The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray informed participants that GAMCOTRAP promotes the rights of women and children and engage in social mobilization to dispel the misconceptions associated to 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 National Conventions and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People 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 itself under Article 5 of the Women’s Protocol to enact a specific law to protect girls and women from FGM.
At Janjanbureh, the Head Chief of CRR North, 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 emphasized.
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 girl-children. Like most of her colleagues, they were made to belief that it was a religious injunction. Imam, Cherno Muhamadou Dem of Janjanbureh 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 Deputy Chairperson of Kuntaur Area Council and Ward Councillor for Janjanbureh, Ebrima Janko Foon called on parents to take responsibility to protect girls and women from the practice because it has come to light that it has no religious significance, furthermore women and children are suffering from its effects.
The Health Official in Janjanbureh health centre, Kumba Ceesay called the attention of the participants on the impact of FGM on maternal and infant health. She informed them that GAMCOTRAP role is supporting the Ministry of Health effort to improve maternal health. She pledged to include FGM in health talks during ante natal clinics with nursing mothers. At Sami Karantaba, Health Officer 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 Sami Karantaba Tobokoto, Chief Kassum Leigh reiterated that FGM is not a religious issue but a traditional practice. He referred to a well known scholar from the region who clarified that FGM is not an obligation on Muslim Women. He further informed the participants that the six Chiefs in the region support the advocacy for a law to protect the rights of women and girls from FGM in the Gambia. He noted that neighbouring countries have a law against FGM and it is being enforced to protect vulnerable girl-children.
One of the known Circumcisers in Sami, Mbuleh Kandeh of Bayaba testified that having been aware of the impact of the practice she has taken the decision to stop but appealed for support for an alternative livelihood. Other speakers calling for an end to FGM included youths, School teacher, women and men from thirteen (13) Mandinka dominated communities in Karantaba Tabokoto Cluster.
At Chamen Nainija Cluster, women of reproductive age and mainly from Fula communities from thirteen (13) villages participated at the training. Addressing them, Chief Alhajie Davis Allasan 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. The Nainija Chief informed the young mothers that GAMCOTRAP is raising awareness of the communities before a law is in place. He also took the opportunity to sensitize them on early and forced marriages and called on them to allow girls to grow and not to marry them off before they are 18 years of age.
In their testimonies, participants pledged to protect their daughters and noted that they would not accept Circumcisers travelling into their communities to conduct the practice.
At Janjanbureh, EU Non State Actors Programme Manager, Cristina Valentza and the NSA – SP Monitoring and Evaluation Expert, Ms. Kay Sey witnessed the training and noted with satisfaction GAMCOTRAP’s approach to reach the grassroots.
Resource Persons included Imam Baba Leigh, Muhammad Sanuwo, Bakary Badjie of the Child Protection Alliance amongst others.
During the training workshops Traditional Communicators and drama groups in Janjanbureh, Sami Karantaba Tenda and Konteh in Nainija also used theatre and songs to sensitize the participants on the practice of FGM.
It could be noted that there is increased acknowledgement amongst local religious leaders that FGM can no longer be claimed as a religious issue because Islam does not promote any unnecessary suffering amongst its ummah and the dignity of the woman is respected. Some of the Alkalolu present at the different activities also encouraged the women to stop the practice before a law comes into force. They all noted that health is a priority for all and called on Religious leaders to should speak out and make it clear to their followers that
FGM is not a religious injunction.
Prepared by GAMCOTRAP
22nd December 2011