Tuesday, July 28, 2009
July 28, 2009 Fifty security officers from the different units of the armed forces, six chiefs, women and opinion leaders from the Upper River Region participated at a training workshop on gender based violence, sexual and reproductive health rights and traditional practices in Basse, Upper River Region. The training was organised by The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices affecting the health of women and children- GAMCOTRAP recently. Deputizing for the governor of upper river region, Mr. M.S Kah said training security officers would empower them to deal with the issues affecting women and girls both in their professional and private lives. “People are empowered because of information,” he emphasised. Deputy Governor Kah pointed out that security is a fundamental aspect of development and they have a role to play and highlighted that NGOs are engaged to supplement government efforts in the development processes. In her statement, elected Area Councillor and Women’s Leader in Basse, Mariama Jaw noted that they need the right information to protect their girl-children from FGM and other harmful traditional practices. She called for an annual training of security officers because they are frequently on transfer to other regions. The executive director of GAMCOTRAP Dr. Isatou Touray called on the security officers to play their role in protecting the rights of women and girls against female genital mutilation because it violates their bodily integrity and rights. As security officers, they are expected to be aware of all the international, regional and national commitments that are geared towards respect for human dignity and promotion of women and children’s rights, the girl-children in particular. Human rights activist, Kebba Susso of Basse Mansajang called on people in uniform and in authority to be good role models for the rest of society. He raised concern over people in position of power impregnating girls and then denying responsibility. Amongst the issues raised was forced marriage and how it affects the rights of the girl-child, social cohesion and families. Reacting to the knowledge gained on female genital mutilation in particular, security officers called for the national assembly to pass a specific law against the practice and that they will ensure to play their role in its implementation. Some of the participants also promised to protect their own daughters against FGM, acknowledging that ignorance of the effect FGM has on girls and women is one of reasons why they continue to subject them to the practice. It was explained that FGM is not a Quranic injunction nor an obligation for females. The workshop was an opportunity for the security officers to learn about the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women-CEDAW, the convention on the rights of the child-CRC, the protocol to the African charter on the rights of women in Africa amongst others and the role of the security in the prevention of rape and other forms of violence against women.