Basse — Twenty more communities in the Upper River Region (URR) have publicly declared their abandonment of the deeply rooted traditional practice of the Female Genital Cutting [Mutilation], during a ceremony held at Hella Kunda, Jimara East.
It comes barely less than a week after 21 communities in the same region dropped knives, thus bringing the number to 41, a development widely regarded as a major victory to the campaign against the practice.
The communities that hailed from the districts of Jimara, Tumana and Kantora, have also said no to early and forced marriages, as well as other harmful traditional practices affecting the women of the country, in a declaration ceremony spear headed by Tostan International The Gambia.
"Today, we solemnly and with full knowledge engage in abandoning the practice of Female Genital Cutting (FGC), early and forced marriages in our communities," an indigene of the area, Sarjo Jatta stated in a declaration statement on behalf of the communities.
She commended Tostan, the government of The Gambia, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and other development partners for supporting the programme, while stressing that their decision aims to reinforce the National Movement for the Promotion of Human Rights within and outside the country. She described their move as one that formed part of the Tostan Community Empowerment Program in partnership with the government of The Gambia, UNICEF, Swedish Post Code, and Nike GM.
"This decision did not just occur, but came after an intensive three-year holistic Community Empowerment Programme led by Tostan facilitators; social mobilisation and sensitisation activities on issues affecting health and personal wellbeing of people," she told the gathering.
The Lady Councillor of Upper Fulladu Ward, Neneh Darboe, and the Village Development Committee (VDC) chairman, Numukeh Jaiteh, both thanked Tostan for their support to the region. They noted that Tostan's Community Empowerment Programme is a holistic approach that does not only focus on FGC, but also other issues such as democracy, good governance, human rights, problem-solving, health and hygiene, literacy and management skills, amongst others.
In his keynote address at the occasion on behalf of the governor of the region, the Basse Area Council chairman, Omar Sompo Ceesay, harped on the importance of the programme, and went on to state that since the coming in of Tostan in the country, it has created awareness among the communities of the area. He acknowledged that Tostan is an NGO that is contributing immensely towards nation building, while reaffirming his office's continuous support to the project.
Ceesay urged development partners to fund Tostan programmes, indicating that it is a project that is empowering the communities, especially the women. He equally commended the government of The Gambia under the leadership of President Jammeh for welcoming the project in the country; this he said is a clear manifestation of the government's commitment to the cause.