Apr 30, 2015, 10:03 AM
During weekend the community of Wassu in Central River Region North Gamcotrap and its partners witnessed another success story that saw the 4th dropping of knives by women circumcisers, culminating in a cultural jamboree, attended by the British High Commission, EU Charge D’ Affairs, local and international media, women leaders, government officials, local authorities, NGOs, youth group, among others.
At the ceremony, Ms Aja Nyimasata Sanneh, the board chairperson said over the years Gamcotrap has been engaged in strategic direction in addressing FGM and gender-based violence.
“We cause to celebrate the success of the past with 3 dropping of the knives celebration held in 2007, 2009 and 2011,” she stated, noting that it has been a hard road and rough long way though. She said with conviction, honesty, dedication and commitment Gamcotrap under the leadership of Dr. Isatou Touray has proved unreasonable doubts that this 2013 celebration of the 4th dropping of knives and the 2013-2015 strategic plan would build on the achievement gained and would facilitate the acceleration of the abandonment of FGM in The Gambia.
Mr. Jakonba Jabbie, CRR regional health director, who represented the Health Minister, said FGM is a long held and deep-rooted tradition that has been practiced for many centuries in The Gambia and across sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the World Health Organisation about 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM. She said in Africa an estimated 101 million girls, 10-year-old and above have undergone FGM.
“As a health personnel, I am aware of the health implications of this practice on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls, which include severe bleeding and infections, infertility, as well as complication in child birth and increased risk of newborn deaths,” he emphasised.
A 2006 study conducted by the WHO published in Lancet had shown that women who have had FGM are significantly more likely to experience difficulties during childbirth.
Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director said “the dropping of the knife serves as a beginning of the change for the promotion of the health and rights of Gambian women.”
Noting that Gamcotrap and its partners are proud of the women and men of CRR North, she said, “We cherished the leadership, from governors to chiefs and alkalolu; but we hold in high esteemed the great commitment of women leaders, the mothers and circumcisers who made this happen.”
“I would like to inform you that the programme has reached all target groups, including circumcisers and their assistants, chiefs and alkalolu, women leaders, women of reproductive age and young people,” she added.
For her, 336 communities have taken leadership in protecting their children from the practice of FGM and outcomes of such advocacy and training activities have motivated 30 circumcisers to publicly declare to the world and Gambians, in particular that they have learnt about FGM and have taken the decision to stop the practice. “This formidable women still maintain their positions as leaders in their various communities and are the point of reference on women’s issues in their cultural contexts,” she said.
Ms Fatou Kinteh of UNFPA said a successful declaration requires the joint efforts of whole community (women- young and old, the circumcisers, youth, religious and traditional leaders), to reach a consensus. On the side of its implementation, she said, it also requires the understanding of the socio-cultural context within which communities operate in order to be able to adopt the most appropriate methodology for a successful intervention.
“Gamcotrap is one of the traditional partners of UNFPA, the two institutions have been engaged in advocating for the abandonment of FGM/C for the reproductive health and rights of women and girls for over 20 years,” she added.
Mrs. Tandy Yaffah of Karantaba Tend, who spoke on behalf of the ex-circumcisers, said they had inherited the practices and has agreed that with thorough engagement with Gamcotrap in the past years, they have now understood the health implication and has vowed to drop the knife for the interest of the girl child.
Among the speakers were Governor Ganyie Touray, Kebba K Barrow of TANGO, Sylvia Chant of LSE, EU representative, among others.
The event that witnessed the presentation of health materials to health centres and certificates to various personnel was characterised by cultural performances.