FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda)

Gambia: Men and Women Discuss Gender Based Violence

In marking the 16 days activism against gender based violence PRO-HOPE INTERNATIONAL organized a forum to discuss gender based violence on Friday, 7 December 2012at Gunjur, Kombo South, Western Region. The theme was FROM PEACE IN THE HOME TO PEACE IN THE WORLD. A cross-section of the community were in attendance, including men, women, imams, etc.

Mrs. Michelle Jawo Demba, speaking at the occasion gave a brief introduction of the 16 days activism.

She said Violence against women is still highly prevalent in the Gambian society including domestic violence e.g. forced marriage, child marriage, wife battering ,incest, female genital mutilation and to mention a few. These have been perpetuated by poor self --perception by women who because of poverty, low educational attainments, social and religious prejudices are unable to assert their rights, as well as power control.

She said Pro-hope International, the Gambia has been engaged in gender sensitivity trainings, SRH training and advocacy in various parts of the Gambia for over 5 years particularly in rural Gambia.

She explained that since 1991, each year, between November 25 and December 10, activists all over the world observe a 16 days of Activism against Gender-based violence to create intense awareness of the connections between women, violence, and human rights. In the Gambia, Pro-hope International has joined other organisations worldwide to mark the period.

She also gave the history of the 3 Mirabel sisters, that on November 25, 1961, three sisters, the Mirabel Sisters from the Dominium Republic who were brutally assassinated for their political activities on orders of the Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961). In t981, women activists began marking the day (25 November) as a day against violence. On the 17th of December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly, by resolution 54/134 officially designated 25th November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women, and invited governments, international organisations and NGOs to organise activities designated to raise public awareness of the problem on that day. In June 1991, the Centre for Women Global Leadership (CWGL) called for global campaign of the 16 days of Activism against Gender --based Violence. The campaign, which aims to highlight the connections between women, violence and human rights, spans from the 25th November to the 10th of December 1991. This time period encompasses four significant dates 25 of November the international day against gender based violence; the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when 14 women engineering students were killed; and 10th of December Human rights day. Coordinated by the CWGL, the annual campaign is observed globally by activists at the local, national and international levels. Over the years, the annual campaign has grown and now includes participation of more than 1000 organisations in over 100 countries. The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based violence has become an annual event in many towns and regions. Since 2005, Pro-hope International, The Gambia has joined other organisations worldwide to mark the period. This year, the organsation is planning together a variety of activities and we are therefore soliciting the support of your organisation in cash and or in kind for the success of the programme.

Mrs. Isatou Dibba, Technical Adviser, Pro-Hope, thanked the Alkalo and imam of Gunjur and also the participants for turning out in their numbers to answer to their call.

She said gender equity simply means giving each and every individual his/her rights and freedoms without discrimination based on gender. She expressed support for the advocacy for the elimination of all forms of violence and discrimination against them.

Ms. Fatou Touray speaking on the occasion said violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that causes or is likely to cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women either occurring in public or in private life, in the family or in the general community or perpetrated or condoned by the state.

She said Women and girls suffer several forms of gender-based violence both in the private and public spheres due to their sexual category.

She went further to say that domestic violence continues to be a major problem generally and unless it is tackled at both religious, cultural, moral and legal levels there cannot be any better family cohesion and community and national development.

She said there is evidence of women being maimed, traumatized or even killed by their male partners, but in the same vein, women also perpetrate violence against their children and maids or co-wives or co-wives' children, sisters-in-law, mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law and sometimes even their husbands.

She gave examples of violence against women like:

- Battering

- Sexual abuse of female children in the household

- Dowry related violence

- Marital rape

- FGM, Forced/arranged marriage and other traditional harmful practices

- Exploitation of women and girls

- Rape and sexual abuse

- Sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere

- Trafficking in women and girls

- Forced prostitution

- Incest

- Barrenness

- Forced wife inheritance

- Child Betrothal

- Witch craft

She finally advised the participants to encourage dialogue in their homes. That Violence cannot be solved with violence, that partners should show sympathy, empathy and solidarity to one another. She also said people should be vigilant and report any case of sexual harassment or rape to the authorities and stop the culture of silence because the victim is always vulnerable and in most cases cannot take decision on her own.

Fakebba Ceesay, speaking on the Islamic point of view on violence against women, said, if people have gone according to the teachings of Islam we would not have been discussing about violence against women because according to him Islam has given women all the protection they needed.

He went on to say that, due to poverty both the man and woman go out to work in order to put resources together and maintain the family so in that case men should be sympathetic to their wives and help them.

Concerning rape, he said though the dress code of some girls is unacceptable but that should not warrant any man to rape a girl.

One woman by the Maimuna Badjie challenged the men on rape. She said they are old women who go to their fields and gardens to work in order to earn but on their way to their field they are being raped, she then asked whether it is also due to the way they dress that's why they are being raped? There was general laughter but at the end it was agreed that it was share cruelty to rape and not because of dress code.

Mr. Yusupha Touray led the prayers and Mr. Kitim Barrow on behalf of the alkalo officially welcomed the guest in Gunjur.

Mr. Demba Touray served as facilitator and also in attendance was Mr. Yusupha Sanneh Community mobilizer, pro-Hope, Mariatou Jallow, Bintou Colley and Mamie Jawara as volunteers.

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