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GAMCOTRAP Sensitises Rural Communities

Jan 14, 2009, 5:18 AM

The villages of Sabi, Numuyel, Bakadaji, Allunhareh and Gambisara were recently the targets of a five-day community sensitisation in the Upper River Region.   GAMCOTRAP, under the UNFPA country programme supported through the Department of Information, Population Secretariat, and support from Equality Now, ODAM and NIYO, respectively, conducted awareness creation on female genital mutilation, early marriage and other harmful traditional practices affecting the health of women and children and gender based violence.    The community sensitisation enlightened the communities on the rights of women and children as stated in the international and regional conventions ratified by The Gambia to protect women and children.  In all the communities, the village elders welcomed GAMCOTRAP to conduct awareness creation and noted that the issues raised were not against the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah. 

According to a press release from Gamcotrap, during the outreach programmes the participants were exposed to different perceptions, religion, health and psycho-social issues relating to traditional practices, women and children's rights.  Most of the participants acknowledged the importance of the sensitisation on women's rights concerns, especially traditional practices affecting women's sexual health and rights. The release added that the Islamic Scholars present at the community sensitisation activities acknowledge that FGM is not an obligation and if there is evidence that it affects the health of women, the religious leaders should let their followers know about it.  Most of the women present at the different community programmes expressed satisfaction with the information gathered during the training workshop. The Circumcises present also declared that they would go by the community consensus to protect girls from FGM.

The communities were also sensitised about the Spanish Protocol on Female Genital Mutilation and the trend in the European countries to protect children of immigrants from the practice.  They were informed about the efforts being made between The Gambia and Spain to create awareness on the integration of Gambians in Spain and the need to respect the laws of the land. 

In the Lower River Region, representatives of 14 villages benefited from the community sensitisation held at Moses Lodge in Soma.  The Assistant Governor of the Lower River Region, Momodou Katim Touray, representing the Governor, said the occasion is important because it creates awareness on gender-based violence, women's development and empowerment and harmful traditional practices. These issues he said are important socio-economic and cultural factors which GAMCOTRAP seeks to address to enhance the dignity, health and well being of women and girls. 

He informed the gathering that women have been sensitised on gender based violence and awareness creation campaigns on harmful traditional practices, which carry a high risk of transmitting HIV/AIDs.  Mr. Touray called on the participants to take up the challenge in addressing the socio cultural barriers that militate against the eradication of harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation. "The problem of forced marriages due to parent's greed can breed an environment of gender based violence and matrimonial hostility; And hopes and believe that this awareness creation workshop will enhance the quality of life of women in this region"; he concluded.

Meanwhile, sixty local decision-makers from the five districts of Foni recently participated in a two-day training workshop at Bwiam.  In her opening remark, the Assistant Governor, Sainabou Faal, on behalf of the governor of Western Region, expressed her personal support to the campaign to stop FGM.  She noted that while respecting culture and tradition, ill practices that lead to ill health should not be supported.  Assistant Governor Faal noted that many women are suffering in silence and call on them to join the campaign by creating awareness.  She urged the community leaders to have frank discussions during the workshop.  Ms. Faal hailed the President's aim towards women's development is demonstrated by his appointment of women into decision-making positions. Assistant Governor Faal asserted that all citizens have responsibility towards achieving good health and the nation cannot develop without it. 

The Deputy Principal Nursing Officer at BwiamHospital, Njaga Sarr said the health sector is appreciative of the work GAMCOTRAP is doing in the promotion of women's health.  He informed the participants that government policy is to improve maternal and child health by providing free access during pregnancy and for under-five child health care.  Mr. Sarr noted that despite the efforts, the health sector is faced with challenges to address traditional practices affecting reproductive health. 

Amongst the recommendations from all the communities included a call for a national law against FGM, increased community awareness creation activities on the children's act and other conventions and protocols in protecting women and children and a call for the Supreme Islamic Council to take the lead to sensitise the public about the widely used hadiths to justify FGM amongst Muslim women in-order to protect women's reproductive health.  The Imam of Bwiam, Alhajie Babou Ceesay called on community leaders to be good role models for their communities.  

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray attended a high level meeting of First ladies at a recently concluded meeting held in Cairo, Egypt as part of the global efforts to eradicate FGM.  The meeting under the patronage of the Egyptian First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak was organised by the Egyptian National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and No Peace with Justice organisation.  It was supported by the Italian Cooperation and other international organisations.  The focus of the Cairo Meeting was on Legislation on FGM, reaching out to communities, through outreach and the media and sharing knowledge on useful trends on FGM.  The Cairo Plus Five declaration call to outlaw FGM has been re-echoed.

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