total of seventy-seven Positive Deviances Individuals –PDI- volunteers who were
selected and trained by Health Promotion and Development Organization (HePDO)
in partnership with Foni Kansala and Bintang District communities through the
support of UNICEF have graduated and certified as advocates and communicators
against the decades long traditional practice of Female Genital Mutilation
–FGM- in The Gambia.
The graduation ceremony held at Kampant Training Center in Foni Kansala District last week afforded the graduates the opportunity to renew their commitment to stand for the elimination of the practice in the country.
With the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund –UNICEF- HePDO piloted the three-month project which started in December, last year. It was geared towards the elimination of the decades old traditional practice of Female Genital Mutilation.
HePDO’s director Alhagie Omar Ceesay said in most cases, the practice of FGM is associated with severe health implications, saying it is a deeply rooted traditional practice that fighting against requires deeper understanding of why it is practiced.
He said they used the positive deviance approach in trying to address the issue as a community driven approach to engage communities to find better solutions to the practice.
Mr. Ceesay said the graduates were trained to conduct visits and counselling with strategies to equip them with knowledge and skills to advocate for the elimination of the practice.
Foni Kansala National Assembly member Musa Amul Nyassi reminded the graduates that they have a huge task to accomplish; with the role to go and change peoples’ concepts and the practice of FGM.
He said it was important to know how to communicate to people on such issues, saying “The only time your knowledge will be qualified is when you impart it into the people you are serving and change their concept.”
West Coast Regional health director Ngally Abubacarr Sambou said, “We are concerned about FGM because it has negative health implications on our girls.”
He suggested that to continue the fight and consequently win it, the project should be scaled up to communities in other regions of the country.
Representing the UNICEF country representative, Eustace Cassell reminded graduates that to effectively carryout their task, they must ensure that the communities they serve have confidence in them. “We will push the fight ahead by extending the initiative to other parts of the country based on the successes you will make from here.”