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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

13 villages in The Gambia say No! to FGC

Manneh Kunda, October 25
By Tostan
On Sunday, 13 Mandinka villages from the Upper River Region (URR) of The Gambia joined a growing movement in the country and in East and West Africa as they publicly declared their abandonment of female genital cutting (FGC) and child/forced marriage.
The declaration signaled the commitment of all 13 villages to abandon these and other harmful practices in order to promote and protect human rights. It was also a call to other Mandinka communities in The Gambia, West Africa, and diaspora communities worldwide, to join them in abandoning these practices.
The village of Manneh Kunda, approximately three kilometers from Basse, the largest town in the eastern-most part of the country, hosted the declaration event which was attended by hundreds of people. In attendance were government officials, the Director of the Women's Bureau, the UNICEF Representative for the URR, other NGOs, neighboring villages, and religious and traditional leaders from the URR.
The program included singing, dancing, and skits that depicted the reasoning behind this collective decision all performed by the URR National Troop and local youth groups celebrating the declaration. There were also several guest speakers, including local UNICEF Representative, Mariama Sabally, who spoke about Tostan’s respectful and non-judgmental approach, noting that it had enabled Tostan to succeed in shifting a deeply ingrained social tradition.
Yayhu Bangura, a local religious scholar instrumental in the social mobilization campaign that led to this declaration, reiterated that FGC is not a part of the Islamic faith and called on people present to help spread this information. Two former cutters from villages taking part in the declaration also testified, sang, and danced at the event. One woman explained how through Tostan she had come to understand that the health problems experienced by some girls, including death, were caused by the cutting rather than by witchcraft. Based on this information and her involvement in the Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP), she voluntarily gave up cutting.
Closing the event, Regional Governor Yadi Nget expressed his support for the Tostan program and the declaration. He thanked the community members and Tostan, emphasizing in particular that the CEP teaches communities how to solve their own problems and explaining that this fosters and facilitates peace in the region.