CIRCUMCISERS ADVOCATE FOR AN END TO FGM As GAMCOTRAP commemorates “One Billion Rising Revolution 2015”

By Sarjo Camara Singateh

The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Protecting the Rights ofADVOCATE FOR AN END TO FGM
Women and Girls (GAMCOTRAP), Saturday joined the rest of the world
in celebrating “One Billion Rising Revolution” with the slogan
“revolution,” meaning each and every one should have a slogan as arevolution to end violence against women in different forms, namely,
female genital mutilation, no to early and forced marriages, no to
rape, domestic and sexual violence and all forms of harassment of the
woman or girl.
The celebration was centred on the honouring of a surrogate mother
adopted by GAMCOTRAP in Noo Kunda, Mba Fatoumata Dampha, who was the
‘Ngansimbaa’ (Leading woman circumciser), a powerful woman who leads
and habours circumcisers in the North Bank Region. She has declared
and decided to mobilise all the circumcisers and add her weight behind
GAMCOTRAP to end female genital mutilation in two districts of the
North Bank Region namely, Sabach Sanjal and Upper Baddibu.
Mba Fatoumata Dampha was welcomed by the large crowd of participants
and the GAMCOTRAP team which together matched through the village to
her home led by the Scout Band, and accompanied by traditional
drummers, young people and children. Placards with slogans and
messages were on display calling for an end to female genital
mutilation. The event was filled with traditional songs by the
circumcisers showing their support of this leading circumciser in
connection with the One Billion Rising and V-Day to end female genital
mutilation in the rural North Bank Region.
Attended by a large crowd including officials and community leaders
from all the districts as well as the members of the councils of
elders, Mba Dampha promised the GAMCOTRAP team on behalf of the women
of Badibbu that she will do everything possible to promote a positive
tradition and culture for the betterment and development of all the
Gambian women. She further encouraged the circumcisers in the region
to join hands with GAMCOTRAP to abandon the harmful traditional
practices, especially those that affect the rights of women and girls.
“I was in the dark and since I met GAMCOTRAP, I realised that FGM is
not a religious injunction but only tradition and we can stop it. In
fact, we are full of regrets for what has happened in the past. Now we
are together and it is over in this area,” said Mba Dampha.
She said GAMCOTRAP has come to put them on a development footing and
that they could not afford to lose the opportunity.
For his part, Mr. Bakary Jammeh, the GAMCOTRAP Coordinator in North
Bank Region, said the event is an opportunity for all the populace
living in the North Bank Region. He said GAMCOTRAP is out to educate
every one on their rights in a very special way, using culturally
relevant strategies that make them acceptable to everyone.
Mr. Jammeh said as the executive director has rightly said GAMCOTRAP
is open to discussion in terms of any issue affecting the rights of
women and girls. He noted that GAMCOTRAP is not there to force anybody
to change but for him change is eminent and it is for the development
of everybody.
Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, said the ‘One
Billion Rising’ is a day set aside for everybody to stand firm and be
counted as a promoter of women’s rights or advocate against violence
against women. She said this day coincides with a day they chose to
celebrate their surrogate mother who is brave enough to call for an
end to female genital mutilation in this region.
Dr. Touray calls on women to seek knowledge to enable them to rule
their own destiny. She added that the empowerment of communities has
resulted to this phenomenal outcome which marks the beginning of
protecting the girl generation to be given birth by mothers and
fathers from this region.
The GAMCOTRAP Executive Director paid tribute to all the women rights
activists who are in the fight against female genital mutilation and
promoting the rights of women. “We are in the 21st century and this
has shown us that the world is developing and we all need to change
given the scientific evidence and the live realities of women
regarding issues affecting us,” she said.
She said the effects of female genital mutilation are not hearsay but
something that has been documented by our hospitals and health
workers. She noted that the work that women are contributing in our
societies if recognised and remunerated no woman will be poor or be in
a difficult situation. “It is high time that a law is put in place to
respond to calls made by communities abandoning female genital
mutilation,” she recommended.
Aja Baboon Sidibeh, the GAMCOTRAP’s surrogate mother and former
Ngansimbaa in the traditional island of Janjanbureh in Central River
Region, came to give support to the circumcisers in Sabach Sanjal and
Upper Badibu. She also calls on the people of NBR to accept the wind
of change in good faith and know that female genital mutilation, after
knowing the dangers associated with it, has no place in our present
society. She said at first she was a promoter of female genital
mutilation, but after going through a series of trainings she has now
changed her thinking towards what used to be her perspective. “This is
possible because I am aware and enlightened,” she added.
Speaking on behalf of the governor of the region, Mr. Kalifa Jammeh,
the Regional Director of Islamic Studies in schools, said the ‘One
Billion Rising or V day’ is worth celebrating. He said celebrating
people like Mba Fatoumata Dampha is a worthy cause, adding that there
is no body who can attest to the fact that female genital mutilation
is Islamic or is a religious injunction. He said women should try and
read the Quran so that they would be able to make decisions for
themselves. He said since he started working with GAMCOTRAP, he has
not seen anything that they are doing that is not in conformity with
the teachings of Islam.
Mr Jonkong Dampha, who deputized for the Alkalo of Noo Kunda, and
Mr. Muhammed Jadama, the Ward Councillor of Noo Kunda, both gave
welcoming remarks.
The event was chaired by Mrs. Mary Small, the Senior Programme Officer
of GAMCOTRAP.