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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted lives and disrupted education, health and other services critical to the growth and wellbeing of various sections of the population including adolescents. 

Following the declaration of a State of Public Emergency on 26 March 2020 by the President of Republic of The Gambia His Excellency Mr Adama Barrow in response to the country’s first few confirmed COVID-19 cases, schools and other public spaces were closed, in order to contain the spread of the virus and ensure the population is protected. 

These measures have resulted in delays in the implementation of the Gambia Basic Education Certificate Examination (GABECE) and the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) both of which are key in the development, career choice and future of adolescent boys and girls in the country. 

As a result, UNFPA The Gambia on 22 June 2020, presented 20,000 facemasks to the Honourable Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, to support the smooth reopening of schools for the conduct of these exams and ensuring that students and teachers are protected from COVID-19.

UNFPA The Gambia Representative Mr Kunle Adeniyi presents the facemasks to the Minister of Education Hon. Claudiana Cole ©UNFPATheGambia/IJallow

Speaking during the presentation ceremony at the education Ministry, UNFPA The Gambia Country Representative Mr Kunle Adeniyi highlighted that the presentation of the masks is in a bid to ensure that students return to school in a safe and healthy environment.  

Mr Adeniyi expressed his belief that, the masks will support the students, especially the adolescent girl who we work for, noting that

“we work to bridge the education gap for the adolescent girl because we believe she requires education to reach her fullest potential and to do this, she must be healthy and as we always say, health is wealth and education is important.”

Speaking on behalf of her ministry, Ms. Claudiana Cole, Minister for Basic and Secondary Education buttressed that facemasks are vital in the reopening of schools saying that “the ministry will ensure students are supported to adhere to the WHO precautionary guidelines within the school premises for their safety and well-being.” 

The production of the 20,000 masks was entirely done by women entrepreneurs including female students at the Ida’s Ideas Fashion School. According to Tako Badjie, 25, a student at the school, being able to use her passion for fashion and her sewing skills to contribute to the National COVID-19 Response, is a pride she will always remember.  

Tako Badjie, 25 is one of the students at the Ida's Ideas Fashion School who participated in the production of the masks ©UNFPATheGambia/IJallow

Expressing her gratitude for being part of the production process, Tako confessed that for them, the work they’re doing with the masks is an act of service, saying

“I am not doing it for myself but for my country - The Gambia. My sister or brother could be the one benefitting from this in school. I am proud to be helping my country through my art.”

Tako is an aspiring fashion designer. She and the other girls sewed a minimum of 50 masks per day, during the production and earned an income to support their families during this pandemic.

Chan Mendy, the Founder of the Ida’s Ideas Fashion School expressed delight in UNFPA’s recognition of their work with women and identifying them to deliver the service of mask production. According to her, support affects the level of achievement of businesses particularly those owned by women in male-dominated fields.

Chan Mendy, Founder of the Ida's Ideas Fashion School ©UNFPATheGambia/IJallow

Chan believes that,

“a business can keep running while helping other people to make a living”

and this has been the inspiration behind her fashion school. The school which is owned and run by women, provides a space for mentorship to female students and inspires young women to aspire for independence and education.


Haddy Jonga - Programme Analyst Communications, UNFPA The Gambia   

Isatou Jallow - Communications Associate, UNFPA The Gambia