FGM Prevalence High Across The Gambia Says UN Resident Coordinator

Sarjo  Camara-Singateh

Ms. Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, speaking at the five days training for FGM advocates FGM PREVALENCEorganized by the Think Young Women (TYW), said current research has indicated that in the Gambia, the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) is high across all the regions of the country.

She told the workshop participants at the NaNA Conference Hall on the 20th of July 2015 that the FGM prevalence rate among women between the ages of 15-49 years is 76.3% as of March 2015 compared to 74.3% in 2005.  This, she added, represents an actual increase.

“The 2013 Gambia demographic and health survey (DHS) carried out by the Gambia Bureau of statistics (GBOS) and the Ministry of Health and social welfare (MOSH&SW) shows that the national prevalence for FGM reduced marginal by 3% from 78% to 74.9% with regional variations, in the last decade,” said the UN Resident Coordinator.

Ms. Lekoetje further told the participants that looking at both statistics it is still discouraging to see such a marginal progress being made.

The UN Resident Coordinator said although FGM is not officially illegal in the Gambia, the Government has made some noticeable efforts to promote FGM education.

“In partnership with the United Nations, Government has integrated FGM into curricular of the health professional schools and more than 250 health professionals have been trained on the management of FGM complications,” she added.

She noted that education for women and girls can contribute significantly in eliminating FGM.

The UN resident coordinator said according to the Gambia Multiple Indicator Cluster survey 2005/2006 Report of GBOS, 78.5% of women with no education approved FGM for their daughters while 59% women with secondary education and above approved.

She noted that despite the growing awareness, FGM remains a predominant practice in the Gambia with 72.9% of Gambians women still subjecting their daughters to female genital mutilation.

“The health consequences associated with FGM are challenged, even among local health professionals,” said Ms. Lekoetje.

The UN Resident Coordinator said the socio-cultural justification for FGM and religious believes sometimes associated with the practice compound the challenges.

“Eliminating FGM in our generation therefore demands joint and comprehensive intervention that addresses all issues in pragmatic way.” she added.

Ms. Lekoetje said female genital mutilation is a deep rooted traditional belief and practice that continuously threatens the lives of millions of women and girls across the world.

“Today, more than 125 million women and girls have experience FGM in Africa and Middle East. It is estimated that 30 million more will be affected by 2025. FGM has devastating reproductive and psychological health consequences, in addition to economic cost incurred for treatment when things go wrong,” she concluded.

Mr. Kajali Sonko, who deputized the Executive Director of Women’s Bureau, said even though FGM/C is a deep rooted tradition, its eradication calls for tact, caution and the right approach and giving great heed to our customs and traditions in the process of working towards eradicating all harmful traditional practices such as FGM/C.

“We must all endeavor to identify and preserve those positive practices which make great impact on our lives as Gambians and Africans,’ said the Women’s Bureau Executive Director.

Ms. Haddy Dandeh Jabbie, a board member of TYW, said there is a high prevalence of FGM in the Gambia with a 60 percent youthful population who are supposed to be future parents.

“Those of us who have passed through it have gone but we can save the younger ones that are yet to go through such painful and inhumane treatment,” she said.

Ms. Jabbie said the consequences of female genital mutilation are preventable, adding that FGM is a violation of our fundamental Human Rights.

Mr. Lamin Darboe, the Executive Director of National Youth Council (NYC), said the youth have a crucial role to play in ending FGM in a generation. He urged the development partners to consider the efforts the youth can make in any development agenda.

Speaking earlier, Mrs. Amie Kujabi, the National Coordinator of TYW, after welcoming the participants, said they will be exposed to advocacy and communication skills to enable them do their work effectively. She noted that the training is part of a series of activities that are aimed at putting an end to FGM in a generation and is supported by UNFPA.

She said FGM is not only tradition but a human rights issue which is very pertinent and cross cutting.

The opening was chaired by Musu Bakoto Sawo, TYW Programme Officer, who, in her introduction, highlighted that the Gambia is a signatory to national and international instruments and as such has the right and duty to protect women.