Gamcotrap celebrates zero tolerance for FGM in Brikama

Sarjo Camara Singateh
Gamcotrap in collaboration with Article 19 celebrated the UnitedGAMCOTRAP 3
Nations day designated to zero tolerance to female genital mutilation
on the 6th of February, 2015 at the Brikama Box Bar Stadium in the West
Coast Region. The theme for this year is “Mobilization and Involvement
of Health Personnel to Accelerate Zero Tolerance for FGM.”The event was marked by a match pass from Jah Oil petrol station to
the venue, accompanied by the police band. The executive director of
GAMCOTRAP, Dr Isatou Touray, said female genital mutilation is a painful act that
violates the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and
exists as one of the most violent acts performed on women and
girl-children.  She said since 1984, the advocacy to eliminate FGM in
the Gambia has been progressing phenomenally. Circumcisers and their
communities have been abandoning the practice and protecting their
girl-children, she added. The level of awareness is at its peak and the
communities are aware of the effects of FGM on the sexual and
reproductive health rights of women and girl-children, Dr Touray pointed out.
Dr. Touray stated that in 2007, 18 circumcisers and 63 communities
abandoned the knife and made a public declaration. “This was the
beginning of the wind of change that nobody can prevent because
communities were aware of the effects of FGM and recognized FGM as a
violation of the rights of the child.  From 2007-2013, a total of 128
circumcisers and 900 communities have abandoned the knife, decisions
were all publically declared in Dropping of the Knife (DOK)
celebrations”.
She said during this process, GAMCOTRAP trained 247 Community Based
Facilitators (CBFs) to engage in advocacy with their cluster
communities to end FGM. As a result of the community sensitization and
advocacy, communities and circumcisers have crafted a network across
the regions of the Gambia and are working closely with their
communities to protect girls. “Currently, there is escalation of the
acceleration of the abandonment of FGM by communities. The advocacy is
intensified in all regions that GAMCOTRAP succeeded in getting funds
for.
“We are pleased to inform the public that in 2015, GAMCOTRAP, with
support from the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme, will be celebrating 30
circumcisers and 107 communities in the three Niamina Districts of
Central River Region who will publically declare their decision to end
FGM”.  After three years of advocacy in the region, they have reached
consensus to abandon the practice,” she remarks.
Dr, Isatou Touray the executive director of GAMCOTRAP said in the
Kombos, Save the Children, one of the leading donors in child
protection, is funding GAMCOTRAP projects in the West Coast Region,
which is reaching out to 13 clusters consisting of 159 communities in
four districts of the Kombos in the West Coast Region.  She said over
1,250 women and men, including young people, have been reached under
the project, titled: “From a Health-Based to a Rights-Based Approach –
Fighting against Female Genital Mutilation in 2014. This will escalate
in 2015 to cover the whole region, and hopefully in 2016, the region
may be poised for a public declaration in the form of a Dropping of
the Knife.

Speaking at the event, the executive director of women’s’ Bureau Mrs.
Binta  Jammeh Sidebeh also affirmed the government’s support for
creating an enabling environment for all the non- governmental
organization in the country and also to accelerate the discuss of
female genital mutilation. She said in 2010, a national steering
committee on gender based violence was established to coordinate
intervention that addresses gender based violence. She further stated
that the national plan of action on gender based violence and female
genital mutilation/cutting is being developed.
Mrs. Binta Jammeh Sidibeh, the executive director of women’s bureau
said the formation and implementation of the Gambia National Action
plan on gender based violence and female genital mutilation/cutting is
part of efforts for the harmonization and coordination of
interventions of both state and non state actors in the eradication
of traditional and cultural issues that affect the health and
wellbeing of women and children.
For his part, Mr. Kebba K. Barrow, the networking officer at the
association of nongovernmental organizations (TANGO) said 140 million
women and girls are affected with this deeply rooted tradition,
according to Mr. Barrow if the trend continues a an additional 86
million women and girls would be affected. He said the United Nations
has called for global efforts to end female genital mutilation. He
noted that female genital mutilation is a violation of women’s rights.
He also assured GAMCOTRAP of his office unflinching support.
A representative of the regional health director of west coast region,
one Mr. Buba  Jallow,  said the theme for this year is fitting:
“Mobilization and Involvement of Health Personnel to Accelerate Zero
Tolerance for FGM”. He also extended the felicitations from the
ministry of health to the gathering and stated that the Gambia is a
signatory to convention on the elimination of all forms of
discrimination against women (CEDAW) and there is a moral
justification to protect girls. He indicated that some of the regional
charters including the Banjul Charter all show that there is an
enabling environment in the country to protect girls.
Mrs. Laliya Hydara, a community based facilitator, also called on women
in West Coast Region to understand that female genital mutilation is
not about tradition only, but it is a harmful tradition that needs to
be abandoned. She noted that the training she received from GAMCOTRAP
is not limited to female genital mutilation, she said issues like
gender based violence, reproductive health rights, children’s rights,
to name a few.