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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Communities in URR Vow to Stop FGC

June 24, 2009 As many as 24 villages in the Upper River Region recently converged to celebrate what is called Darsilameh Mandinka public declaration for the abandonment of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) of children and forced-marriage, at a colourful ceremony held at Darsilameh Village in Sandu District. The celebration characterised with a series of cultural activities was organised by the communities and supported by TOSTAN-UNICEF and the government of the Gambia. Speaking at the programme, Mr. Bakary Fofana, the Chairman of the steering committee in Darsilameh, who doubles as the Community Development Assistant (CDA) welcomed the crowd for attending this important ceremony which, he said, is a history for UNICEF, TOSTAN, and the government of the Gambia. Mr. Fofana noted that over twenty-four (24) community in Sandu and Wuli District (including adopted communities have united together to openly declare to abandon the practices of Female Genital Cutting and forced-marriage. He noted that this decision does not just occur, but happened after an intensive three years community programme, led by facilitators with social mobilisation and sensitisation activities by the team, communities and the C.M.C. members on issues affecting health and personal well-being as well violating fundamental rights. According to him, after evaluating both the positive and negative effects of the practices often with careful observation, discussion and dialogue with the community members and local and influential leaders, the 24 communities have decided to openly and voluntarily declare to abandon the cultural practices of (FGC) child and forced-marriage. Mr. Fofana further asserted that it is important to note that the TOSTAN Community Empowerment Programme is not only focusing on Female Genital Cutting, but the programme is a holistic approach to community led sustainable development, covering issues such as democracy, good governance, human rights, problem-solving, health, hygiene and literacy. He added that, the community and the TOSTAN Programme cannot achieve this major success without the crucial support of the National Women’s Bureau through the Gambia government in promoting an enabling environment. Mr. Fofana added that the impersonation of any development project depends on the availability of resources. “We acknowledge and thank UNICEF for providing the funding and support over the years making it possible for us to witness this very important ceremony. It is evidence that the brain behind all this is the initiator of the community empowerment of the African Community and women, in particular which cannot go unrecognised”. For his part, Mr. Saikuna Sanyang, Head of Regional Health Team in the Upper River Region expressed delight to be associated with the event. He noted that the health sector has recognised TOSTAN as their key partners in the region. “We see this mass open declaration of abandoning Female Genital Cutting as a positive move,” he stated. Other speakers included female genital cutters, all of whom, promised to drop the knife with immediate effect. Mr. Momodou S. Kah, the Deputy Governor of URR expressed similar sentiments and urged the community to maintain their promise that they will drop the knife. He also applauded TOSTAN and UNICEF for bringing such a development project to their door-steps. For his part, Mr. Bakary Tamba, TOSTAN Gambia’s National Co-ordinator said TOSTAN aims to complement the Gambia government, and UNICEF’s efforts in empowering the Gambian communities for sustainable development in positive social transformation, based on respect for human rights and democratic principles. He concluded that TOSTAN Gambia works in partnership with UNICEF and the Women’s Bureau. Author: Abdoulie Nyockeh