The Daily Observer (Banjul)
3 January 2012
The campaign to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has taken roots in The Gambia through raising awareness and building consciousness amongst the people. The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices affecting the health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) has recently completed a series of training and information campaign activities held in Janjangbureh, Sami Karantaba Tabokoto and Chamen Nainija, all in the Central River Region north.
About 200 women and men benefited from the workshops funded by the European Union / Non-State Actors project in The Gambia. Addressing participants in the various workshops held, the executive director of Gamcotrap, Dr. Isatou Touray informed participants that Gamcotrap promotes the rights of women and children and engage in social mobilisation to dispel the misconceptions associated with FGM and religion, as well as promote the dignity of women.
The training workshops also gave participants the opportunity to engage on issues of female sexuality and of gender-based violence. They were enlightened on the efforts The Gambia has made to promote the rights of women and children by ratifying the United Nations Conventions and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa as well as the national laws on women and children. It was however made clear that there is no specific law to protect girls from FGM at the moment but The Gambia has committed herself under Article 5 of the Women’s Protocol to enact a specific law to protect girls and women from FGM.
In Janjangbureh, the chief of Upper Saloum, Malick Mbye said the recommendations from the Local Government Authorities including chiefs, Imams, ward councillors, women leaders and circumcisers calling for a law against female genital mutilation is supported because there is awareness in the region that the practice affects women’s reproductive health. “We the chiefs would not have participated in these activities if they are not in the interest of our people,” he emphasised.
Speaking on behalf of the circumcisers, Haja Tandi Yaffa, noted that even though FGM is deep-rooted, it is through the series of trainings that they became conscious of the effects it has on women and girls. Like most of her colleagues, they were made to belief that it was a religious injunction. Imam, Cherno Muhamadou Dem of Janjangbureh informed the participants that the practice of FGM is not Farda (obligation) nor Sunnah. He observed that people are now aware that there is no honour in the practice because it affects the health of women.
The vice chairman of Kuntaur Area Council and Ward Councillor for Janjangbureh, Ebrima Janko Foon called on parents to take responsibility to protect girls and women from the practice. The health official at the Janjangbureh Health Centre, Kumba Ceesay called the attention of the participants on the impact of FGM on maternal and infant health. She pledged to include FGM in their health talks during antenatal clinics with nursing mothers.
At Sami Karantaba Health Centre, the officer in charge of the health centre, Dodou Sonko informed participants that they are always faced with challenges to help women and children affected by the effects of FGM. He cited a recent case of a girl who died while on referral to a major hospital due to uncontrolled bleeding caused by the practice of FGM.
Speaking earlier at Karantaba Tabokoto in Sami District, Chief Alhagie Kassum Leigh reiterated that FGM is not a religious issue but a traditional practice. He further informed the participants that the chiefs in the region support the advocacy for a law to protect the rights of women and girls from FGM in The Gambia. One of the renowned circumcisers in Sami, Mbuleh Kandeh of Bayaba assured that she has taken the decision to stop the practice but appealed for support for an alternative livelihood.
At Chamen Nainija cluster, women of reproductive age and mainly from Fula communities from thirteen 13 villages participated in the training. Addressing the participants, Chief Alhaji Alasan Davis Cham called on the women to be aware of the impact of the practice on their reproductive health and that of their daughters. He highlighted that religion can no longer be used to justify the practice because people are now aware and the local authorities including all the chiefs of the region have given their public support to the campaign to stop FGM in the area.
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