(Tuesday 15th October 2019 Issue)
Gambia Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Girl-child (GAMCOTRAP), last week sensitized Wuli West religious scholars on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other forms of harmful traditional practices at Wuli Taibatu, URR.
Funded by UNFPA, the activity brought together 50 religious scholars aimed to accelerate the abandonment of FGM and other forms of harmful traditional practices such as Early/ Force Marriages and Gender Based Violence. The project focuses in Wuli West, Wuli East and Sandu districts.
Princess Adine MunaHot, public health, gender and mediation specialist, said the forum was geared towards implementing the organization’s 2019 UNFPA programme, with focus on community outreach campaigns to raise the awareness of the masses to contribute in the elimination of FGM in the aforementioned districts.
“Women are victims of these forms of violence in the community. And most of these forms of violence are associated with customs and other social issues,” she said.
Madam MunaHot, who is also GAMCOTRAP project coordinator commended chiefs and other influential persons within the districts for their active participation and support to GAMCOTRAP‘s mandate.
The women right activist expressed gratitude to UNFPA for funding the project, saying their contribution to national development is recognized and appreciated.
In a sideline interview, Musa Jallow, GAMCOTRAP head of finance said the organization embarked on enlightening the people of the region because research has shown that FGM practice is still ongoing in the zone. “Therefore, GAMCOTRAP deems it fit to enlighten the inhabitants on FGM health complications.”
Mr. Jallow called on the participants to seek for more knowledge concerning FGM health complication and change their attitudes toward harmful traditional practices to ensure women and girl-child wellbeing in the society.
“I’m appealing to stakeholders to come to the field and double up their efforts to ensure that the advocacy campaign is reinforced to less privilege areas. If you get to some communities, they will tell you that GAMCOTRAP is the only organization that comes here or invited them to a programme,” he said.
He added that it would be relevant for organizations and partners to engage more rural communities on FGM sensitization so as to equip people with the right information about these harmful practices. “There is need for religious scholars to clear the doubt about FGM and Islam to the general public hence they have confessed that it’s not a religious obligation as many thought.”
Imam Mamadou Siragi Bah, a participant said there is no verse in the Holy Qur’an that indicates that FGM is a religious obligation, describing it as a “Sunnah.”
He said he can’t tell people to stop or continue practicing FGM but noted that Islam has ‘a no harm principle,’ that states that one should neither harm his/ her fellow human nor allow to be harmed.
Malick Baldeh, GAMCOTRAP regional coordinator for URR appealed to all and sundry to end FGM in the society, saying that it is harmful to women and girl-child.