#Article (Archive)

GAMCOTRAP sensitises communities in Lower River Region

Jan 28, 2010, 1:52 PM

GAMCOTRAP has recently concluded a series of community sensitisation activities in the Lower River Region, in partnership with ODAM ONGD, a Spanish NGO. The community sensitisation was conducted with over three hundred and fifty participants, targeting community leaders, including Chiefs and Alkalou, women of reproductive age, women leaders and male and female youths from the six districts of the region. The programme was aimed at reaching out to communities in the region to create awareness on issues of traditional practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation, early and forced marriages, inheritance, among other sexual and reproductive health and rights issues affecting women and girls and gender-based violence.

In his welcome address, the Chief of Jarra West, Seyfo Yahya Jarjusey noted that the campaign to stop Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been going on for more than twenty years and observed that people are gradually accepting to stop the practice. He observed that to change people's and practices, it is important to go through the right structures and reach out to different target groups in the region, including community leaders such as the Chiefs, Alkalolu and Council of Elders.

Chief Jarjusey informed the participants that many countries in Africa have enacted a law against FGM and as Gambians "we have to move on with the changing circumstances in life."

He called on the participants to share the knowledge gained from the programme with others who could not have the opportunity to attend. He informed them that the advocacy for a law in The Gambia is advancing, and it is important for people to be aware before a bill is presented to the National Assembly. FGM is not a religious obligation, yet it affects women's sexual and reproductive health. He welcomed the campaign in the region and was optimistic that the region would be the later. He thanked Dr. Isatou Touray and her team for respecting the rights of the people in the communities and expressed appreciation to the Honourable Member of Parliament for Jarra East, Bafaye Saidykhan and the Chairperson of Mansakonko Area Council for attending and giving support to the programme.

In his remarks, Honorable Bafaye Saidykhan informed the youths that the Members of Parliament had training with GAMCOTRAP and they recommended that they should reach out to their constituencies. This training which specifically targets LRR has proven that the GAMCOTRAP is reaching out to their people as recommended by the Members of the Assembly. Honourable Saidykhan called on the girls to pay specific attention because they are most affected, and to learn and be aware of the efforts to empower them.

The Chairperson of Mansakonko Area Council, Foday Camara said they are obliged to change and would collaborate with GAMCOTRAP to bring about the desired change in protecting the children. FGM, he noted has complications on families and when they get the information; they should champion the course of change and protect the children.

"I attended the first programme at the Soma health Centre and that night I could not sleep. Henceforth I decided never to subject my children through the practice because the health of my children is my priority," he asserted.

He called on participants "to open up and allow for change through seeking information that will free them from the practice." He urged GAMCOTRAP to target more young people and work towards reforming the law. Mr. Camara was optimistic that the batch of youths trained would make change and would share the information with the right targets. He thanked GAMCOTRAP for the work and noted that it would reduce the burden on government in terms of health care.

In her remarks, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP informed the participants that the advocacy work towards law reform is to ban Female Genital Mutilation. Participants have been reminded that The Gambia has signed and ratified international and regional conventions to protect women and children from the FGM and other harmful traditional practices that need to be domesticated to specific laws.

According to her, the lack of law against FGM in The Gambia is creating opportunity for Senegalese in border villages to come to The Gambia and perform FGM. She thanked trained circumcisers for their commitment to protect girls whenever they are, and commended Hawa Chune of Misira, Jarra Kabada for protecting eleven girls brought from Karaful village in Cassamance Region of Senegal for FGM. Dr. Touray called for promotion of positive traditional practices that would protect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women to help reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity among women of reproductive age.

Dr. Touray called on the women to join together and fight their cause. She said GAMCOTRAP puts emphasis on the youths, and thus the creation of the GAMCOTRAP youth advocacy group-GAMYAG. Noting that no girl should be a drop-out because of early and forced marriages, she underscored the importance of training future leaders who have to be well informed to protect the next generation of girls from FGM, as well as respect the rights of women and children.

Women's leader and GAMCOTRAP Community Based Facilitator, Aja Fatou Njie Fofana-Jarjusey of Soma called on the participants to take leadership in their own families and be firm as role models in protecting girls from FGM. Other women to unite for their own benefit shared similar sentiments.

Participants were exposed to issues of gender-based violence, women and children's right, Islam and FGM, reproductive health and the effects of FGM. Most of the participants came to consensus that FGM should stop and called for sensitisation in all the districts in Lower River Region, as well as advocate for a law to protect girls from FGM. From the testimonies it could be deduced that individual are taking decision to protect girls from FGM. However, participants made a general call for community consensus to protect all girls from FGM.