By Essa Jallow
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 women support groups and formulated the report.
Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Didier Gbery, Head of Programs at ICTJ stated that his office is very pleased to support and accompany the women of Sintet, Janjanbureh and Basse as they submit to the TRRC a report presenting their individual and collective experiences during the 22 years of dictatorship in the Gambia.
He said The Gambia is built on democratic principles, respect for human rights and mindful of the obligation to ensure the inclusion and participation of women in transitional justice processes.
Since the inception of this project, he disclosed that 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, the women suggested establishment of 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.
Mrs. Adelaide Sosseh, Deputy Chairperson of the TRRC, in her speech highlighted some of the major recommendations contained in the report and said the document would be useful to the TRRC.
The Deputy Executive Secretary of the TRRC, Musu Bakoto Sawo explained how women were stigmatized following their testimonies at the TRRC.
However, she said the TRRC has mechanisms for women to come out and narrate their stories without any hindrance. Mrs. Sawo further urged the public to accept and believe in the stories given by women saying women had suffered a lot not only on Sexual violence but also on the Witch-hunting exercise. 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 and appealed to other women to emulate those that already appeared before the Commission and shared their stories.
Mrs. Yadicon Njie Eribo, Women Affairs Coordinator at the TRRC, said violence on women did not start in 1994, neither did it end in 2017. However, she thanked the women for their collaborations to ensure that some of their experiences are presented to the Commission.
Other speakers include women representatives, Penda S. Bah and Mary Sallah who all thanked the ICTJ and the TRRC for the support.