Hands For Girls (SHFGs) with funding from UNICEF Thursday trained 60 students
in the Greater Banjul Area on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and advocacy, at
the NaNA conference hall.
The two-day training course, which was part of the national school outreach on sensitising students on the health complications of FGM, brought students from different schools in the Kanifing Municipality.
According to Mam Lisa Camara, Coordinator of SHFGs, the aim of the training course was to sensitise students about the effects of FGM, and to increase awareness on health complications of FGM and to further get them to take part in advocacy.
She said after the two-day training course, they are hoping that the students take the initiative to continue advocating in their various schools.
Hayrullo Malikov, Social Protection Specialist at UNICEF, expressed gratitude to SHFGs, and for seeing young girls been involved in FGM advocacy, as well as for fighting for the rights of children and girls, as well as training them on how to eliminate the act and disseminate the information.
He said UNICEF is a global organisation mandated for the implementation and protection of children’s rights, adding that there are fundamental rights of children which if denied violate their rights.
He explained that the right to survival is the right to access health, describing it to be the most important right of the child.
Mr Malikov said looking at this right, FGM is trying to violate two most important rights of children, which are access to health and being healthy, and the second is the protection right of the child.
This, he said, is violating the rights of children as it is affecting the child’s well-being, adding that FGM is a harmful traditional practice and needs to be addressed.
He further added that UNICEF would continue to partner with child protection organisations to fight against any harmful practice that affects children and girls, especially on the issue of FGM.
Mustapha Drammeh of MoBSE said FGM is internationally described as a human rights violation, adding that it is more of a women’s rights violation and of children and the person’s right to health.
He thanked the president for his intervention during his dialogue with the people’s tour in banning one of the most harmful human rights violations.
“FGM has no health benefits, and harms both women and girls in many ways,” he said.
Mr Drammeh added that the act involves moving and damaging the female genital tissues, including their general body.
He called upon parents, teachers and students to work on ending FGM, and making Gambia an FGM-free country.
He thanked SHFGs for their invaluable support, and for involving students in FGM and advocacy to know more about the act, and for the good initiative to fight for the rights of girls and children in The Gambia.
The Director of Social Welfare, Fanta Bai Secka, also added that a lot of information has been disseminated regarding FGM countrywide to stop the act.
She said people need to talk to each other and continue to sensitise on the harms, adding that this is a deep-rooted traditional belief for which individuals also need to change their mindset within time.
“It has health implications on girls, and also reduces their self-esteem”.
The Director also emphasised that more men should be involved in the sensitisation even though the operation is done in women, and that they should be involved to understand and to support the women in making informed decisions, when it comes to FGM and to also make them understand the law.
She advised the students to continue to talk to their parents; to also advocate within their communities as they are all coming from different communities.
“Talk to your friends, talk to your brother and also talk to the elders within your community, because they are the circumcisers.”
She also urged them to create awareness at the home, as once awareness is created at the homes, certainly there would be a change of mindset and the country would be FGM-free.
“My department will continue to commit its support to SHFGs in your advocacy work, so that we will be able to protect girls and young children from harmful traditional practices”.
The Women’s Bureau representative, Ndey Fatou Jobe Sanyang, said such training programmes are important to involve children in order for them to understand the effects of FGM and its health implications.
She added that protecting the rights of the girl-child could not be overemphasised.
She pointed out that in The Gambia, the practice is deep-rooted, with a prevalence rate of 76.3 per cent among women within the ages of 15 to 49 years in 2015 compared to 74.3 per cent in 2005.
Mrs Jobe Sanyang disclosed that the 2013 demographic survey highlighted by Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS) and the Ministry of Social Welfare stated that the national prevalence for FGM reduced marginally by 3 per cent from 78 to 74.9 per cent, which indicates that there is a clear evidence that FGM is still harmful to the women’s physical health throughout their lives.