Mar 18, 2009, 5:44 AM
The Gambian Committee on Traditional Practices affecting the Health of Women and Children (Gamcotrap) recently concluded a campaign to put a stop to FGM and the promotion of women and children’s rights in the Firdawsi and Ngunta clusters in the Niani District of the Central River Region.
During the campaign, representatives of 38 communities in Niani district pledged to stop female genital mutilation.
GAMCOTRAP with funding from Danida through the Inter African Committee on Traditional Practices – IAC targeted women leaders and women of reproductive age, alkalolu, imams, council of elders and youth leaders in the clusters.
The community sensitisation activities aimed at creating awareness on female genital mutilation, amongst other sexual and reproductive health issues affecting women and girls such as early and forced marriage, inheritance, and other forms of gender-related violence.
In his statement at the Firdawsi cluster sensitisation meeting, the chief of Niani District, Pierre Bah, said that he has given his full support to GAMCOTRAP because of the laudable efforts the organisation has made in promoting and satisfying the health needs of the people of Niani. According to him, the active participation of the people of Niani is ample demonstration of the people’s support for the community leaders and the regions authorities.
He encouraged them to help eradicate harmful traditional practices such as FGM, while promoting our rich cultural heritage. Health records at the local health facilities he observed, give indications that many women of reproductive age are admitted in the hospitals because of child birth related problems associated to harmful traditional practices such as FGM, and early marriage. Chief Pierre Bah was optimistic that the training will bring about a change in the peoples attitudes and perception of the people towards FGM, and consequently bring a stop to the harmful practice.
Imam Bachi Sallah led the opening prayers and Alkalo Mustapha Nyang welcomed the participants in his village. The Grand Marabout of Firdawsi, Sering Momodou Lamin Nyang, gave his blessing to the training. He pledged to make a follow up after the training in the communities to find out the extent to which the call to stop FGM has been heeded. He stressed categorically that FGM was neither an obligation in Islam nor a Sunna for women to practice.
A health worker in Firdawsi Health Facility, Alhaji Yoro Bah, informed the participants that 95% of the referral cases to Kuntaur Health Centre were linked to FGM on women during child birth. Several participants gave testimonies about how they stopped FGM and other harmful traditional practices affecting the health of women.
At Kunno Ngunta Cluster, one of the council of elders, Alhajie Buba Jallow, commended Gamcotrap for creating the awareness in the communities. The Member of Parliament for Niani, Honourable Ebrima Manneh, informed participants about the advocacy for a law to protect girls from FGM. Such awareness creation activities, he added, will give people the opportunity to understand the effects FGM has on women, and arrive at a consensus before a law is put in place. He also called on the participants to share the information with others in their communities.
For her part, the executive director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray, noted that FGM, early marriage and other forms of gender- based violence undermine the dignity of women and impact negatively on their sexual and reproductive health and rights. She dilated on the other initiatives GAMCOTRAP has undertaken in the promotion of women’s rights and awareness creation. She argued that parents must be well informed to be able to protect the next generation of girls from FGM, and the respect for the rights of women and children.
Dr. Touray called on the women to join together in the fight against FGM. She also acknowledged the efforts of the Niani parliamentarian, Hon. Ebrima Manneh, in the sensitisation campaign on FGM and other issues affecting the rights of women and children in his constituency. She finally called on parents to instill discipline in their children, engage in family dialogue with children to avert unwanted teenage pregnancies and give girls the opportunity to complete their education before marriage.
Oustass Muhammed Sanuwo and Abubacarr Kanteh both emphasised the fact that FGM is not an obligation in Islam. They enlightened the participants on the misinterpretations associated with Islam regarding women's issues and the responsibilities of men towards their families. They reiterated the need for men to allow girls to complete their education before venturing into marriage. In his intervention, the Imam of Kunno Ngunta Village, Ismaila Dem, who also led the opening prayers asserted that FGM cannot be deemed honourable since it causes harm to women and children.
In both Firdawsi and Kunno Ngunta, the women expressed delight in taking part in the sensitisation training sessions and declared their intention to stop FGM. Some gave testimonies of women and children who suffered from the practice out of ignorance.
Source: Gamcotrap press release.