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27 rural communities say no to FGM

Jan 20, 2011, 11:50 AM

Thousands of people converged at the weekend at Sare Alpha village in Tumana district in the Upper River Region to witness the “mini-declaration of no to female genital declaration” of 20 Fula communities and seven adopted villages in Kantora district.

The landmark event came as a result of a three-year intensive training on the community empowerment programme funded by UNICEF and implemented by Tostan The Gambia.

Prior to the declaration, these communities have undergone a successful three-year training on community empowerment programme covering modules on democracy, good governance, human rights and responsibility, problem-solving process, and health and hygiene.

Speaking at the declaration, one Alhagie Omar Bambo of Sare Alpha commended the government for creating the enabling environment for NGOs like TOSTAN to operate in The Gambia.

The VDC chairman of Sare Alpha, Kambure Susoko, underscored the importance attached to TOSTAN, saying the NGO had demonstrated keen interest towards the improvement of The Gambia and the livelihood of his village communities.

Lady President of Sare Alpha, Hulay Damba, applauded TOSTAN for the initiative while assuring the organisation that henceforth his village communities “have dropped the knife”.

“No more FGM in Kantora,” she said, applauding TOSTAN for the intervention.

Speaking on the occasion, the deputy Governor of URR, Momodou S. Jallow, expressed appreciation about the “positive move”.

TOSTAN is one of the best NGOs in this country that is geared towards enhancing the development of people in The Gambia.

He also challenged the communities to adhere to their declaration of stopping FGM, adding:  “The sustainability of this project depends on the commitment of the communities.”

For his part, Salifu Jarsey, a senior officer at the UNICEF office, commended the Fula communities for their high sense of commitment and massive turnout to the event.

“This is a clear demonstration that the project has succeeded in the Upper River Region,” he said. “The Fula communities should know that the sustainability of this project depends on them.”

In his remarks, the National Director of TOSTAN the Gambia, Bakary Tamba, said he was delighted at the participation of the communities in TOSTAN’s activities. “This shows that this project has succeeded in Basse,” he added.

He further urged them to be more committed to the project, saying “this project is here to empower the Gambian people to know their human rights”.

He told the communities of Kantora that with TOSTAN the lives of the people would greatly improve.

Fatou Baldeh read the mini-declaration statement before the 27 communities that have agreed to drop the knife. 

Meanwhile, speaking at Kolly Kunda, the Alkalo of the village, Sarjo Sowe, welcomed the coming of TOSTAN to the village.

He said the NGO had contributed immensely towards the development aspiration of his people.

With the intervention of TOSTAN, awareness, access to clean water, environmental hygiene and health care have increased in the village, he said.

For her part, Binta, a senior member of the communities’ management committee, expressed delight about the activities of TOSTAN, saying dropping the knife and taking a new direction to avoid harmful practices is the best way forward.

She said girl children in Basse and its environs “have been suffering for many years as a result of FGM but the advent of this new holistic approach by TOSTAN is really in the right direction”.

“With the coming of TOSTAN in our villages we were able to plant over 80 mango trees last year,” she said, adding: “This idea was generated through the TOSTAN training programme.”

For his part, the chairman of the VDC of Kolly Kunda, Saidou Kolley, described TOSTAN as one of the best NGOs in The Gambia considering the holistic approach they are using to enlighten the public.

He also said that with the intervention of TOSTAN, the crime rate in Basse had “drastically” reduced.