FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda)

Gambia: Dr Isatou Touray, Executive Director, GAMCOTRAP

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Please permit me to recognize the contributions of the Mirabel Sisters who brought the attention of the world on Violence Against Women for their heroic stance and make visible the rights of women. To the Center for Women's Global Leadership Institute, New Jersey for organizing this Event for the world to recognize that Women's Rights are Human Rights.

To the EU/UN System for bringing together the local actors and activists to share their work, experiences and best practices about the lived realities of women in the Gambia.

Today, I join all our friends throughout the world to celebrate and reflect on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This years' theme "From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Lets' Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women"!

As we are in this august gathering, I would like to report that GAMCOTRAP under the UNFPA joint programme, the five district chiefs of Central River Region -North are currently running activities to address violence against women. The chiefs are engaging their Village heads (Alkalolu) to come to consensus to end FGM and Early marriage in their various villages.

I am also glad to report that as we are reflecting and celebrating in this hall, over 250 women of reproductive age in selected cluster communities are being sensitized to protect their girl-children from FGM and Early marriage.

The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children - GAMCOTRAP, is committed to the promotion and protection of women and girl children's political, social, sexual, reproductive health and educational rights. GAMCOTRAP promotes awareness of traditional practices that restrict these rights, encouraging beneficial practices and also to eliminate all forms of harmful practices against women and children.

Among the harmful traditional practices affecting women, special emphasis is given to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the gender dimensions of HIV/AIDS as well as Gender Based Violence. This campaign is undertaken through advocacy and effective social mobilisation at the grassroots level in various local languages. Our relevance in this year's theme is evident in the outreach activities we engage to address violence against women working with traditional structures.

In our advocacy reaching out to different target groups, I am glad to report that GAMCOTRAP has engaged with the security forces to address Gender Based Violence and Violence against Women. During our outreach activities, we have reached over 470 members of the security forces such as the Army, Police Force, Immigration, Prisons and National Intelligence Agency (NIA). I am sure that with awareness creation and understanding of the various international instruments that Gambia is a party to, our forces will develop the gender lens to understand that violence is not the answer. That they have responsibility to protect women and girls, as well as the general public from all forms of violence as they are their sisters, mothers, wife and loved ones. I am glad to report that those who have benefitted from our trainings have protected their children from FGM.

As an organisation committed to the realisation of human rights of women and in line with our mission to promote and protect human rights, democracy, fundamental freedom, rule of law and good governance, we urge the National Assembly Members to ensure progressive and violent free environment in accordance with the spirit and commitments of internationally agreed principles and standards of Human Rights. The women of Gambia demand the recognition and enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms unfettered and unrestricted by unnecessary justifications premised on traditional, patriarchal standards and interpretations which are embodied in some of the discourses in the Gambia.

It should be noted that The Gambia is a party to the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and people's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa is therefore obligated to ensure the recognition and promotion of women's and children's human rights and continue to uphold the principles of universality, non-discrimination and substantive equality of all women and the girl-child.

I am happy to report that effective advocacy and social mobilization on the elimination of FGM has resulted to a call for a law against FGM by all the target groups and GAMCOTRAP in partnership with other civil society organizations have responded to this call. A draft bill to prohibit FGM in the Gambia has been submitted to the Office of the Vice President and copied to the Women's Bureau to move the process with the Parliamentarians. The public especially the rural population gives the bill full support and I look forward to working closely with the Office of the Vice President and Women's Bureau and other stakeholders in engaging the NAMS for ratification.

We, women's human rights defenders, together with other stakeholders, will continue to monitor and demand for the full accountability of the NAMS in fulfilling its obligations to women without in any way undermining its obligations under international human rights laws in upholding universal principles of human rights as well as the Constitution of the Gambia. We urge the National Assembly Members to pass the Bill for the Prohibition of FGM in the Gambia.

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