Twenty- four new community based facilitators from Kombo South have been certificated after the completion of a three day intensive training on Rights Education in the campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation and other harmful traditional practices affecting the health of girls and women. The training has objective to empower the community based facilitators with the right information to advocate against FGM, children's and women's rights in their communities, as part of the recently launched GAMCOTRAP’s Save the Children UNIFEM project f or 2010-2012 in the Kombos, Western Region on Eradicating Harmful Traditional Practices through Rights Education.
In presenting the certificates at the closing ceremony, the chairperson of the Board of Directors of GAMCOTRAP, Honourable Sedia Jatta asserted that he was impressed because of the passion, articulation and conviction with which the participants expressed themselves. He noted that to change people the advocates have to be convinced first. He called on them to work with commitment to bring about change and advised them to be humble, to exercise tolerance and patience to listen to others in other to learn from each other. Honourable Jatta cautioned them that change is not easy, because people have to be educated and aware before they are empowered. He finally advised them to take the training as an inspiration to further seek knowledge, religious knowledge in particular to deepen their arguments, noting that it is only knowledge that transforms the world.
Speaking earlier, the executive director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. lsatou Touray, advised the participants to develop the attitude to read in order to upgrade their skills to enable them to deal with development issues in their various communities. Dr. Touray called on them to be youths with substance and commended them for going through the rigorous training to earn the certificates. She emphasized the importance of education because the lack of it amongst girls in the communities has been reflected in the gender bias in the representation amongst the participants, noting that as future parents they should take responsibility to educate girls to close the gap.
She also reminded them that they were identified by their Village Development Committees, Alkalolu and their organizations in Kombo South topresent them amongst many others, therefore it is a responsibility they have committed to take to engage and facilitate open discussions on Female Genital Mutilation and other harmful traditional practices, gender based violence and rights of children in their various communities.
In his vote of thanks on behalf of his colleagues, Ousman Jammeh of Jambanjelly said the end of the training marks a new beginning of their commitment and called on the Community Based facilitators know their direction because they know what to achieve. He acknowledged that they have been provided with the knowledge they need to be able to deliver. He concluded by saying that “Knowledge speaks and wisdom listens" and pledged their support to GAMCOTRAP.
The training looked at concepts of rights education in relation to the protection of the rights of children, women and the other vulnerable groups. It also included understanding the health effects of FGM and religious arguments to protect girl-children from the harmful traditional practices as well as communication skills and community mobilization strategies to reach out to people.
In his contribution to the training, the National Coordinator of Child Protection Alliance, Njundu Drammeh emphasised child protection in our communities and the responsibility different stakeholders have to encourage and listen to the voices of children in their best interest in order to ensure the survival, development and non discrimination amongst children.
Dilating on the medical effects of Female Genital Mutilation, senior programme officer for Gender and Health at the Ministry of Health, Mrs. Fatou Camara informed participants that the Ministry has now taken up FGM in its Reproductive and Child Health Programme and have started training the community health nurses and traditional birth attendants to be aware of the medical effects FGM has on women and their babies during child birth. Mrs. Camara said since the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994, the Ministry has taken commitment to improve reproductive health. She expressed appreciation for the pioneering and the leadership GAMCOTRAP has taken to address harmful traditional practices and FGM in particular.
According to the participants, the training has given them confidence, information and knowledge to share with their communities and win them over to protect girls from FGM and protect the rights of children as well as stop violence against women.
The outcome of the training included a plan of action by the community based facilitators and commitment to engage in the project implementation in the Western Region, specifically the Kombos. The participants also reported on the plan of action they drew up regarding community intervention and communication strategies to reach out to their various communities in the Kombos.