Wednesday, April 17, 2013

‘Dropping of the knife is the beginning of change’

Ten-year jail term planned for female circumcisers in Gambia. In this photo, ex-circumcisers publicly declare dropping of the knife (Photo Credit:
“Dropping of the knife’ serve as the beginning of change in the promotion of the health and rights of Gambian women,” Dr. Isatou Touray, executive director of Gamcotrap said on Saturday.

“Is not only a means to end, but it is an end in its entirely after relentless efforts, engagements, dialogue, trainings and consensus building to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM),” she said during an April 13, 2013 ceremony in Wassu, northern Central River Region of The Gambia.

30 female circumcisers publicly declared to “drop the knife”, meaning they have committed themselves to never practice FGM again. The event was organised by Gamcotrap, a human rights agency that is combating harmful traditional practices affecting the health of women and children.

Dr Touray said: “The day is bigger than the moment we witness, around it is a culmination of efforts through advocacy, bringing people together around an issue that is so deeply-rooted in their cultures and religious belief. This day helps them and us together to say no to FGM with a loud voice”.

She said the declaration sends a clear message to those on the wrong side of history. She added: “When people are informed and empowered they demand their rights and take informed decisions guided by knowledge and belief that the best interest of the child, health and wellbeing of women is paramount.”

In a statement delivered by permanent secretary Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Jankoba Jabbi, the Minister, Bala Garba Jahumpa said: “The day is very important in the campaign to eradicate harmful traditional practices particularly FGM”.

He said the ministry of health is aware of FGM’s implication in the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls, which include serious bleeding, infection, and complications during childbirth.  

He urges other NGOs to join Gamcotrap in the fight against FGM and to ensure the active participation of communities in the protection of women and girls in The Gambia.

Kebba Barrow of the association of NGOs in The Gambia ((TANGO) noted that the United Nations passed an “historic resolution” calling on all countries to eliminate FGM.

“This move was an important step towards a world free from violence against women,” Barrow said.  “The resolution urged countries to condemn all harmful practices that affect women and girls.”

The first ever public declaration of dropping the knife was held in 2007 at the Independence Stadium in Bakau where 18 women circumcisers publicly vowed to abandon female circumcision.

This was followed by a bigger one held in the provincial capital of Upper River Region, Basse, in 2009 where over 60 women circumcisers also declared to have stopped the practice.

In 2011, 20 women circumcisers from 150 communities in Lower River Region publicly vowed to abandon the practice at a ceremony held at Soma.

Gambian human rights journalist Binta A. Bah who was in CRR told The North Bank Evening Standard: “Dropping of the knife’ symbolizes a public declaration of abandonment of the deep-seated cultural practice.” 

Written by Modou S. Joof

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