Gambia: Rural Dwellers Urged to Break the Culture of Silence - As Activists Intensify Campaign Against Child Exploitation, Others

Basse — Activists in the Upper River Region (URR) have intensified their campaign against child exploitation and other social vices in the region, calling on the rural dwellers to remove the entrenched culture of silence in their communities.

The activists vowed to deepen their campaign against vices such as baby dumping, infanticide, rape, early and forced marriages, and child trafficking amongst others, with a view to ensuring their total elimination.

This strong commitment was made by the Community Child Protection Committee (CCPC) of Basse, the Department of Social Welfare Basse branch, and the Child Welfare Unit of the Gambia Police Force in the region, during a community sensitisation programme in Basse Koba Kunda. This formed part ofthe fulfillment of their mandate regarding the protection of children from abuse, violence, exploitation, trafficking and other related negative practices meted out against them.

"The training is important in that the only way we can end these menaces is by embarking on sensitisation and dialogue within our communities," the chairman of the Committee, Kebba Susso underscored. He urged communities to eradicate all forms of the 'maslaha' syndrome and to break the culture of silence, by reporting cases relating to the abuse and exploitation of children.

Susso lamented that the issues of baby dumping and rape keep rearing their ugly heads in the region, stressing that their rampant nature in the area necessitates the need for collective execution of responsibilities from parents, stakeholders sand other development partners to stamp them out.He specifically implored on parents to take the lead role in the campaign against exploitation in the country.

The Community Child Protection Committee chairman seized the opportunity to urge the government to impose tough punishment on child abusers; something he said would go a long way in stopping these unwanted acts in the communities. "Parents have a very crucial role to play in the attainment of our objectives in terms of making the communities free from all kinds of child exploitation," he stressed.

On his part, the Regional Child Welfare officer for Central and Upper River Regions, Kebba Jatta, described the formation of the committees as timely, and noted that young people of this country should always stand to ensure the protection of children.

While noting that the government is committed to the cause, Jatta urged the communities in the area to partner with the already established communities for the fight against these social menaces. He also urged them to discourage issues of early marriage, saying it can sometimes lead to baby dumping and other things.

Lamin Kebbeh of the police Child Welfare Unit in Basse and Lamin Camara of The Gambia Immigration Department both urged the communities of the area to be vigilant on issues relating to child trafficking; whilst Isatou Njie, Outass Demba Mballow, Aja Mballow all expressed their commitment to the campaign. They were however quick to request for frequent senstisations and training programmes of this nature so as to achieve the set goals.

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