women and led the political arena for women in The Gambia. She was principled and very hardworking. Both the first and second regime owes this great woman appreciation for her contribution to Gambia’s development.
She was one of the leading organizers of FGM in her communities; a practice she then believed was grounded in religion. With knowledge she was empowered to say “No” to FGM. Honourable Nyimasata Sanneh henceforth took a strong stance against FGM shaking off the cultural feathers she had.
Her commitment to positive change earned her membership in the Board of Directors of GAMCOTRAP and has served from 2006 to 2015 when she met her demise. Her engagement with GAMCOTRAP sharpened her feminist lens. The late Honourable Sanneh chaired GAMCOTRAP’s four public declarations held between 2007 to 2013 in which circumcisers take an oath to abandon FGM in the Dropping of the Knife Celebrations held at The Independent Stadium, Basse, Soma, and Wassu.
“Aunty Nyima”, as she was fondly called, was a board member of GAMCOTRAP and led the campaign to end FGM in the Gambia. The late Honourable Sanneh was very astute and courageous in standing up for her beliefs. When she learnt about the impact of FGM on women and girls, she was determined to fight the wrong meted on girl-children by openly supporting the crusade and joined GAMCOTRAP in its mission to protect women and children’s rights in general and FGM in particular. Being the first female political leader who earned her seat to the Parliament through the ballot box, the late Honourable Sanneh was an inspiration for women aspiring for leadership positions. She led GAMCOTRAP in a ground-breaking project to promote the participation of women in Politics and Decision Making in 2008.
During her tenure as a Board member of GAMCOTRAP Honourable Nyimasata Sanneh has always commented to the team “I will always give GAMCOTRAP my support and you can count on me. I believe in your mission and objectives and I will always be with you. I believe in the mission because the cause is genuine.” Her believe in women’s empowerment sometimes has cost her political relevance.
The evidence of her political activism can be witnessed from the series of engagements she undertook as the chairperson of the “Effective Participation of Women in Governance and decision making Project” under GAMCOTRAP where she gave a very powerful speech saying “I felt lonely when I looked back and did not see many women in Parliament, we need more”. In her later life as she engaged with GAMCOTRAP she has been making fervent calls for women in Parliament. We hope that this call will be fulfilled for Gambian Women. (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrih5TkVNastzOmiN73uRzw)
Aunty Nyima was a charismatic leader who facilitated positive change for people wanting to realise their objectives whilst taking the back seat. She has mentored a lot of women’s groups and individuals to gain higher heights and supported them financially to reach where they want to go. She has promoted unity among people and traditional leaders and she is well known for her generosity to people. Her latest engagement was in promoting the cause of vulnerable women and girls when she organised and encouraged a group of young girls who she introduced to GAMCOTRAP to mentor them. In her own words she said “GAMCOTRAP I have entrusted these girls to you to give them all the support because I believe in them. They are trying all their best to live a decent life and it is not easy for them.” These are the V-Girls. We know that there are many other initiatives she has undertaken and we pray that her dreams for Gambian Women will be realized. She is survived by her sons, daughters and grandchildren.
Aunty Nyima, you have done a lot for the Gambia.
You have broken the shackle of patriarchy in the field of politics
You have created and made leaders as a faithful person
You are gone but your deeds will be remembered
All of us will pass through this path to answer to the call of the Lord Almighty
It is said that, “the evil that men do lives after them and the good are interred with their bones”
But Nyima, You will forever remain a legacy to the Gambian people and for women in particular
May Allah grant you the highest reward!
Rest in perfect peace!
GAMCOTRAP, August 2015
Bankoo baayla Nyima Sanneh wo teh la la Maralaa.
I remember her visit to my school when she was parliamentary Secretary, Education. We sang the above song for her. Surprisingly, she liked it so much that she danced with us. Very charming mother figure.
Rest in peace Nyancho Balamang Turamakang lasili.
One good memory of her for me was that in the summer of 1989 she had my certificates stamped by the then PS of Education so I could go to the Middle East for studies.
I think she took pity on me because she must have realized I had spent every single working day of the previous two weeks standing or sitting at the door of the Department. I was completely ignored and obstructed from accessing this public service because I was nobody and came with nobody. Additionally I was not able to speak the language the officials felt I should. But for her, I would have spectacularly failed in that project.
That was Gambia then; not much different from Gambia today.
Kemo-ba, the official language is English which you seems to understand well. What is this other language that the officials at the Education Department wanted you to speak to them???
Lafia, stop acting obtuse. Kemo-Ba is referring to the “official language” called “Attaya” in The Gambia and “Chai” in Kenya. … i.e. bribery.
I respect her rights to her political stand and other works she did in both regimes . May her soul rest in perfect peace . However, she was one of the leading voices in early day of military dictatorship who helped Jammeh to gain significant support of women across the country, therefore I do not like that part of her legacy and it was wrong for her to be associated with military dictatorship.
I think her stand to fight female genital mutilation ( FGM) in later part of her life was tremendous efforts and should be recognized. FGM is bad cultural practice which affects women’s health including reproduction , sexuality and psychological and mental wellbeing. It is time for our all male denominated National Assembly come up with legislation to ban it so that in the future girls won’t experience such a traumatic event . Our religious leaders especially those with progressive view like imam baba Leigh and others should be forefront to educate ill-informed population that such evil practice has no religious backing. Every Gambian man who care about his wife and daughter should try to do more research about such evil practice and sit with his wife and have conversations about this practice . We should fully embrace those positive cultures we have but the negative ones like FGM should be discouraged.
Dida, assumptions are not always right. Let’s hear from the horse mouth.