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Statement of the Flag President on the Conference; Women, Children & the Law

Good Morning, my Lord the Hon. Chief Justice of the Gambia, Justice Hassan B Jallow

  • Judges and Cadis of the Superior Courts
  • The Attorney General and Minister of Justice
  • The Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare
  • Yours Worships the Magistrate and the Cadis
  • The President of the Gambia Bar Association
  • Members of FLAG
  • UNICEF’s Representative
  • The Judicial Secretary
  • Staff of the Judiciary
  • Stakeholders
  • The Press
  • Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, All protocols respectfully
  1. It is my great pleasure and honour as the President of the Female Lawyers Association Gambia- FLAG to deliver a statement on behalf of the Association at this very important gathering on the Theme “Women, Children and the Law.”
  2. I would first of all like to thank the Hon. Chief Justice for coming up with such a great initiative to collaborate with FLAG as part of the Legal Year Celebration to: discuss the legal issues pertaining to women and children in the Gambia, who are considered to be the most vulnerable members of our society.
  3. This conference is the first of its kind between the Judiciary of the Gambia and the Female Lawyers Association. We trust that it will continue to be a yearly event as part of the Legal Year Celebrations.
  4. The aim of this Conference seeks to assess the Laws in the Gambia on the Rights of Women and Child, its application in the Judicial System and as well as highlight the practical challenges faced by women and children on a daily basis in accessing Justice, to enforce or defend their rights.
  5. The natural rights of Women and Child are most importantly and foremost provided for: in the Supreme Law of this land in sections 28 and 29 of the 1997 Constitution ,The UN Convention on the Elimination of all Form of Discriminations against Women(CEDAW), The Protocol of the African Charter on Human and Peoples The Rights on the Right of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol )and the Convention on the Rights of Children respectively.
  1. These fundamental rights have been domesticated by The Gambia into legislations such as the Children’s Act 2005(as amended), Labour Act 2007, Women’s Act 2010 (as amended), the Domestic Violence Act 2013 and Sexual Offences Act 2013 etc.
  1. Female Lawyers in the Gambia have in various ways been actively engaged in the provision of pro-bono legal services to women and children in the Gambia. However ,in the early 2000s, inspiration was drawn from sister commonwealth countries such as Kenya and Ghana for the setting up of the Female Lawyers Association.This idea was then promoted to the female lawyers ,by the founder and 1st President of FLAG Mrs. Janet Sallah Njie and the then Director of Public Prosecution Mrs. Merley Wood , a Ghanaian National.
  1. Sometime in 2006 ,following the unlawful arrest and detention of a female lawyer colleague by the Former regime,a group of 20 brave Female Lawyers felt the urgent need to institutionalise and create an association that would promote the rights of Women and Children Rights in the Gambia.
  2. The group was convinced that women lawyers should be the voice and defenders of the voiceless women and children ,and should start translating words into deeds.
  1. FLAG was eventually created as a non -governmental, non -political, non-sectarian and non profit making Association, to promote and ensure the observance and enforcement of the fundamental rights and freedom of women and children in The Gambia.
  1. FLAG received its first support from a male member of the Bar , the “Duane “, Mr Sourahata BS Janneh, who was the 1st person to financially support the initiative of FLAG.
  1. As an Association FLAG’s objectives are :
    • To lobby for gender equality in The Gambia through legislative reforms, public education and advocacy;
    • To enhance and promote the welfare and legal status of women and children;
    • To promote the principles and aim of the United Nations and the African Union
  1. With Support from the Government (mainly the Office of the Vice President, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Women’s and Children Affairs) , the International and National Partners and Sister Organisations, FLAG has been able to have a great impact on the promotion and enforcement of Women and Children’s Rights in the Gambia.
  1. Since its inception we were vigorous in our activities in ensuring that its objectives are achieved.
  1. To this end, FLAG has been engaged in nationwide campaigns and awareness programmes with the assistance of International and national partners, to educate and sensitise the general public, particularly women on the laws of affecting women and children in the Gambia.
  1. Over the years, we haved sensitised many Gambians ranging from:
      • National Assembly Members
      • Women Councilors
      • Traditional and Religious Leaders
      • Community Leaders
      • Women Groups
      • Over 100 School Children
      • Health Care Workers
      • Differently abled persons and People living with HIV/AIDs
      • Judicial Officers
      • Lawyers
      • Law Students
      • Security Personnel
      • Immigration Officers
      • The Media etc
  1. FLAG has simplified the Women and Children’s Acts and reprinted the Women’s and Children’s Act to encourage easy access to legal information.
  2. FLAG has prepared two paralegal training guides and trained women and youth community leaders to act as the First Point of call for basic legal assistance.
  3. We have dealt with over 300 complaints in the past decade, relating to women and children rights in the areas of Divorce, Child Custody and maintenance , Inheritance, Property Rights, Sexual Offences, Assault, Murder, Freedom of Expression , Employment Rights etc.
  4. To name a few of its successes, FLAG is proud to say that the 1st test on the Women’s Act 2010 : the case of MATTY FAYE v DAWDA JAWARA, was instituted by FLAG, on the sharing of matrimonial property rights . The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and succeeded in part.
  1. FLAG in one of the many cases it dealt, with succeeded in securing the release of a girl detained during her teenage years on a charge of murder and kept in custody without trial at the Mile 2 adult prisons .FLAG also sought the release of a female journalist wrongfully arrested by the Former Regime ,as well as secure the bail of UDP women supporters arbitrarily arrested in 2016 following a peaceful demonstration .
  1. Notwithstanding all these successes,women and children on a daily basis are faced with challenges and problems in relation to access to justice .
  1. Whilst the Government of the Gambia must be applauded for taking bold and meaningful steps to ensure that there are laws and mechanisms in place to promote and protect the rights of women and children, the major challenges still exist.
  2. Madam Chairperson ,to highlight a few:
      • Over 51% of the population of the Gambia are women, 50% of Gambian women are illiterates.
      • Around 98% of complaints reaching FLAG are made by illiterate and under- privileged women.
      • Divorce women with children find themselves after divorce proceedings, providing shelter and maintenance for their children due to low financial court awards.
      • Women’s contributions in the matrimonial home are sometimes not always fully scrutinized at the dissolution of marriage, for equitable compensation.
      • Illiterate women at times find it difficult to understand court proceedings and in some cases are not fully given the opportunity for fair hearing.
      • Victims of sexual violence in many cases are not given the protection needed during investigation and prosecution of their cases.
      • The mental and psychological status of victims of Gender Based Violence are not usually factored during proceedings or at the decisions stage.
      • Victim compensation is not always available.
      • There are at times Interference with the Investigation of sexual violence
  1. Madam Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, FLAG as an institution will continue its efforts to overcome these challenges . It is expected that at the end of the Conference, there will be a common comprehension of the laws, and recommendations to tackle and work towards overcoming these Challenges highlighted.
  1. On this final note I wish to express our appreciation and to say a sincere thank you:
    1. The Chief Justice and Judiciary of the Gambia for ogranising this great event.
    2. To the Co – Founders of FLAG and former presidents: Mrs Janet R Sallah Njie, Ms Nene Cham and Mrs Haddy Dandeh Jabbie , I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for setting the pace for us, the younger generation of female lawyers, to continue the work of the association.
    1. To the Government of the Gambia notably the Ministry of justice and Ministry of Women’s and Children’s Affairs we say thank you.
    1. We also say thank you to all our national and international partners and sister organizations present here today.
    1. Finally to our selfless members, I say thank you, for your time , your financial and legal support, and all the efforts you put in to ensure that rights of women and children in the Gambia are promoted and protected.

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