UNICEF, UNFPA discuss child marriage, FGM with Gambian President

By Kebba Jeffang

A delegation comprising UNICEF and UNFPA regional officials on Thursday urged the Gambian President Adama Barrow to invest in children and the youth by providing employment as well as to continue fighting against malaria, ending child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), a statement from the presidency stated on Thursday.

The UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Director, Ms. Marie-Pierre Poirier reaffirmed UNICEF’s commitment to continue to support the new government’s agenda.

“On behalf of UNICEF, I urge the Gambia government to invest in children and youths and provide employment creation that will strengthen social protection as well as promote youth empowerment,” she said.

Poirier commended the Gambia for meeting the target in controlling open defecation but emphasized the need to consolidate the gains made. She reiterated the importance of continuing the fight against malaria, end child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM/FC.)

For his part, UNFPA Regional Director of West and Central Africa, Mr. Mabingue Ngom said UN is one family and their visit was to give support to The Gambia.

“The discussions included the need for partnership in resource mobilization. The importance the African Union attaches to the demographic dividend and how it can help society is commendable,” he said.

According to him, the partnership with NEPAD, UNFPA is committed to investing in young people, thus the need for the government to develop a road map.  He requested for government to end Child Marriage and FGM as a matter of urgency to end century old cultural practices.

Meanwhile, in his response, President Barrow informed the UN team that his government will embark on sectoral reforms but added that good laws will be maintained.

The President lamented the negative consequences of Child Marriage and FGM, from a health point of view but noted that these are culturally sensitive issues. He called for the population to be encouraged to end the practices. Barrow also asserted that the government will cooperate with UN bodies and come up with laws that will be sustained.

On youth business, Barrow said “The Gambia has changed and youths, who form 60% of population, were active in the change process in bringing in the new government. The government needs partnership to create employment for youths, and I urge the partners to move from commitment to action for youths to realize their contribution in political affairs,” he said.

“Without them it would not have been easy. They were our foot soldiers and provided protection to the political leaders.”

He pledged his government’s political will to pursue the issues raised during the courtesy call.

The former Gambia president Yahya Jammeh had already banned the practice of FGM and child marriage in the country in 2015 and vowed to arrest any person caught practicing the hazardous tradition.

The UN Country team that accompanied the West and Central Africa Regional Directors included UNDP Resident Coordinator, Ade Lakoetje, UNICEF Representative, Sara Beysolow Nyarti, UNFPA Head of Office in the Gambia, Kunle Adeniyi and other local UN system officials.