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Women’s Networking Evening: Heart to Heart on Sisterhood for #EachforEqual

Products from Roz Afriq, Entrepreneur at the Women’s Networking Evening 

On Sunday, March 1 2020, Equals Now held its first Women’s Networking Evening at The Woman Boss Disruptive Lab in Fajara with over 50 women across all sectors in The Gambia.  The event host,  Aji Sainey Kah, affirmed Equals Now’s commitment to empower women and young girls to have conversations on issues of empowerment, sexuality, activism in different spaces and other topics that hinder the development of women everywhere. The space and event was needed and of importance to movement 

The activities designed for the event were done with guidelines for this year’s International Women’s Day theme #EachForEqual, which encourages conversations that can bond individuals and collectives to continue to fight Violence Against Women, support and be kind to each other in the process. The sessions were: the marketplace, #Jotai around the topic of support for women initiatives and a strategizing station on movement building and organising in The Gambia. There were also poetry and music performances by women during sessions.

The Marketplace

“We should try not to devalue the services of women, most especially our domestic helps because the socioeconomic reality is that’s their source of livelihood. “

Ten women entrepreneurs were identified  to display their products, build a network and share stories of their growth and development in male confined and dominated spaces of business. These women businesses ranged from catering, fashion and recycling, herbs and natural products. Women in The Gambia contribute to the socio economy of the country through formal and informal sectors. 

Still with these contributions made by women, women face more problems than their men counterparts in the business sector which includes defying social expectations, access to capital and loans and finding a support network of women that limit their growth and progress in business. Supporting women is important because unpaid labor is creating economic gaps between men and women. We should try not to devalue the services of women, most especially our domestic helps because the socioeconomic reality is that’s their source of livelihood. 

For this reason, women need to be vouched for in bids for procurement because men occupy key decision making positions and are likely to give procurement contracts to businesses owned by men.  So if you are part of a strong network or of the few women managers, head of institutions then give the jobs to women. 

Participants during the Networking Session Visiting the Stall of one of the Entrepreneurs 

On Jotai: How Socialization Affects The Way We Interact and Support Each Other as Women  

The discussion of #Jotai was built on the need for women to support each other in spaces that pushes them away constantly. As a start, the myth that women don’t support each other was debunked and not centred as a topic, rather the audience shared views on how to strengthen systems of support and what these systems look like.  Maimuna Jeng hosted the #Jotai Women’s Networking Evening session and participants were able to share their experiences, thoughts and suggestions on what a support system of women in The Gambia looks like. 

“Support looks like a lot of things, and apart from buying your friend’s products and sharing their flyers, criticising them constructively is also part of support” – Isatou Jallow

The fostering of relationships is important for our movement as it can only thrive when we are all honest to ourselves, our journeys and our contributions to initiatives. In this, we discussed criticism and accountability as a strategy to keep movements sustainable and healthy for organising. As one of the participants put it: “Safe spaces for women should include everyone, this will make us understand that we should help each other, rather than judge other women”. This point was buttressed when the issue of safe  spaces for sexworkers in the feminist movement in The Gambia was brought up. As it currently is, issues of abortion, sex work and LGBTQIA are still uncomfortable conversations to have even among women because of the stigma, cultural beliefs surrounding them and our own internalised misogyny as women and feminists.

“We should have an honest conversation with our parents, family members and members of our community about feminism, conceptualise and help them understand these principles. Some shy away from it because they don’t understand what it really means.”

In depth, we discussed class and how it affects our interaction outside and within the movement, generational divide and internalised misogyny. As a world full of experiences for women, our privileges may or may not shape how much of these inequalities we come across or experience, therefore we should always be kind and ready to uplift other women rather than make their experiences look invalid. 

Participants During the Jotai Session on Sisterhood and Support for Women 

What We Need to Take Away 

Concluding, we discussed the need for reaching out to grassroots and  older people who have great influence over women, children and other members of the community. This is particularly important in creating change of harmful cultural practices to women that is upheld mostly by parents and older members of our community. Someone shared a great reflection at the end on how we can start changing narratives in our homes and neighbourhoods: “We should have an honest conversation with our parents, family members, and members of the community about feminism, and try to conceptualise it to help them understand these principles. Some shy away from it because they don’t understand what it really means.  Also generational gaps will make it difficult for some to accept our parents. Others are just patriarchal in nature and would be hard to convince, because they can’t let go of the privilege it comes with.”

A common message shared which also is of critical discourse in the current feminist space is self care and how to cope as feminists and organizers. It was agreed that as feminists, we should be kind to ourselves, care and love ourselves. If you are constantly feeling tired, battling emotions and cannot contribute effectively, take a time off and let the movement take care of itself.  Relax, reflect and restart, always remember selfcare first. 

Published: March 2, 2020