Sunday, October 10, 2010

GAMCOTRAP Seeking Alternatives Towards FGM

Banjul, The Gambia (TNBES) The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices affecting the Health of Women and children (GAMCOTRAP) in partnership with Yolocamba Solidaridad yesterday held a one-day National Conference on Generating Alternativev Against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at the Paradise Suites Hotel, Kololi.

Speaking at the Conference, which is funded by the Region of Madrid – Spain, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray said the framework of the partnership between GAMCOTRAP and Yolocamba Solidaridad is based on the prevalence violence against women and girls; Gender equity and equality being far from achieved; Female Genital Mutilation widely practiced and impacts negatively on the lives of women and girls; and the need to stop harmful traditional practices and encouraging good practice.

“These areas of concern are critical for the attainment of the fundamental human rights of women and ensuring their complete wellbeing and empowerment within
their communities,” she noted.

According to her, in 2009, GAMCOTRAP in partnership with Yolocamba Solidaridad supported by the Region of Madrid worked with Cluster communities in addressing harmful
traditional practices, women's rights and gender based violence.

Dr. Touray noted that the two specific project sites are Koina in the upper River Region and Brikamaba in the Central River Region.

She explained that GAMCOTRAP was able to work closely with target groups that are critical to its advocacy on women and children's rights in these two regions of
The Gambia. The project "generating alternatives against Female Genital
Mutilation" has facilitated in-depth knowledge on the social relations
shared by cluster communities in The Gambia and practices that are shrouded in
secrecy (FGM). “Theorizing this process has brought about unprecedented
in-roads in previous resistant communities in the Upper River Regions,” she

She admitted that it was a great challenge to open discussion on the jealously guarded secrets about FGM , which was wrongfully associated with religion; thus
making the debate more sensitive for women's rights activists to engage .

“I am glad to inform you that the organisation has successfully completed the training of various targets within the framework of the one-year project in 2009 with
Yolocamba Solidaridad in the Koina cluster (18 communities) and Brikamaba
cluster (21 communities).

She noted that Koina was one of the most resistant communities, but through this project they were able to make a breakthrough, citing that the 18 communities in Koina
cluster and the 21 communities in the Brikamaba cluster are free from FGM. She
said both communities were part of the recently concluded Dropping of the Knife
Public Declaration, which was made in Basse, upper River Region on December 5,

She said that activities were implemented reaching community women and men, multi disciplinary facilitation teams, the health and education sectors, young people
in and out of school, circumcisers, legal practitioners, community-based
facilitators, and religious leaders and health facilities.

“The project has also provided an opportunity for the development of modules on FGM for different target groups. Through the project, modules of FGM were developed
and a draft module on FGM has been submitted to the Ministry of Basic and
Secondary Education to be incorporated into the Life Skill Module for
Students,” she revealed, adding that other community modules have also been
developed and they are at an advanced stage.

She also noted the positive role and steps taken by the Region of Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid) for giving the support through the partnership with YOLOCAMBA Solidaridad
towards realizing women and children's rights, their health and wellbeing.

On his part, Mr. Santiago De Miguel of the Region of Madrid said at the Conference that Madrid is a small community which is interested in the fight against FGM in Africa.

He noted that in 2006, the community of Madrid organised a workshop in Mali, Senegal and The Gambia in order to overcome the prevalence of harmful traditional practice.

According to him, the community of Madrid has been in support of many organisations in Africa in the fight against FGM, while noting that this is the first time for Madrid to work with GAMCOTRAP and Yolocamba

Mr. Miguel pointed out that it is very important for them to take part in the fight against harmful traditional practices, which he argued are very complicated issues to deal with.

The GAMCOTRAP/Yolocamba Solidaridad Project Coordinator, Begona Ballesteros Sanchez argued that eradicating FGM will not be an easy task; however, it is their responsibility to defend women’s rights. Sanchez
added that they will work hand-in-hand with GAMCOTRAP in its quest to stop FGM
in the country.

Cindy Gregg, Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Banjul said tradition should be complemented, and not to harm.

“It should be touch by the elders or parents,” she said, adding that GAMCOTRAP and Yolocamba Solidaridad are set to free the World. She commended GAMCOTRAP for taking the lead on the fight against FGM in The Gambia.

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