A training workshop targeted at fifty religious leaders from the Kombos was attended by imams, deputy imams, scholars, teachers and preachers on Islam from fifteen communities in the Kombos, Islamic networks and organizations.
Gamcotrap continues to reach out to religious leaders in a bid to raise their consciousness on sexual and reproductive health and rights issues with support of Save the Children Sweden and UN Women.
Issues discussed included female genital mutilation, women and children’s rights and gender-based violence concerns related to marriage, inheritance among others usually guised under Islam to abuse the rights of women and children.
Speaking to participants, the executive director of Gamcotrap, Dr Touray, expressed satisfaction that despite resistance from some Islamic scholars, many more are seeing the light that knowledge, awareness, and courage are important in bringing about change.
She noted that the calibre of participants present demonstrates that individual scholars are taking it upon themselves to learn and share knowledge on FGM to protect vulnerable girls and women from the practice.
Dr Touray informed them that the campaign to stop FGM involves twenty-eight African countries and twenty have a law against the practice.
The Gambia is yet to have a specific law despite the fact that The Gambia has ratified International Conventions on children and women as well as the Protocol to the African Charter.
It would be noted that Article 5 of the Protocol specifically calls for awareness creation and legislation to protect girls from FGM.
Dr Touray called on the religious leaders to take responsibility in creating awareness among the people, because there is high illiteracy among the people and most cannot read Arabic or English and rely on the few educated to enlighten them in their local languages based on knowledge.
A lot of research has been done and a lot of work has been initiated with religious leaders to ensure protection and provision of the rights of women in the family. This, she noted, brings us to the concept of “Qiwamah” and “Wilayah”.
One of the resource persons on Islam, Muhammad Sanuwo, engaged the participants on gender and women’s rights from a religious perspective.
Focusing on Islam and FGM, Sanuwo emphasised that FGM is not an Islamic obligation (Farda) nor is it mentioned in the Holy Quran.
He reminded participants that a weak Hadith cannot be the basis to perpetuate practices that are causing harm and suffering to women and children.
He went further to discuss the rights of women and children in Islam and noted that these are global concerns and human rights in general and that Muslims have to take responsibility in upholding them.
Speaking at the gathering, Alhajie Salif Ceesay, the Alkalo of Sinchu Alhajie, is optimistic that FGM will end gradually as individual families are taking decision to protect their girls and women.
“My ancestors practised it because I am Tukulorr but my daughters are not circumcised, despite the fact that my paternal aunt Mariama Ceesay was a well know circumciser in the Banjulinding, Yundum, Yarambamba area and beyond.
“It is not an obligation and, moreover, doctors have given the evidence of the harm it causes. If the Prophet knew the harm associated to it (FGM) he would have responded...As religious leaders people look up to you and you should take your responsibility.”
It is expected that raising awareness among the religious leaders on the harmful effects of FGM will contribute to the eradication of the practice in the Kombos.
The impact of the training can be gauged from some of the feedback after the training.
Alhajie Sulayman Danjo, Council of Elders – Jambur.
“I thank Allah, the discussion was interesting. It is true we found our elders practising it but from what I have learnt here today, FGM is not good. People are accused of being witches, waste resources - for instance, a year’s savings is wasted one day because of FGM.
“My knowledge has increased. I will tell people in Jambur that FGM is not good because it is not a force/obligation in Islam and it does not affect your religion. FGM should not be practised.”
Ebrima Ceesay, Brikama Kabafita-Arabic/Islamic Teacher.
“I am so happy that I learned a lot from this workshop, knowledge of which I have not had all my life. My point of view is that FGM causes harm. Male circumcision is mentioned in the Quran clearly but for women, it is not.... I think we should engage each other, not to force people but to create awareness. If a person is ignorant, you should try to educate that person. With awareness creation, it will stop. For instance I didn’t know that so much suffering is associated to FGM. I know that for me, as from today until death, I will never tell anybody that FGM is good because it is not Farda nor Wajib. The sources quoted are weak hadiths that say it is ‘makramatun’ (honour) for women. It is not worth subjecting girls to it... I will call on people to work with GAMCOTRAP to continue sensitizing people, women and men. It is not in the Quran and going back to history the Prophet did not practise it on his daughters. So let us sensitize each other to stop it. In any case, it will gradually stop without force.”
Imam Ayuba Jaiteh- Tujereng
“For this forum, it was an important discussion as well as beneficial. There is knowledge and it can help protect people and lead them to the right path. Communal consensus is important. If not government would have just decide on a law to stop FGM but it wants people to be aware that is a peaceful way for people. My next Friday prayers, I will make a sermon on it to let people know the harm that is associated to it. That will be my duty. Also in other social gatherings such as naming ceremonies, I will talk about it.”
Lamin Jarju, Berending-mosque committee.
“I called on the ‘Oustasses’ to help people with knowledge. We the Jolas are influenced by the Mandinkas and the Fulas. Let the ‘Oustasses’ take their responsibilities and stop saying that this is the cultural practice of our ancestors. If we do that, we will not follow Islam.”
Mariam Sallah- GAMNIOPD
“We are all preachers and teachers, we meet a lot of people. Women do suffer especially from the sealing before they can consummate their marriage. We should all speak out against FGM.”
Mai Barrow- Gunjur
“I learned a lot that was why I was even quiet. I thought FGM was in the Quran and in the strong Hadiths, so I thought it was good to practise it. It is now that I know FGM is not in the Quran. I will share the knowledge with my family and other people in my community.”
Kebba Bojang, Sanyang Mosque Committee
“I will report back to my Imam and members of the mosque committee what I have seen here. FGM is not good. The suffering and the pain it causes to women, loss of blood. Women also suffer during child birth and may lead to death. I pray for the success of this work that GAMCOTRAP is doing and Allah’s protection upon GAMCOTRAP. I am happy and I will spread the information.”
Sidat Bah, Tujereng - Deputy Imam
“Muslims should make reference to the Quran and the Hadiths. The Prophet should be our role model as Muslims whether is about marriage, family, upbringing, education, worship, the obligations and the forbidden. You have also done a good thing to share knowledge because if you have knowledge, you will know what your religion ask of you. Allah commands us to give everyone their rights. That is why when we discuss, everyone will know their rights. I am happy about the discussions.”