9 November 2012

Gambia: The Central River Region North of the Gambia is Poised to Protect Girls From FGM

Under the support of the UNFPA Gambia Government Country Programme 2012, four hundred and fifty -seven (457) participants from one hundred and Seven (107) communities in the Central River Region North have benefitted from a series of training programmes.

The programme targeted Women Leaders, Women of Reproductive Age and male and female Youths hosted in nine Cluster Villages namely Janjangbureh, Nyoro Tukulorr, Njau Sey Kunda, Dobo, Kuntaur, Jahahur, Wassu, Banni and Kaur.

Participants came to consensus that Female Genital Mutilation should stop and they committed themselves to sharing the knowledge gained with their people to protect girls from the practice. The Chiefs from the regions joined the host Alkalolu and Imams to grace the training and manifest their support in protecting women and children from harmful practices and to promote their right to sexual and reproductive health.

The campaign to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation continued with a cross section of Community leaders in the Central River Region North including Chiefs, Alkalo, Women Councillors, Area Councillors, Circumcisers and other opinion leaders. They were amongst fifty participants who participated in a consultation to building consensus to eradicate FGM in the region. The Consultation held in Wassu was presided over by the Deputy Governor of Central River Region, Malang Saibo Camara and witnessed by the National Assembly Member for the area, Honourable Demba Sambou.

In her remarks, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray said it was to account to the people that the activities held in the region have been duly implemented and to confirm the need to end Female Genital Mutilation in the Region. She gave the context and processes GAMCOTRAP has been engaging in the region within the context of the Gambia's commitment to women and children's empowerment and protection.

Dr. Touray cited the commitments the Gambia has made by ratifying international and regional instruments as well as enactment of local laws to promote and protect the rights of women and children. She made specific reference to the sections of the Children's Act and the Women's Act calling for protection of children from harmful traditional practices as well as educating the population on the effects of harmful traditional practices on the reproductive health in particular. The GAMCOTRAP Executive Director updated them on the Advocacy for a law to prohibit Female Genital Mutilation based on the recommendations from the people during the outreach programmes as well as consultations with professional bodies. She noted that a draft proposed Bill to prohibit FGM and a Policy Brief has been submitted to the office of the Vice President copied to the Women's Bureau for further action to be taken.

The Deputy Governor of Central River Region, Mr. Malang Saibo Camara acknowledged that the consultation was educative and he has learnt that FGM is not Farda nor a Sunnah and is causing harm to women and children. He pledged to join the campaign and talk to his constituency to abandon the practice.

Speaking on behalf of the National Assembly members in CRR North, Honourable Demba Sambou conveyed the message of his colleagues to the gathering. He added that the Gambia is committed to protecting children because they are vulnerable.

The Chief of Niani district, Alhajie Pierre Bah speaking on behalf of his colleagues noted that projects come to an end but the work is sustained through the engagement of communities. He acknowledged and confirmed that most of the communities have been reached through direct community intervention using the Cluster Approach. He noted that Culture is good but it needs reflection on how to sustain positive practices and do away with practices that cause harm to women and children. He affirmed that they have learnt about the effects of FGM and have seen the impact it has on girls and women and such are not good traditional practices. He concluded that it is double loss for a child to die due to FGM and have sin for being the perpetrator of the practice.

The consultation also gave participants the opportunity to learn and clear doubts from Imam Baba Leigh about the misconceptions associating FGM as religious obligation and Sunnah and the engagement of Religious leaders and scholars in the region as well as the general population. The participants came to consensus that the engagement of GAMCOTRAP in the Region has created awareness and communities are protecting their girls. There are twenty-nine known circumcisers in the Central River Region North and they have been trained through the activities of GAMCOTRAP and twenty-five (25) have received support for Alternative Employment Opportunities. It is envisaged that the remaining four will receive their AEO support when funds are available.

The consultation process is setting the tone to mobilize the whole region towards a 'Dropping of the Knife' Ceremony in 2013. Three hundred and sixty-six (366) communities and Twenty-nine (29) Circumcisers will make a public declaration to stop FGM in the Gambia. Dr. Touray noted that this was made possible with support from the Joint UNFPA funding to end FGM in One Generation.

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