By Muhammed Sailu Bah & Sajor Camara Singateh
The training according to organisers is aimed at training media personnel on how to be involved in the fight against ending FGM in the Country.
This training attracts media personnel from both the print, electronic and digital media from all over the country.
In his keynote address Malick Jones deputizing the Minister of Information, expressed the hope that the training will set the pace for Journalists to be more pro-active in the dissemination of information on the bad practice of FGM.
He said the government of The Gambia is very much concerned especially with the training of Journalists. “Because a trained Journalist will be able to disseminate correct information, that is why every time we are trying to engage partners and ofcourse members of the press in running a Journalist training programme such as the Gambia Press union Journalism Training Programme,” he explained.
He referred to FGM as a deep rooted cultural practice. He noted that it is very important for Journalists, especially the Broadcast media such as the community Radios, to play a vital role in disseminating the information to the communities at the grassroots level.
He also said the media should play a crucial role in disseminating burning issues that are very important to the people such as FGM.
He said people who are practising FGM don’t know the harmful effect of using unsterilized material such as knives and blades to cut the girls, so therefore it is vital to send information to those who are practising it with a key message and professionalism in order to convince those practising it to know the harmful effect which can eventually convince them,
Mr. Jones said Journalist reports should endeavour to come up with vital messages in enabling policies to be implemented in the fight Against FGM
Mr. Jones challenged the comments made by the Secretary General of the GPU that the Media is not free to report in the Gambia. Mr. Jones said he totally disagreed with that comment. He said in the Gambia the Media is free and can report on anything. He cited Foroyaa newspaper as an example which he said writes on daily basis critical things. He noted that it is good to present critical reports on burning issues which helps government to comprehend those issues to trigger development,
He also urged Journalists to make the best use of the lessons learned in the Training and as well put them to practice in the fight against FGM in the Gambia.
Saikou Jammeh, Secretary General of GPU speaking on behalf of the GPU President, said GPU over the past years have been partnering with organizations in conducting women rights programmes such as FGM.
He told participants that FGM is their prey and that he does not believe that FGM is soft news. He Challenged Journalists as well as media directors to put FGM on the Front pages.
He also mentioned the role that radios can play in portraying the message to people at the grassroots level to understand well. He further explained that in the North Bank region, radios have played a very important role in creating awareness on FGM; that as a result it helped in minimizing the Practice which he said was revealed by the Governor of the region recently,
He said in those days it was a Taboo to talk about FGM but now the trend has changed. He added that people can now speak about FGM without receiving negative reaction from the community.
He said the Media should serve as a catalyst in bringing in evidence to create a lot of awareness in the fight against the Dangers of FGM.
Mr. Jammeh cited the challenges the Media faces in executing their duties in the Gambia, in which he said the environment is not free for the media to report on any burning issue.
He as well cited lack of working gadgets for Journalists as well as funding as a challenge and recommended that the media need help in venturing into any form of campaign.
Mr. Jammeh as well called for a partnership with Guardian in supporting Gambian Journalists to help in being part of the Campaign.
Explaining her experience Isatou Jeng said as she was growing up she was mutilated when she was six months old. She later started asking questions at a very tender age, because she has been exposed to the effect of FGM at a very young age. She said when she was fifteen years old as she happened to be a survivor of teenage pregnancy and it was very hard for her to deliver. She also explained that most people will think that FGM is good because it preserves a girl’s virginity and prevents girls and women from miscarriage.
Marie Jaha Dukureh a women’s rights Activist, as well as the Chairperson of the Programme noted the importance of media in amplifying the voices of activists in the fight against FGM. She took her campaign as an example. She said when she started just few people knew what she was doing but when The Guardian started to partner with other media a lot of people became aware of what she was doing.
Marie Kauson, a representative of the Guardian described the training as important and revealed that they are using a technology called Para scope and are tweeting all information about the training and this would be reaching about 3.6 million people.