GAMCOTRAP is targeting one hundred and eighteen communities in Upper Badibou and Sabach Sanjal Districts in a three year project funded by the UNFPA/Gambia Government Country Programme 2012 – 2016 entitled: “Accelerating the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the Gambia.”
To launch the project in the North Bank Region, GAMCOTRAP paid a courtesy call on the Governor of the Region, Mr. Lamin Quin Jammeh at Kerewan. Briefing him on the project, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray informed him of the project objectives which aims at raising awareness and empowering communities to end FGM and protect their girls and women.
The governor welcomed the GAMCOTRAP team to his region and stated his support to end FGM. He said the eradication of FGM is part of the development process and should be a concern to everyone. “FGM, early marriage and women’s rights are three important issues that people should be concerned about,” he emphasized. Governor Jammeh noted that development cannot take place if women are left behind and that despite the difficulties in changing culture, he noted that changes are taking place and urged GAMCOTRAP not to relent in the progress being made. He asserted that involving young people at an early age results to accelerating change. He informed the team that “we are together in spirit and we are with you in your efforts to protect the girl children from FGM.”
One hundred and fifty (150) Community and Women leaders have been the target of the launching of the GAMCOTRAP grassroots FGM activities in Upper Badibou and Sabach Sanjal. Representing the Governor of the North Bank Region at the launching, Deputy Governor Mr. Mustapha Saidy explained that effecting change is not an easy task and advised participants to accept change when it is in their best interest. He appreciated GAMCOTRAP’s efforts in creating the opportunity to exchange ideas and knowledge on the issues being discussed. In a series of statements made at the various gatherings. Deputy Governor Saidy informed participants that the government supports the campaign to eradicate FGM as commitment to improve the health and wellbeing of women and children.
GAMCOTRAP Board member, Chief Alhagie Yahya Jarjusey who chaired the launching sessions in both districts, said the campaign to abandon FGM is a global and development issue; and urged village heads to take the lead and contribute towards development. He informed participants that the World Health Organization is against FGM as it is harmful and urge them to see the project as a positive intervention in their regions.
The Chief of Upper Badibou, Alhagie Ebrima Tamba Jammeh speaking at Farafenni, appreciated the presence of important personalities who graced the occasions. He stated that FGM is not a new discussion in the two districts and the advocacy to end FGM has taken a new dimension because it is people from the same culture engaging with them. He reiterated that the aim of the government is to promote women’s health and wellbeing. As a result this project is important for the august gathering to respond positively and utilize the information being shared to improve the health and wellbeing of women and children. He assured GAMCOTRAP of his support and that of the participants to accelerate change in their districts. He was confident that the information will empower the women to protect themselves and their children.
The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray appreciated the efforts of the governor and the important personalities in the two districts for accepting GAMCOTRAP in the region. She told participants that it was a privilege to launch the project in three different venues namely Illiassa and Farafenni in the Upper Badibou district and Ngayen Sanjal in the Sabach Sanjal district. Dr Touray shared the objectives of the project and stressed the importance of dialogue in seeking and sharing knowledge as one of the principles of her organization. She further stressed the importance of targeting community leaders as an entry point and respect for their role in leading change among their people to protect girls from FGM. She emphasized the need for participants to work together to reach consensus in their various communities, share the knowledge gained and learn from each other in order to promote the best interest of the girl-child in the Gambia.
In his contribution, the Alkalolu cum Imam of Wallalan village, in Upper Baddibou, Alhagie Momodou Demba Bah, informed the gathering that he leads a large congregation of worshippers in his village and has read and interpreted the Holy Quran several times but there is nowhere that FGM is prescribed for women. It is not found in authentic hadiths and sources, he noted. He finally noted that a practice that is not observed by all Muslims is not a religious obligation, but tradition.
The launching was followed by a three day training workshop targeted at 50 Community Based Facilitators from the two districts held at Farafenni Community Center. Participants were trained on social mobilization and advocacy skills to engage in the advocacy to end FGM and early marriage as well as act as liaison between the organization and their communities. At the end of the training, participants were certificated.
Speaking on behalf of the participants, Naba Suso of Conteh Kunda Neejee appreciated the support of the local authorities in the districts and their presence to reassure them of the importance of the training. She said even though some came with a pre-conceived mind about the practice of FGM, they learned alot from the various topics covered during the three days. She noted that with the right approach, they will be able to gain the support and confidence of their people. She thanked GAMCOTRAP for the knowledge imparted on them during the training.
The participants from the two districts reached consensus that FGM is not a religious obligation and the campaign to eradicate the practice should continue targeting other groups so that they will also be enlightened and empowered to end the practice.