The Point (Banjul)

21 August 2014

Gambia: From Health-Based to Right-Based Approach in Fight to Eliminate FGM

FGM is no doubt one of the most controversial traditional practices affecting the health and right of women and girls in our society.

FGM is found rotating between two key players of our society: the health workers and the religious leaders with each of this two giving out different opinions as regards FGM.

However there are some that still practise and believe in it while many have dropped the knife and vowed never to go back to it courtesy of the good work GAMCOTRAP is doing in creating awareness on the health risks attached to FGM.

GAMCOTRAP on Tuesday organised a workshop as refresher training in FGM and other harmful traditional practices affecting women, girls and children.

The programme, held at the Kabifita Nursery School in Brikama Kabafita, brought together 100 communities base-facilitators from Kombo North, South, East and Central sponsored by Save the Children and implemented by GAMCOTRAP.

Speaking at the workshop, Dr Isatou Touray, executive director of GAMCOTRAP, said they called the CBF to have a discussion with them and show them what they had and exchange with them their progress, as well as their challenges in their work so they could learn from each other and see how best they could promote the rights of women and girls.

She said every year at any time women's rights are improving and she believes the woman has the right to know about those rights of theirs that have been improved.

According to her, CBF are very important and as such they should learn about things and be aware so that anytime people come to them they could be able to respond to their needs.

She added that the gathering was very important because they could also ask about things that concern them since they did not meet with them all the time and also to renew some of the rules with regard to the improvement of women, girls and children.

Dr Touray said whatever they are doing was not to remove men completely but to engage women as well because the world belongs to both men and women and God created both men and women and each of them is entitled to his or her rights.

Dr Touray added that women are going backwards because their rights are violated and that violations make them prone to many things.

She said no matter how long a man sits in a position he cannot know all the problems of women, which is why they should work side by side, adding that having a Governor who is a woman makes them very happy.

Mariama Bah-Saine, representing the Governor of West Coast Region, urged the women to unite and love each other so they could have their rights in the society.

She said they could not have their rights if they were fighting each other or having side talks, adding that the fight against FGM started years ago but still there is no agreement because of the way the awareness creation is done, but if they talk lovingly towards each other they would get there.

She added that those who should help them first are the religious leaders because they are the ones who know what is in the religion.

Many years ago, she explained, the religious leaders knew it and if it were the rights of women to do FGM, they would be in a position to know that too.

"I am appealing to the religious leaders to help us and help the women," she said.

She said the second people are the health workers who know what is healthy and what is not.

She said the workshop was not about eating and collecting money; it was for them to learn and take home something that would benefit them.

She added that at the moment many have dropped the knife but there are few who are still lagging behind and the only thing they could do is to appeal to them, which according to her, could not be done without the involvement of young people.

The participants also took turn to share with their colleagues the progress they made in their communities in the fight against FGM and were also able to convince their "Nyansinbaas" (circumcisers) to drop the knife and their relatives to let the children decide.

Since the existence of GAMCOTRAP in 1984, following a conference in Dakar where African women discussed issues affecting their rights such as harmful practices, they have been fighting to end FGM in The Gambia.

Through their work many circumcisers have dropped the knife and vowed never to use it again but however there are still those that hold on to it.

We all know that FGM is one sensitive issue that involves everyone but the key players are the health workers, religious leaders and the holders of our tradition.

How do we move it from health-based to right-based approach should be everyone's responsibility.

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