GAMCOTRAP recently completed a three days sensitization workshop in the Central River Region North reaching out to about 400 Women leaders from Sami, Niani and Lower Saloum districts who benefitted from the sensitizations held at Karantaba Dutokoto, Wassu and Kaur Janneh Kunda respectively.
Speaking at Wassu, Chief of Niani, Alhajie Pierre Bah appreciated the efforts of GAMCOTRAP in raising the consciousness of not only women but men as well. This included both old and young people. He cited the experiences and knowledge gained from the anti-FGM campaigns across the country that led to the presidential pronouncement and finally enactment of the law prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation. Chief Bah called on participants to understand that this project is about educating women about their rights in decision making position and the sensitization is for women to know that they have a right to participate in decision making in the public space which affects both men and women. The Niani Chief asserted that if there is vacancy of a public position, both men and women have the right to vie for it. Chief Bah encouraged participants to learn from the workshop and called on them to share the information with others in their communities who did not have the opportunity to attend. At Karantaba Dutokoto, Chief Mam Demba Jallow of Sami district also called for participants to learn and share the knowledge from the workshop.
The Executive Director, Dr. Isatou Touray talked about the importance of women’s participation in decision making as expressed in the Constitution of The Gambia as well as government policies promoting the rights of women. Dr. Touray cited how women took leadership in the campaign to end FGM in the country. She expressed appreciation of the NED project for supporting her organization to reach out to communities; this she emphasized is a demonstration that democracy is for all citizens and women should not be left behind. It was noted that with education more women are empowered and there is need to increase women’s representation in all decision making positions. She therefore called for support for women to increase the representation of women in the National Assembly and local government elections. Dr. Touray stated that Women also have the right to vie for presidential elections as stated in The Gambia’s Constitution of 1997. She observed that even though The Gambia has never had a female president it doesn’t mean that women cannot vie for the presidency. Dr. Touray said politics should not create conflict and that it is women and children who suffer most in conflicts as seen in other countries. She warned against divisive and violent politics as the country prepares for three important elections – the 2016 Presidential elections, 2017 National Assembly election and the 2018 Local Government elections. Dr. Touray emphasized that women have the right to associate with any party of their choice but they should ensure that their rights within the parties are respected. She further advised that the women should ensure that eligible women are considered by the select committees of the various parties. It was noted that the first stage of discriminating women starts during the identification and selection of female political aspirants. Democratic principles include respect for human rights, equality of opportunity for all citizens and the elections of representatives through periodic national elections, Dr. Touray emphasized.
A Board Member of GAMCOTRAP in Central River Region, Aja Babung Sidibeh said it is unfortunate that women are faced with many challenges including ignorance about their rights. She called on women to claim their right to vote but also to be voted. Aja Babung also observed the low representation of women in the National Assembly and reiterated the importance of solidarity amongst women. It was also noted that GAMCOTRAP is a non-partisan organization but it is interested in the rights of women in politics.
Introducing the project, Programme Coordinator Information, Education and Communication at GAMCOTRAP, Amie Bojang-Sissoho gave a brief history of the organization’s engagement to raise awareness on the participation of women in politics since 2008. She said the partnership and support from the National Endowment for Democracy –NED facilitated for the project to be implemented in the last two years in the Greater Banjul Area and Upper River Region of The Gambia respectively. She said 2016 is the third year in a row for GAMCOTRAP’s engagement to empower communities on the rights of women to effectively participate in governance, leadership and the political processes as equal citizens. It was noted that it is part of GAMCOTRAP’s mandate to address all traditional practices that affect the social, economic and political rights of women.
Other speakers at the opening ceremonies were the host Alkalo Ebrima Ceesay of Karantaba Dutokoto, Ba Lamin Keita of Wassu and Sainey Janneh of Kaur Janneh Kunda. They all welcomed and expressed appreciation for hosting the project in order to raise awareness of the women leaders.
In the meantime GAMCOTRAP continued to implement activities planned for the second year of its project funded by the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women (UN WOMEN) in Lower and Central Baddibu districts of the North Bank Region. A series of activities were conducted in Njaba Kunda and Kerewan targeting 50 Traditional Birth Attendants and Circumcisers in the two districts.
In his opening remarks, the Chief of Central Baddibu; Alhajie Jagne, commended the efforts of GAMCOTRAP as it enlightens communities and women in particular, which is geared to increase awareness of their rights. Chief Alhagie Jagne called the participants to be aware of the law against FGM and the importance of protecting girls from the practice. Chief Jagne commended the head circumciser Aja Mama Tunkara for taking the decision to join the campaign to end FGM in the district.
Similarly circumcisers in the Lower and Central Baddibu districts participated at capacity building trainings to create alternative sources of livelihood and to stop the practice of FGM. During the training, prominent known circumcisers in Lower Baddibu, Hawa Jawneh of Baddibu Gunjur, Bintou Danso of Suwareh Kunda and Jaitending Jawneh of Salikenni all pledged to end the practice and work on other sources of livelihood. Each of the trained Circumcisers were presented with GMD 4,300.00 cash to invest in an alternative livelihood activity instead of FGM.
It was observed that most of the circumcisers were misled in their belief that FGM is a religious practice but with increased knowledge and awareness they committed themselves to protect girls from FGM.
During the training, the issue of mobile circumcisers was discussed and participants were empowered with knowledge on the content of the new law on FGM and its implications for any person or persons engaged in female circumcision. This included persons involved as accomplices to the practice.
The GAMCOTRAP team also made a courtesy call to the Governor of the North Bank Region and present was the Chief of Lower Baddibu, Alhajie Fabala Fadia Kinteh. They were updated on the second year planned activities under the UN Women funded project aimed at creating a protective environment for girls and promote respect for the rights of women.
Prepared by GAMCOTRAP
25th April 2016