ECOWAS marks Int’l Women’s Day
By Cherno Omar Bobb
The international community has set aside every 8th of March as the International Women’s Day. It is a day for reflection and commemoration of the achievements of women all over the world including international and regional organisations like the ECOWAS.
The ECOWAS Permanent Mission in The Gambia like ECOWAS Commission usually uses the day to celebrate the achievements of its female staff.
This year, the Resident Representative of the President of the ECOWAS Commission/Head of ECOMIG Her Excellency Miatta Lilly French used the occasion to celebrate achievements of female personnel of the ECOMIG, those of the Permanent Representative of ECOWAS in The Gambia and the personnel of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) and the Gambia Police Force (GPF) at the ECOMIG Headquarters in Bakau on Thursday.
Fadimata Alou Ousmane, ECOMIG Programmes Manager said since the inception of ECOMIG in 2017, 170 women have participated in the mission. She added that they actively participate in all peace and security operations of the mission with professionalism, diligence and efficiency to the admiration of all.
She pointed out that despite the steps taken by ECOMIG to ensure the active participation of women in its operations, there are still gaps at the various levels to which women could be deployed to strengthen the administrative and operational activities.
He noted that therefore, the emphasis must be placed not only on equality but also on equity.
Lt. Colonel Arabiatu Jarjue, the Deputy Inspector General of the Gambia Armed Forces said female soldiers are sometimes overlooked for some missions deemed difficult and unsuitable for women but noted that the reality is female soldiers have always been found to have the ability for enduring such harsh conditions and have proven that in many ways.
She further said that the Gambia Armed Forces female soldiers continue to play a vital role in keeping the peace and tranquility Gambians and residents in The Gambia continue to enjoy.
Lt. Colonel Jarjue stated that in 2005 GAF made massive increase in the number of women in high command and in 2011 the first female general of GAF and many others were promoted to various ranks.
She also said that they continue to enjoy capacity building and overseas studies to advance their status. However, she said despite the achievements, female soldiers still face challenges which include the notion that women are weak.
Major Ama Serwaa, ECOMIG Deputy Logistic Officer in sharing her experience as a female officer said her experience has been rewarding as it has given her job security and financial stability. She added that the job has also given her the opportunity to serve humanity especially in mission areas.
Major Serwaa pointed out that the Ghana military through its gender mainstream drive has built the capacity of women officers on both tactical and operational levels and given them the opportunity to rise in their careers and take up command roles.
She highlighted that with hard work and determination, all women in the force can get to where they want in the career.
She also said that despite the achievements, there was a previous policy that required women officers to stay single for 3 years after commission without marriage or procreation but do not apply to their male counterparts.
She also pointed out protective equipment designed to fit men as a stereotype to women officers. She added that they are also seen as less feminine, less marriageable and more aggressive than civilian women.
She also pointed out an increase in sexual assault and/or harassment that it hardly reported or addressed out of fear of stigmatisation as another challenge. She said women who speak up are discouraged from making official complaints and were sometimes bullied and isolated.
Gass Sabally, Operations Commander for the Gambia Police Force East Kanifing Region said there are a lot of senior female police officers in the force but noted that there is only one regional commissioner across the 7 regions of the country.
She therefore called for more empowerment of female officers. She also advised her fellow women officers to gird their loins and empower themselves to be able to deliver when promoted.
Her Excellency Miatta Lilly French, the Resident Representative of the President of the ECOWAS Commission/Head of ECOMIG said the disadvantages are many but urged women to be steadfast.
She also encouraged them to serve diligently and take advantage of any opportunity given to them, overcome obstacles and as much as possible, be worthy of positions given to them.