FGM should be on top of the agenda

By Sarjo Camara-Singateh

The UNICEF representative to the Gambia, Ms. Sara Beysolow Nyatiti has said that female genital mutilation (FGM) should be on top of the agenda.

She made this remark while addressing a press conference at the UN House at Cape Point yesterday, 6 February 2017 as part of the commemoration to observe the international zero tolerance day to the elimination of female genital mutilation, the day set aside for such purpose by the United Nations each year, and is observed worldwide.

The media was given information about the joint strategy of UNICEF/UNFPA to eliminate female genital mutilation.  She stated that transmitting the right information is the best in serving their campaign to eliminate female genital mutilation.

Ms. Sara Beysolow Nyanti said since 2008 there has been a global joint programme on FGM/C involving about 30 countries including The Gambia.

She said as partners they should make sure that prevalence is reduced. She added that their desire is to train people on rite to passage but that cutting should not be done.

“In our efforts to protect the rights of women and girls and promote their reproductive health and rights, UNFPA and UNICEF support programmes to end FGM,” she noted. This is done through the UNFPA and UNICEF joint programme to accelerate and abandon FGM. The UNICEF representative to the Gambia, Ms. Sara Beysolow Nyatiti said this programme is the largest global programme on FGM implemented in 17 countries, and it brings together the complementary expertise of the two agencies with the latest social science research and social norms perspective.

Girls aged 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age in Gambia at 56 per cent. Since 2009, through the joint UNFPA/UNICEF Programme and its predecessor programmes, more than 500,000 Gambian have been reached with messages on the health, reproductive health, psychological and human rights effects of FGM; a total of 1077 communities have publicly declared their abandonment of the cutting; and 158 circumcisers have abandoned the practice in Upper River Region, Central River Region and Lower River Region, contributing to the reduction of FGM/C prevalence from 92.2% to 75%, with regional variations.

She pointed out that the law is not about penalising people but to serve as a deterrent, she however cautioned that it can backfire for people who work underground and she further went to underscore the media’s role in this regard.

She hailed the Joint UNFPA/UNICEF programme noting that it played a pivotal role in this critical transition for the women and girls of the Gambia. She noted that more progress is expected with the passing of the law that the Joint Programme will therefore continue to give support to create awareness about the law while further intensifying efforts in social mobilisation activities on the negative effects of FGM/C to the remaining regions.

The UNFPA Chief of operations to the Gambia, Mr. Kunle Adeniyi said female genital mutilation is a harmful traditional practice, that robbed our girls of their human rights, and it continues to inflict excruciating pain on them

He noted that FGM is a practice that has nothing to do with religion but it is cultural, he noted that FGM in addition violates human rights and has serious health and reproductive complications for women and girls. He added that FGM offers no medical benefits, and it violates the human rights of the women and girls and jeopardizes their health, rights and overall wellbeing. He stated that FGM causes severe bleeding, sometimes resulting in death, and health problems including cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risks of new-born deaths.

Mr. Kunle Adeyniyi further said FGM can also cause devastating social, emotional, legal and economic repercussions for young girls and women. FGM is embedded in a cultural fabric of gender inequality and discrimination against women. It is a wound that marks women for a life.

The press conference was chaired by Fatou Kinteh, the UNFPA, National Programme Officer who said the role of the media in their work to eliminate female genital mutilation cannot be over emphasised.