During her visit to The Gambia, Ms. Wickramanayake met with the President of The Gambia, H.E. Mr. Adama Barrow. The Envoy commended the Government of The Gambia on launching the National Development Strategy (2018 – 2021), which lists youth empowerment as a key strategic priority. The meeting also focused on the challenges that youth unemployment poses in the country, the need to promote skills development and civic education, and the role of the UN in providing guidance for programmes on youth development and empowerment.[/fusion_builder_column]
The Envoy also met the Vice President of the country, H.E. Ms. Fatoumata Tambajang. They discussed the importance of investing in youth to harness the demographic dividend in the country, where 64% of the population is under 25. The need to mainstream gender equality in youth development efforts and ensure the empowerment of young women and girls were also key points raised during the discussion meeting.
Ms. Wickramanayake also spoke at the opening of the Second International Forum on Developing Strategies to Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The two-day forum was convened in conjunction with the commemoration of the 2018 International Day on Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on 6th February. With more than 200 million young girls and women having experienced some form of genital mutilation, the Youth Envoy, called this violent practice “…unacceptable in the 21st century”. Consequently, the Envoy emphasised the need for countries to do more – calling for strengthening of legal and policy frameworks to address the harmful practice, and provide care and protection services for those who have undergone cutting.
“History has taught us that we can get rid of witch hunting, foot binding and widow burning. Ending Female Genital Mutilation is possible. Let us young people be the first generation to do it” she called upon all actors to make strides towards ending FGM in one generation.
“Providing youth with skills for the labor market is another a key priority to ensure meaningful opportunities for all young people,” the Envoy stressed when meeting young people graduating from the Songhai Initiative Center a project supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO. The center, located in one of the rural areas outside the capital offers young farmers training and extension services to pursue farming through sustainable crop production, agroforestry and husbandry practices. The visit also coincided with Shongai Initiative Center graduation event, which was also attended by H.E. Minister of Youth and Sports, Henry Gomez, the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Ade Lekoetje, as well as other UN officials, the Envoy encouraged the young graduates and current students in pursuing their aspirations and added “use your skills to be innovative and transform your country” .
The Envoy furthermore addressed the National Assembly of The Gambia in a session convened by the Speaker and Members of the Assembly to discuss the particular challenges and opportunities for youth development in The Gambia.
At another engagement, Ms. Wickramanayake, along with H.E. Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, Dr. Isatou Touray and Ms. Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director of the International Trade Center (ITC) and others, spoke at the closing session of the Youth Empowerment Project event hosted by the ITC and partners, which saw the launch of a Youth and Trade Roadmap that places skills development and entrepreneurship at the heart of job creation efforts for the country. She closed the country visit with a Town Hall meeting with Gambian youth, where several issues ranging from gender equality to migration, employment, and participation in politics were discussed, followed by a press briefing with local media outlets.