Over a hundred delegates comprising of district chiefs, National Women Councilors and other women’s leaders gathered at a one day national Consultation held at Kaira Konko, Soma in the Lower River Region to review the situation of FGM and to make a final advocacy call to the National Assembly Members (NAMS) to end the practice in the Gambia. The consultation, witnessed by various stakeholders took the form of a review of the National Gender Policy and Women Empowerment 2010-2020 and efforts made so far to raise awareness and consciousness on the harmful effects of Female Genital Mutilation on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls.
In his opening statement, the Governor of Lower River Region, Mr. Salief Puye, noted that a lot have been done to raise awareness about FGM and other harmful practices and the local authorities and leaders from different parts of the country have given their support to the campaign. He urged the Parliamentarians not to hold the country at ransom by delaying legislation to prohibit FGM and to protect vulnerable girls from the practice.
The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray recounted the efforts undertaken at the different levels. These include the policy commitments of the government based on international and regional commitments, the efforts of Non-State Actors such as GAMCOTRAP in raising awareness as well as community responses to the campaign with public declarations to end the practice in their communities. She cited the four Dropping of the Knife celebrations with 128 Circumcisers and 900 communities between 2007 and 2013 and still more communities have made commitments to end the FGM. She noted the great technical and financial support provided by the UN System and International Community to support the government commitment to end FGM. She challenged participants to take FGM as a political agenda with their NAMS in the best interest of women and girls who are the victims of FGM.
The chairperson of the day, Alhajie Yaya Jarjusey, urged GAMCOTRAP to continue its good work and appreciated the positive response from the community leaders and their people. He argued that tremendous changes have taken place over years and reflected on the earlier resistance that have been over taken with consciousness, awareness and support to end the practice. He was optimistic that the parliamentarians will also take note of the aspirations of the people to legislate against FGM.
The consultation was witnessed by four National Assembly Members from the Lower River Region who declared that they would support the bill to end FGM in the Gambia if it is presented. Various experts made presentations namely Mr Njundu Drammeh, Coordinator, Child Protection Alliance (CPA), Mr. Kebba Barrow, trainer on the Alternative Employment Opportunities for circumcisers and the gender expert from GAMCOTRAP. Presentations included pictorial presentations on the social mobilization and community outreach activities undertaken over the years, the rationale for a law to protect the rights of children as well as the importance of having a law to curb the negative impact of FGM on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls.
Aja Babung Sidibeh of Janjanbureh in her testimony to the gathering of Chiefs and National Women Councilors said FGM was practice out of ignorance but blamed religious leaders for the prolonged debate on FGM. She challenged them to justify why some Muslims do not practice FGM yet they are not castigated as Non- Muslims.
Participants came to consensus that it is time and said there is need for a specific law to prohibit FGM. Speaking at the end of the consultation, Chief of Kiang Central, Alhajie Demba Sanyang Jr. acknowledge the efforts GAMCOTRAP and its partners have invested in complementing governments efforts to end FGM through awareness raising. He urged the National Assembly Member to also take their responsibility towards their constituencies in protecting girls through legislation.
The Kaira Konko Consultation was an important milestone in the advocacy for a law to prohibit FGM in the Gambia. Amongst the participants were the Governor of Central River Region, Alhajie Omar Khan, representatives of NAOSU, Mrs. Emily Sarr, NGO representatives, Board members of GAMCOTRAP, traditional Communicators and media personnel.
Prepared by GAMCOTRAP
26th May 2015