in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting on Tuesday gathered to
validate the National Communication Strategy document before it is finalised.
The two-day forum, organised by Women’s Bureau with technical support from UNICEF, was designed to accelerate the abandonment of the act and was prepared under the supervision of the government, led by the Women’s Bureau under the Office of the Vice President.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Rupert Leighton, UNICEF Representative in The Gambia recalled that in November 2015, the government of The Gambia made a momentous and historical step and declared FGM/C illegal.
This, he said, was a significant moment for the advancement in the fight against FGM/C and marks a significant milestone in protecting girls and women in the Gambia by defending their rights for a life free from harm.
The UNICEF Rep., however, noted with concern that while legislation exists to enforce law and discourage the practice, the approval rates of the menace still remains high.
“The practice is also worrying high despite ongoing efforts by government and partners under the leadership of Women’s Bureau. There have been gains made in addressing the practice, but there is still a large among of work in order to eradicate this harmful practice and all Gambian women and girls are allowed to live a life free from harmful and destructive effects of FGM/C”.
He observed that there is clear association by many in The Gambia between FGM/C and rites of passage of young girls and women, pointing out that these practices are deeply rooted in the society and is believed that is the right thing to do despite the harmful effects.
“However, I remain very optimistic regarding the future. Under the new Gambia, we are increasingly seeing encouraging examples of how young people are organizing themselves and taking action to protect themselves and their peers.”
He made reference to organizations such as Think Young Women, The Girls Agenda and Safe Hand for Girls, further acknowledging that these organizations are becoming aware of the power of their own voices by children and young women in the country.
He continued: “I am optimistic as I have faith in the youth of The Gambia that they will take charge their own destiny and break the bad habits of generations. I am optimistic as I increasingly see young people organising themselves and reaching out to other children and youth and demonstrating that this practice is wrong”.
Presenting on the overview of the Communication Strategy on FGM/C, Neneh Touray, assistant director of Information, Education and Communication at the Women’s Bureau, reminded that FGM/C is an ancient practice that was mentioned in paranoiac writings.
She indicated that the World Health Organization in 1997 classified FGM/C into four categories depending on the form of cutting.
“FGM/C is harmful to the health of victim and can lead to serious physical and psychological consequences,” she added.