With Rohey Jadama
Hello and welcome to yet another edition of Children’s Corner. In today’s edition, we are going to feature the interview we had with Ms. Matida Daffeh, a Gender Activist and Coordinator of Girls’ Agenda, a youth organisation working to end violence, inequality and marginalization of girls and women. She will be talking about the genesis of her organization, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and a host of interesting issues.
Children’s Corner: Can you introduce yourself to our esteemed readers?
Ms.Daffeh: My name is Matida Daffeh, I am the Coordinator of The Girls’ Agenda, I am also a Gender activist.
Children’s Corner: What is your organization all about?
Ms.Daffeh: The organization is called The Girls’ Agenda. It was founded by young women who think they have a lot to give back to the girls of their society. The Agenda has been in existence since 2011. Young girls in our neighborhood continue to suffer from issues relating to inequality and marginalisation. Therefore, we realized the urgent need to empower young girls on matters related to sex and sexuality, life-skills and ending the practice of female genital mutilation. The gender inequality gap between boys and men against women and girls is so huge that if action is not taken now, national development will be at stake.
Children’s Corner: What does the Agenda think could be done to eradicate FGM in The Gambia?
Ms. Daffeh: Well, for the Girls’ Agenda, eradicating FGM in The Gambia requires concerted efforts. A single individual or organization cannot do it all. All stakeholders have to come on board. The exercisers, activists and advocates, political leaders, health department, religious leaders, the victims, especially those that underwent serious complications, etc. are all stakeholders. The “political will” here is very important. If we are able to secure support from the leaders e.g. the president, cabinet ministers and other partners, then the entire problem shall be addressed.
Children’s Corner: What are your activities and what strategies do you use to implement them?
Ms. Daffeh: Most of our activities are geared towards capacity building, mentorship, community out-reach and even ‘one on one’ discussions, were possible. This, we believe, will lead to positive life styles where young women will have respect over their bodily integrity and become free from all forms of violence meted out on them. However, we intend to engage decision makers such as parliamentarians and local leaders.
Children’s Corner: How do you fund your organization’s operations?
Ms. Daffeh: Right now, the Agenda does not have enough funding sources. Our main partners are the Network Against Gender Based Violence and the Nova Scotia Gambia Association (NSGA). We are working hard to expand our funding sources.
Children’s Corner: Do you partner with liked minded organization?
Ms. Daffeh: We do partner with organizations working in a similar field with us. Since the Agenda works around women and girls’ empowerment issues, we do partner with organizations and individuals based in the West Coast region and Banjul Municipality and beyond. At the level of West Coast, we partner with the regional Youth Committee and some other youth groups like Your Change for a Change. We also partner with Think Young Women, Network Against Gender Based Violence, NSGA, among others.
Children’s Corner: What are your accomplishments since your inception to date?
Ms. Daffeh: Well, right now it may find it difficult to measure our accomplishments, especially those objectives that require some attitudinal or behavioral changes. However, within the limits of activities, we can boldly say that we have achieved a lot. We have conducted a series of training and mentorship support programs for young girls. We have held outreach activities on pertinent issues affecting the wellbeing of girls and young women and that participation in these activities have always been high.
Children’s Corner: What are your constraints, if any?
Ms. Daffeh: Of course, we are facing many constrains. Like other youth organizations, to have consistent funding for our interventions is a tremendous challenge. The other constraint is the lack of an office space. The latter has a direct link to our financial situation. These are basically the two major challenges for The Agenda at the moment.
Children’s Corner: Finally, any last word?
Ms. Daffeh: My last word as the Coordinator of The Agenda is for us as parents, caregivers, teachers, perpetrators of injustice to girls and women to view the latter as human beings with full rights and dignity. No girl or woman deserves to be raped. No girl or woman deserves to be battered or treated unjustly. No girl deserves to be mutilated for she too has a right to sexual and reproductive health. We need to come together and work towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against girls and women.
Children’s Corner: Thank you for granting us an interview.
Ms. Daffeh: Many thanks to you to! We are grateful to your outlet for the interest you have in our work. We are looking forward to a mutual partnership in the future.