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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Religious arguments affect anti FGM debate

February 11, 2010
By Abdoulie John - Jollofnews

Dr Isatou Touray, a leading voice in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), has described as great the challenge of openly discussing FGM, mainly as a result of arguments wrongfully associated with religion. This, she said, made the debate more sensitive for women’s rights activists.
 Dr Touray was addressing a regional conference on the theme: “Generating alternatives against Female Genital Mutilation”, held Wednesday 10th February, 2010, at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.
Jointly organised by the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) with its partners, namely the Spanish NGO, Yolocamba Solidaridad and the Region of Madrid, the conference brought together participants from the Gambia, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau. It is held at the height of a just concluded project in Gambia, with the support of the Government of Spain, which sought to engage families (men and women) in particular targeted areas where this practice is predominant (the Koina and Brikamaba clusters). That project also targeted local authorities, local NGOs, Government departments, the judicial and educational systems, as well as circumcisers and religious leaders in order to discuss on issues pertaining to Generating Alternatives Against FGM in the Gambia.  As a result, a strong unity against FGM was reportedly reached.
Acknowledging those achievements, which were realized in the course of one-year, Dr Isatou Touray, who is the head of GAMCOTRAP, told the regional conference that a good number of activities were conducted targeting various socio-professional groups.
“The project has also provided an opportunity for the development of modules on FGM for different target groups,’’ she said, and then revealed that specially tailored modules on FGM were developed and a draft submitted to the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education for subsequent incorporation into the Life skill module for students.
Far from being overwhelmed by the positive results they were able to achieve, the anti-FGM activist warned participants that immense work remained ahead. She noted that with very many more communities to be covered, there was the need for sustained financial and material support to facilitate the work of Gamcotrap in the Gambia and other activist groups in the rest of the sub region.
The conference also provided opportunity for participants to share their experiences, express support against reported cases of harmful traditional practices, child abuse and even early marriage.
Punctuated by the adoption of a resolution against FGM and other harmful traditional practices, the conference participants called on the Gambian government to enact law against the phenomenon.
Additionally, participants pledged commitment to supporting and campaigning for the eradication of practices that have left millions of young Africans plunged into despair.