Nearly 200,000 people live in this informal settlement with very…
The mountains of the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal in the coastal region of the Indian Ocean differ greatly from how Europeans imagine Africa. They are lush, green and experience a lot of rain. Right in the middle of this splendour lies the political and administrative centre of the province, Pietermaritzburg.
Nearly 200,000 people live in this informal settlement with very little infrastructure outside Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Yesterday, Mary, you talked about "France" in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa and it inspired me to find out more. So I found another lovely photo of children being helped by the family support we offer. I love that these two little girls are helping their mum with the tidying, it show that it's the whole family who are pulling together.
Sweet potato market the Gambia Basse.
Women are often considered being the key to development. In The Gambia, we are aware of that and are working towards reducing gender inequalities and empowering women.
I have found a number of surprising points when reading this brief overview of the situation for women in The Gambia. I hope it surprises and interests you in equal measure too:
Like many other African women, Gambian women are very active in society. However, women traditionally have three roles 1) a reproductive role and family carer, 2) work to contribute to the family's resources and 3) a community life. This tradition can leave little space for self-improvement.
Women's illiteracy rate is high in the Gambia. According to "The Gambia Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Report" made by the government in collaboration with UNICEF in 2000 the illiteracy rate in women is 75.1%. This means that the work most women do is subsistence farming, so the women don't get a chance to improve their literacy in their job.
Since the Gambian government signed the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1992 and the Beijing declaration in 1995, gender issues are gradually moving mainstream on the national agenda and the situation of women keeps improving. These are some of the major areas of concern that have been focussed on over the past years:
Education: Actions have been taken to increase girls' enrolment in schools and women have an easier access to functional literacy classes.
Productive and economic resources: Microfinance institutions have been established to give women access to the credit market. Women have no access to regular bank loans because they cannot provide any collateral (title deed - which women are not allowed in The Gambia).
Health, employment, and national laws are finally other areas where Gambian women enjoy the same rights as men. On an institutional level, a gender management system has been put in place to make sure that all policies and programmes address effectively the concern of both male and female.
One should also mention that the Gambian government has a female vice-president and women occupy several ministry chairs.
The major problem related to a full implementation of women's rights in The Gambia comes from the fact that the cultural aspect is still stronger than the law. As Ms Kinteh explains, "in The Gambia, no laws would be taken against some issues because the government needs the support of the population who still strongly abide by their culture". The Gambian constitution itself endorses some of the cultural practices.
Women have no right to agricultural land property. They only benefit from a user right, as the land tenure system is based on custom tenures, where land belongs to the - always male - family head. As a result, women cannot decide what to grow on their land, which represents a major constraint given that women's income is mostly coming from their gardening activities.
Polygamy can have some negative effects on a woman's life, when, for example, the husband gives more attention to one of them and neglects (morally and financially) his other wives.
Wife inheritance (a widow becomes the wife of her brother-in-law) can have negative consequences on a woman and her children. They could be left aside morally and financially and the woman would have to find alternative ways to attend to herself and her children, which could include prostitution, sending her children on the street to beg, etc. Female Genital Mutilation is still not condemned by the law and has well-known negative health consequences on women.
Finding common grounds between human rights and cultural believes is undeniably a hard task in countries where traditions strongly lead people's behaviours and values. Changes cannot be the work of one day. However, the Gambian women are strong, hard-working and determined.
Women come together in groups in every community and they develop all sorts of initiatives to improve their family lives (revolving funds, trainings in income generating activities, etc.). With a continuous strong support form the government and international as well as local NGOs, women are on the way of being leaders and role models for their communities.