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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rights group united fight against harmful practice

December 29, 2009
By Africa News

Local and international non-governmental organizations (rights groups) have come together to fight against harmful traditional practices, a practice which is common and popular among many ethnic groups in the upper river and the central river regions of the Gambia.

Communities in these regions have now decided to have over harmful traditional practices a second thought; even though it has been part of the most controversial issues on the public debate.
Cultural and religious norms had encouraged parents to force women and children to early marriage and female Genital mutilation over the past decades.

According to the WHO, its implications on the reproductive health of women and girls are adverse and very severe. Statistics have shown that about 30 million women in Africa have been subjected to the FGM practice. Most of these women experience some form of difficulties during labour.

However, after several years of succeeding struggle to fights against harmful practices spearheaded by The Gambia Committee on harmful traditional practices (GAMCOTRAP) in collaboration with their partners, more than two hundred women circumcisers have been forced to lay down their knifes and blades.

The Wulli and Sandu development association (WASDA), the National Youth Association for Food Security (NAYAFS), both local NGOs operating in the URR joined forces with TOSTAN, an international NGO also operating in the URR to sensitize rural residents in that part of the country in order for them to discontinue some of these traditional but harmful practices that continue to wreak havoc on women, who are our mothers.

About 1500 local residents in Wulli and Sandu that were from 27 communities in Upper River Region (URR) gathered at the village of Darsilamin Sandu to publicly declare their opposition and subsequent discontinuation of FGM and early and forced marriage both of which have been part of their lives since time immemorial.

With support from UNICEF, these communities, after going through massive sensitization and theoretical classes in community-led-development projects implemented by TOSTAN are now fully aware of the dangers and problems which result from female genital mutilation and forced early marriage.

Their testimonies during the public declaration were disheartening and it carried a message of warning to those who still practice it. This has resulted in the jettisoning of harmful traditional practices and they have now been abandoned by more people in that region as the circumcisers and their supporters, including religious leaders all condemned it in the strongest possible terms.

This remarkable achievement followed another public declaration by 13 communities from both Jimara and Basse districts of the same region on 25th October, 2009 in the village of Mannneh Kunda.

Testimonies from the Manneh Kunda declaration against FGC/M and forced marriage were similar to that of the Darsilami one. The Manneh Kunda public declaration was the most pathetic scene, when a former circumciser named Mama Sengura from Basse Kaba Kama recounted how her first victim died as a result of excessive bleeding from the injured genital area.

The former circumciser who turns 62 was remorseful and regretted her involvement. Mama Segura admitted that she made her living from the practice and was set to continue but thanks to the timely intervention of TOSTAN and other partner NGOs, she has now seen the light and vows not to practice it any more.

The moral impetus to stop these unhealthy and out dated practices has now gathered momentum while practitioners have now realized the negative health implications of it and what it costs women and girls.