By Neneh Galleh Barry
A group of Women from Sintet, Janjanbureh and Basse respectively on Monday 16th December, 2019 presented a report on Women’s Experiences of Dictatorship in the Gambia to the TRRC.
The report would form part of the records of the Truth Commission for the fact that not all women are willing to come out and narrate their ordeals, especially on Sexual and Gender Base Violence (SGBV)
Since the TRRC started work in January, 2018, out of 188 witnesses that participated in the public hearings, only 48 are women. In several other countries, women’s groups have made official submissions to Truth Commissions on behalf of particular women to help them share their experiences, particularly in contexts where they were not comfortable sharing them publicly.
In order to improve the participation of women in the truth seeking process of the Gambia while protecting them from stigmatization, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) collaborated with the said women support groups and formulated the report.
Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Didier Gbery, Head of Programs at ICTJ stated that 12 months after the start of TRRC operations, his office is very pleased to support and accompany the women of Sintet, Janjanbureh and Basse as they submit to the TRRC a report during the 22 years of dictatorship in the Gambia.
He said The Gambia is built on democratic principles, respectful of human rights and especially mindful of the obligation to ensure the inclusion and participation of women in transitional justice processes.
According to him, at the inception of this project, ICTJ held consultations with civil society organizations working on gender and women’s groups, wherein challenges were highlighted and alternative measures to strengthen women’s participation in the truth-seeking process were recommended.
The ICTJ representative highlighted that during the consultations process, alternative, suggested by the women consulted, was to establish additional, alternative and secure channels that will allow them to share their experiences, without exposing them to the psychological and sociological risks of such participation.
“We hope that the Gambian society will take advantage of this transition to build a new democratic era through the improvement of the situation of Gambian women and girls,” he concluded.
Yadicon Njie Eribo, Women Affairs Coordinator at the TRRC, said the concern on violence on women did not start in 1994, neither did it end in 2017. However, she thanked the said women for their collaborations to ensure that some of their experiences are presented to the Commission.
The Deputy Executive Secretary of the TRRC, Musu Bakoto Sawo stated that there is a quite number of backlash on women victims, especially on Sexual and Gender Base Violence (SGBV) because of the Stigma.
However, she said the TRRC had put in mechanism for women to come out and narrate their stories without any hindrance. Women had suffered a lot not only on Sexual violence but on the Witch- hunting exercise as well.
Mrs. Sawo further explained that as a community it’s our responsibility to accept the stories given by women and believe in them as well. She said since the TRRC started its work, majority of the Women did not come out because of the stigma, culture of silence among others.
She appeal on other women to emulate those that already appeared before the Commission and shared their stories and finally thanked them for formulating the document.
Adelaide Sosseh, Deputy Chairperson of the TRRC as well as representatives from the women, namely, Penda S. Bah and Mary Sallah all thanked the ICTJ and the TRRC for the support.