UNFPA country rep urges Gambia to refuse FGM/C

Jun 3, 2024, 11:16 AM | Article By: Cherno Omar Bobb

Ndey Rose Sarr, UNFPA country representative to The Gambia, has said that Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is a harmful and a human rights violation. She added that it is also a sexual rights violation and child rights violation that should not be allowed by The Gambia.

Madam Sarr made the remarks on Thursday at ActionAid Conference Hall during the launch of the first ever National Social Media Campaign against FGM/C ‘With Young People’, ‘For Young People’ and ‘By Young People’ in The Gambia.

The Coalition of CSOs against FGM/C under the leadership of Network Against Gender Based Violence (NGBV) launched the campaign to support the national development plan in ending FGM/C.

The idea was borne out of young people’s desire to end FGM/C in their generation. A desire that older activists/advocates, government and development partners had but could not accomplish despite all the giant strikes made over the years.

The Social Media campaign aims to increase awareness on FGM/C facts among young people, mobilize young people to speak up for protection of women and girls from FGM and other harmful practices; build a Country/Regional network of young people who can use social media to raise awareness on FGM and other social issues, thus, contributing to the prevention of similar backlash in future.

The campaign will employ different strategies including using social media platforms that are popular with young people, such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

The campaign will also involve creating engaging content that is relevant to young people's lives, collaborating with young influencers who have a large following on social media, running contests and give-aways to incentivise participation and partnering with organisations that are working to address social issue.

Jaha Dukureh, founder of Safe Hands for Girls, said that the prophet (P.B.U.H) teaches us that if the harm outweighs the benefits in something then we should do away with it.

According to her, medical doctors around the world have showcased that FGM is harmful and brings no benefit to women.

Fatou Baldeh, an FGM/C survivor, said the media has been used in The Gambia to silence survivors of not only FGM/C but other forms of sexual and gender based violence too.

This, according to her, has contributed to why many women do not come out and share their experiences.

However, she said the media can be used in a positive way to amplify voices of survivors as well as empower women and girls.

She pointed out that it’s important that they break the culture of silence because by doing so, they are empowering other survivors to also speak up to move away from the notion that FGM/C does not affect women and girls.

Fanta Ceesay, social media influencer, said the fight against FGM should be about fearlessness. “We have some men as allies but we also have some men who are so quick to dismiss our experiences,” she observed. However, she said this time they would not be dismissed.

Fallu Sowe, national coordinator for the Network Against Gender Based Violence (NGBV), recognised the support and partnership of UN agencies and development partners.

He called on youth of The Gambia to make good use of the social media platforms to amplify their voices against FGM/C and all forms of violence and harmful traditional practices against women and girls in The Gambia.

According to The Gambia Demographic Health Survey (GBoS 2019/2020), 73% of women aged 15-49 are circumcised, despite national efforts to eliminate the practice in the country for the past four decades.

The report also revealed that the most common type of FGM/C in The Gambia is Type II (some flesh removed), with 73% of circumcised women undergoing this procedure, and 17% of women underwent Type III procedure (also known as infibulation or sealing). Only 1% of women underwent Type I procedure (clitoris nicked). Therefore, the study confirmed that 90% of our women and girls who underwent FGM/C have been subjected to type II and III which have serious health consequences on them.

This evidence informed the decision to launch the social media campaign for young people to protect current girls who are yet to be subjected to the harmful practice and future girls and women.