Njundu Drammeh

Today is International Women’s Day. I join not in the celebration but in the reflection, for our mothers, sisters, wives, aunts and daughters should be celebrated everyday.

Without mummy’s sacrifice, wife’s leadership in the household, aunty’s hard work at the naako and farroo, sister’s trailblazing role in administration, business and the polity, grandmother’s firm hold on the family and love, daughter’s contribution to the GDP care, countries will never rested from their “turmoil”.

As a country we should be engaging in a deep reflection, a sober introspection, about the conditions and wellbeing of our women, our mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, aunties. An unexamined life is not worth living, they say. It is only by questioning and reflecting in an honest, unbais way that we can change the status quo. It is only through honest critiquing that men would see how damaging their exclusive control and unbridled enjoyment of the resources, powers, rights, privileges that belong to the two sexes have robbed society of development and happiness.

Each wife, sister and daughter should ask her husband, brother and father to look himself in the mirror and frankly say whether he ‘likes the face in that mirror’, whether he likes how he treats her, how society subjugates her, her things are done and said in her name, how her life is defined by what men say is defined by ‘ culture and religion’, how she is regarded as a ‘back bencher’ in society.

We must interrogate the laws, policies and structures we have in place and how far they go to promote and fulfil the rights of women. The existence of the law, while paramount, is not the only necessary condition for respect and protection of right. Laws can liberate and shackle.

Women hold half our sky, constituting about 51% of our population. Yet, they are dismally and disproportionately underrepresented in all elected decision making bodies, in the boardrooms and in the corridors of power. They hover around the fringes. The Government and political parties must make a deliberate action to increase the representation in these bodies. The political ‘doors’ may not be closed legally to any woman but the stumbling blocks are too many, and all hidden, that many women may not be able to enter even if they want to. Patriarchy and culture defined by men stand out starkly. Women should be at the table, not on the menu. Women should be adequately represented where decisions, policies and laws are made or passed. After all, our lives, good or bad, are determined by what comes out of these places.

My dearest sister, go forth and shatter the glass ceiling. Refuse to be defined by what society says a woman should be and do. Refuse to believe what your Imam or Priest tells you the scriptures say about women; go find out yourself. Men won’t invite you to the table or the spaces available; go grab your seat even if uninvited and crowd the spaces. Men won’t unchain you; be united and break the chain.

I salute all our women for their hard work, perseverance and tolerance. We-men are because you babied us, you cared us even when we were/are at our worst behaviours, you moulded us into the best shape and saw us grow into the fine men we became. Then we turned against you and some of us made you a punching bag, others made you a sex object and some daily disrespect and dishonour you. Well….. Others are ‘yours obedient child’, fully aware that heaven or paradise lies at your feet.

Happy IWD to the Gambian Woman and Girl