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Thursday, January 28, 2010

GAMCOTRAP targets LRR in campaign against FGM

January 27, 2010
By Today, The Gambia's Quality Newspaper Online

The community sensitization was conducted with over three hundred and fifty participants targeting Community Leaders including Chiefs and Alkalolu, Women of Reproductive age, Women leaders and male and Female Youths from the six districts of the region.
The series of training workshops aimed at reaching out to communities in the region to create awareness on issues of traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation, early and force marriages, inheritance, amongst other sexual and reproductive health and rights issues affecting women and girls and gender based violence.
In his welcome address to participants, the Chief of Jarra West, Seyfo Yaya Jarjusey noted the campaign to stop female genital mutilation which has been going on for more than twenty years and observed that people are accepting to stop. He observed that to change peoples' attitude and practices, it is important to go through the right structures and reaching out to different target groups in the region including the community leaders such as the Chiefs, Alkalolu and Council of Elders is in the right direction. Chief Jarjusey informed the participants that many countries in Africa have enacted a law against FGM and as Gambians "we have to move on with the changing circumstances in life".
He called on the participants to share the knowledge they gather from the training with others who could not have the opportunity to attend.
He informed them that the advocacy for a law in The Gambia is advancing, and it is important for people to be aware before a bill is presented to the Parliament.
FGM is not a religious obligation, yet it affects women's sexual and reproductive health. He welcomed the campaign in the region and was optimistic that the region would be the next to have the Dropping of the Knife celebration sooner rather than later.
He thanked Dr. lsatou Touray and her team for respecting the rights of the people in the communities and expressed appreciation to the Honourable Member of Parliament for Jarra East, Bafaye Saidykhan and the chairperson of Mansakonko Area Council for attending and giving support to the programme.
In his remarks, Honourable Bafaye Saidykhan informed the youths that the Members of Parliament had training with GAMCOTRAP and they recommended that they should reach out to their constituencies.
This training targeting the LRR has proven that GAMCOTRAP is reaching out to their people as recommended by the Members of Parliament. Honourable Saidykhan called on the girls to pay specific attention because they are most affected and to learn and be aware of the efforts to empower them.
The chairperson of Mansakonko Area Council, Foday Camara said they are obliged to change and would collaborate with GAMCOTRAP to bring about the desired change in protecting the children.
FGM, he noted has complications on families and when they get the information; they should champion the course of change and protect the children. "I attended the first programme at the Soma health Centre and that night I could not sleep. Henceforth I decided never to subject my children through the practice because the health of my children is my priority," he asserted.
He called on participants to open up and allow for change through seeking information that will free them from the practice. He urged GAMCOTRAP to target more young people and work towards law reform.
Mr. Camara was optimistic that the batch of youths trained would make change and would share the information with the right targets.
He thanked GAMCOTRAP for the work and described it as "reducing the burden on government in terms of health care".
In her remarks, the executive director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Touray informed the participants that the advocacy work towards law reform is to ban Female Genital Mutilation, as The Gambia has signed and ratified international and regional conventions to protect women and children from FGM and other harmful traditional practices that need to be domesticated to specific laws.
She pointed out that the lack of law against FGM in The Gambia is creating opportunity for Senegalese in border villages to come to The Gambia and perform FGM.
She thanked the trained circumcisers for their commitment to protect girls wherever they are and commended Hawa Chune of Misira, Jarra Kabada for protecting eleven girls brought from Karaful village in Cassamance Region of Senegal for FGM.
Dr. Touray called for promotion of positive traditional practices that would protect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women in order to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity amongst women of reproductive age.
She further dilated on the other issues where GAMCOTRAP works in the promotion of women's human rights and awareness raising. She called on the women to join together and fight their cause.
Speaking to the young people, Dr. Touray welcomed the participants and informed the youths that GAMCOTRAP puts emphasis on the youths and thus the creation of the GAMCOTRAP Youth Advocacy Group - GAMYAG.
She asserted that no girl should be a drop out because of early and forced marriages; and noted the importance of training youths as future leaders who have to be well informed to protect the next generation of girls from FGM, as well as respect the rights of women and children.
Women's leader and GAMCOTRAP community based facilitator, Aja Fatou Njie Fofana-Jarjusey of Soma called on the participants to take leadership in their own families and be firm as role models in protecting girls from FGM. Similar sentiments were shared by the Women's Councilor for Jarra West, Mbaka Drammeh, who called for women to unite for their own benefit.
Participants were exposed to issues of gender based violence, women and children's rights, lslam and FGM, reproductive health and the effects of FGM.
Most of the participants came to consensus that FGM should stop and called for sensitization in all the districts in Lower River Region, as well as advocate for a law to protect girls from FGM.