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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fight Against FGM boosted - As 24 communities drop the knife in URR

Thursday, June 18, 2009 In what could be described as yet another victory in the fight against female genital mutilation (FGM), about 24 communities in the Upper River Region on Sunday the 14th June, solemnly declared publicly that they will no longer circumcise their girls. In a well attended declaration ceremony held in Darsilami Mandinka, Sandu District, prominent circumcisers in the area pledged to discard the practice, which according to the World Health Organisation has left millions of women’s rights violated. The declaration ceremony, which was attended by thousands of women and children, was organised by the 24 communities in partnership with Tostan, an International NGO operating in the URR, with the support of UNICEF. In his welcome address at the occasion, the deputy governor of the URR, Momodou S Kah reiterated the government’s commitment to bringing health care and education to the people, which he said Tostan had been complementing. He urged Tostan and the 24 communities to work harder and continue their good job, assuring them of his office’s support at all times. Bakary Tamba, Tostan’s country co-ordinator, explained to the gathering that Tostan’s mission is to empower African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights. According to Tamba, in 2006, Tostan established a partnership with The Gambia Women’s Bureau and UNICEF to facilitate non-formal education in The Gambia. Co-ordinator Tamba further stated that the declaration that the women were making, will go a long way in maintaining good maternal health. He urged the women to continue advocating and sensitising their relatives and fellows. He finally thanked the government of The Gambia through the deputy governor for providing the conducive environment for them to execute their roles. Also speaking during the declaration ceremony, Bakary Fofana, a community development worker in Darsilami, said the 24 communities in Sandu and Wuli have united to openly abandon the practices of female genital cuttig or mutilation (FGC/M), and forced marriage. “After evaluating both the positive and the negative effects of the practice, often with careful observations, discussions and dialogue with the community members and local and influential leaders, the 24 communities have decided openly and willingly to abandon the cultural practice of FGC/M and child forced marriage,” he said. Reading the declaration on behalf of the 24 communities who were all paraded before the gathering, Mansata Kanteh said they had came to the decision after having gone through the Tostan community empowerment programme where they learnt about health, hygiene, democracy, human rights and problem solving. She further stated that their decision was historic, and aims at reinforcing the national movement for the promotion of human rights in The Gambia, in Africa and the rest of the world. She also expressed gratitude to the government, under the leadership of Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh. The UNICEF country director/representative, Min Whee Khang paid tribute to the 24 communities for choosing to abandon and forget FGC/M. The Unicef country representative also said that she was indeed delighted with The Gambia’s leadership for strengthening and fostering the partnership with UNICEF in the development of the rural communities. Author: by Alieu Jamanka in Basse URR