Gambian women challenge traditional roles to deal with food crisis

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Gambia is in the grip of a food crisis and so our Activista network there has leapt into action to support people living in the worst hit areas.

Our guest blogger and Activista, Awa, travelled to a rural area where the soil is too dry to grow food. She found that women, who do most of the farming, are finding new ways to produce food, earn money and improve their children’s lives.

Awa and other Activistas are taking these stories back to decision makers in the Gambia, hoping to influence how emergency aid is spent so that it makes a difference to the poorest communities.

“Nyuma lives with her children and husband’s family. In traditional Gambian society, men are the main providers while women take care of the children. But now she is providing all the basic necessities like food, clothing and education for her children with the income generated from fish farming.

Every day she wakes up and fetches water from the well, sweeps the house and prepares breakfast for the family before going to the fish farm. She feeds the fish, then separates the mature ones from the small ones. Live fish are then transported to nearby markets and sold at a cheap price to make it affordable for poorer people.

To start with, the project was challenging as her husband didn’t always believe she was working all day, thinking she was running away from her family responsibilities. With time, he realised that what men can do, women can do as well.

Before this project Nyuma was farming the land and spending a lot of effort to cultivate hectares of land and at the harvest, only having a single bag of rice. She now spends most of her time fish farming as it is a better and faster way to earn income.

It has boosted her confidence as she is no longer dependent on her husband to provide for basic needs, which makes her different from other women in her community.

She is illiterate because her parents didn’t think educating girls was important, so now makes sure she can also provide all her children with an education.”