Feb 17, 2014, 9:54 AM
Following the launch of a three-year project by the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices affecting the Health of Women and Children (Gamcotrap), targeting the Kombos, the people of the area has overwhelmingly received the news with joy.
The project is meant to eradicate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the area through the right-based approach. It targets a cross section of the community in the Kombos, such as community leaders, circumcisers, religious leaders, teachers and security officers in the first year.
During the period, the participants would among other things be trained on relevant information on harmful traditional practices and create a conducive environment for the eradication of FGM in the targeted communities.
For some residents of Kombos, who spoke to this reporter, it’s long overdue for the women's rights NGO to come to their area, simply because they feel like the presence is highly needed.
For Mr. Lamin Sanneh, the Governor of Western Region since they were made to understand that the practice of FGM is not helpful to the well-being of the girl child they would also engage people in dialogue. "It would be eradicated but discussion has to continue," he said.
Similar remarks were made by Alhagie Demba Sanyang, the Paramount Chief of The Gambia, who also doubles as Chief of Kombo North. He welcomed the coming of the NGO into the area, and thus calls for more awareness creation.
For Chief Ajay Janneh of Kombo South, he is over 100% convinced that the practice is indeed not a good tradition. “What people do not know is what the activists know, which has to do with the health of our children,” he said. In fact health is number one in our lives, he continued. He argued that those who disagreed with the eradication of the practice under the pretext that it has religious connotation is not a justification. As he stated, he read the Quran and has not seen anything like that.
"I subscribed to the banning of FGM, but we have to discuss with our people to stop it," Chief Janneh stressed.
According to him, "as community leaders they are expected to promote our cultures but this must be good and not bad cultures."
"Moreover, God said anything that is inimical to your health is bad," he emphasised.
Honourable Adama Cham, the National Assembly member for Kombo North, in his words shared a lot with Chief Janneh. For him, it's good that Gamcotrap intervenes, considering the population density of the area, coupled with the high prevalence of FGM practice.
Noting that since 17 countries in Africa have banned the practice, he said The Gambia should follow suit, hence the country cannot live in isolation. "This is gone beyond culture it’s about the health of our future generation," he said. He argued that there were some traditional practices in the country, which are no longer being practised now.
"I appeal to everybody in the region to give them the necessary support and cooperation in the interest of our future generation," Honourable Cham implored.
Aja Ousman Jallow, Women Councillor for Kombo South expressed delight at the coming of the Gamcotrap in the region. "We have to work with them to protect our girls from harmful practices," he said.
Dembo Keleng Bojang of Kombo Central said he would like to share his knowledge on FGM with the people of his district.
The Head of Child Welfare Unit of the Gambia Police Force, ASP Yamundaw Jagne Joof expressed dissatisfaction with the way and manner in which people perpetuate harmful things on children. "Bodily harm, rape, teenage pregnancy, baby dumping plus FGM are all serious concerns," Madam Joof said.
The chief of Kombo East Alhagie Basiru Jarju, said the growth and overall well-being of children should be safeguarded.
Chief of Jarra East Yahya Jarjusey called on the people of Western Region to emulate his people. "Initially when they come to our area very few people listen to them, but today they receive tumultuous welcome there," he concluded.