Village Girl Initiative (VGI) is a non-profitable charity organization
registered both in the United States of Ohio and in The Gambia, West Africa.
It envisages to bring an end and to completely eradicate Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in the rural villages and communities in The Gambia where it is widely practiced; by empowering women and girls with resources through education, access to quality healthcare services and community-based sensitisation programmes and healing-based support programmes for survivors.
According to Aisha Saidy, the founder and executive Director of VGI, she said alongside the fight against FGM/C, is their intent to provide free, quality and accessible healthcare services through their Free Wellness Clinics to communities in rural villages, which are challenged with issues of affordability and access to quality basic healthcare services.
For Aisha being a village girl, and a survivor of FGM, a mother of two amazing girls and a healthcare professional, she decided to add her voice to the discourse of ending Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in a generation.
“I came from a rural community, and a tribal lineage that has been practicing the tradition of FGM for centuries. It is time to change the narratives,” she said.
She noted it is also common knowledge that The Gambia’s healthcare delivery services face enormous challenges, as well as potentials for growth and expansion, especially in regard to delivery and accessibility and affordability in the rural villages and communities.
Mrs Saidy opined that in light of these issues, the passion to Give Back and Change Hearts starting with her own community - Sanyang Village, gave birth to VGI.
“Our target is everyone, especially the rural communities - women and girls, in particular, and our goal is to empower them to be actively engaged in preventive health practices, by providing them access to resources such our Free wellness Clinics, enabling them to become knowledgeable and make informed health decisions about their bodies,” she said.
She further stated that there are well established research findings concluding that FGM not only gravely affects the health of women and girls, who went through the procedure, but that of the entire community, and that quite a whole lot of work has been done and are ongoing to make Gambia a Zero FGM Free Zone.
She also stated that having the law in place banning the practice in the country is a great accomplishment in the fight against it.
She acknowledged the great work of organisations such GAMCOTRAP.
“We are not out of the woods yet; the realities in our various communities in the country, especially the rural communities and villages are such that the practice is still happening and done covertly”.
Mrs Saidy emphasized that VGI believes targeting these communities from a healthcare approach will further complement the ongoing efforts in making The Gambia a Zero FGM Free Zone.
The organization which is preparing for its launching has many surprises for the public, on the day of the launching, she said.
The following services will be provided at their Free Wellness Clinic at Sanyang Health Center, a Complete Wellness Checkup for everyone.
The services include Free Blood Pressure Monitoring, Free Blood Sugar Monitoring, Free Pregnancy test, Free HIV Screening, Free Urinalysis, and Free Medications: AntiHypertensives, Antibiotics, Antidiabetics, pain medications, prenatal supplements, various supplements and vitamins.
She disclosed that there will be scores of medical doctors, nurse midwives, registered nurses, lab techs and pharmacists, all ready to volunteer.
On the day of the launching, Saidy said, the organization expects a great turnout of people to the event.
“There is a need for quality healthcare delivery in the country; we are hopeful that the communities will utilize the access we are bringing to their doorstep.”
In the process, she said, they would change their hearts regarding FGM, empower women to make informed healthy decisions about their bodies and by extension create a populace well engaged in preventive healthcare and just treatment.