Oct 28, 2009, 4:25 PM
The dynamism of culture is articulated by the people’s perceptions, attitudes and exposure to knowledge.
During a series of community sensitizations programmes held in six communities in Bakang, Jinack, Jurunku, Jokadu Darsilameh, Bunyadu and Sitanunku, women acknowledged that FGM was practiced in their communities. During a pretest conducted with 179 respondents before the sensitizations started, only 58% of the respondents were aware that FGM has negative effects on the health of women and girls, and 70% said it violated the rights of children and women and 88% were aware that The Gambia has signed anti FGM child rights conventions but continued the practice because they were misled by religious leaders who told them that FGM was a religious practice to cleanse them as Muslims. 35% female respondents sampled said FGM was an obligation and amongst the 19% who said it was not an obligation, most said was the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, (SAW) thus associated FGM to religion. Despite associating FGM with Islam, 78% of the women who responded wanted FGM to stop and 83% did not intend the practice for their future daughters. Awareness on the existence of the law prohibiting FGM is high amongst women respondents 94.9% said they were aware of the law that prohibits FGM.
The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray said it is the right of the people in the Niumis and Jokadu districts to have access to the information that has helped the 158 Circumcisers and 1015 communities in other parts of the country to make informed decision to dropped their knives and protect girls from FGM. She noted that her organization does not discriminate people, the enactment of the law that prohibits FGM should not be the basis to deny people their right to access the right information. “Without knowledge and information, many women may fall victim of the FGM law,” Dr Touray emphasized. Hence the need to reach out to the remaining regions in The Gambia. She noted with satisfaction that when the law was enacted GAMCOTRAP has already covered over eighty per cent of the country.
A well known scholar in the North Bank Region, Oustass Khalipha Jammeh, educated the women about the misconceptions associating FGM to Islam and informed them that the practice of FGM predated Islam and that FGM is not a condition for cleanliness in Islam. He further informed them that there is no verse in the holy Quran that promotes FGM and that there was no record of the practice amongst the four daughters of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He further noted that the Ahadith some of the scholars are using to justify FGM is unauthentic and must not be used to encourage the women to cause harm.
The women from the three districts were taken through a rights education using a series of modules to contextualize the campaign to end FGM in The Gambia, awareness about the rights of children and women, the existing laws protecting the rights of women and children and to end violence against them including the content of the FGM law and its implications for those who engage or are accomplishes to the practice. The sensitization also accorded the women the opportunity to learn about the negative effects of FGM and they came to consensus that the practice should stop.
Reacting to the importance of the training sessions, most of the women said ignorance was a contributing factor for the continuation of the practice and some blamed religious leaders for misleading women. Some of the circumcisers who attended the sessions included Hawading Janneh of Jinack Kajata in Lower Niumi, Mariama Bojang commonly known as Ma Bojang of Bariyanding in Jokadu, and Na Arokey Darbo of Tuba Kolong said they learned a lot about the negative effects of the practice and declared that they would never engage in the practice again.
Meanwhile, GAMCOTRAP reached out to over one hundred and sixty participants from Sitanunku, Kuntaya and Essau Lower, Upper Basic and Senior Schools in the North Bank Region on the abandonment of FGM in the Gambia. During pre test with 164 Respondents, 68% were not aware of the effects of FGM, and just over a half of them (54%) were aware of the law on FGM and even less 46% knew that the Gambia signed the FGM Child Rights Conventions. However, there is increased awareness on FGM and Islam amongst students, 52% said FGM is not a religion obligation. The trend amongst young peoples to end FGM and the pretest results showed that more than half of the student respondents want FGM to stop and even more, 62% do not intent FGM for their future daughters.
During the three days interaction with schools, they have been sensitize on culture, rights of children and women, the FGM law and other national laws that promote the rights of women and girls protect them from sexual and domestic violence. They were further enlightened about FGM and misconceptions that it is an Islamic practice and exposed to the effects FGM has on the sexual and reproductive health as well as effects of Sexually Transmitted Infections. At the end of the training, the students were sensitized and they came to conlusion that FGM is harmful, violates the rights of girls and it should stop. All the students reached during this training have committed themselves that they will never circumcise their girl-child when they become parents.
It could be recalled that GAMCOTRAP has embarked on a campaign to raise awareness across the 156 communities in Jokadu, Lower and Upper Niumi districts to expose them to the campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation in The Gambia. The project titled: “Accelerating the Abandonment of FGM in The Gambia” is a UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme and Gambia Government funded project being implemented by GAMCOTRAP to promote and sustain the legislation banning FGM.