Three Niaminas, Lower and Upper Fuladu Districts Celebrate the 5th Dropping of the Knife in The Gambia

The Campaign to create a protective environment for girls and women against female genital mutilation, early and forced marriages and other forms of gender based violence has resulted to the 5th Dropping of the Knife celebration in the three Niamina Districts, namely Niamina East, Niamina West and Niamina Dankunku, as well as the Lower and Upper Fuladu districts in the Southern part of the Central River Region of the Gambia. The project: “Accelerating the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation in the Gambia” with the identification number GHR6U513 was supported under the UNFPA – Government of The Gambia Country Programme 2013-2016.

GAMCOTRAP together with the Chiefs and people of Niamina East, West and Dankunku will celebrate 30 Circumcisers from 115 Communities after undergoing a series of training, awareness creation and consciousness raising processes to empower them to protect girls from FGM. A public declaration of their decision to stop FGM in their communities will be held during the Dropping of the Knife celebration scheduled for the 25th November 2015, in the historic town of NiaminaJareng in the Central River Region South.

During the project period 2013 – 2015, GAMCOTRAP reached out to the Niamina and Fuladu communities dominated by the Mandinka, Fula, Jahanke and Wollof ethnic groups. Its activities targeted the Chiefs, Alkalolu (village heads), Imams, Women Leaders, circumcisers, women of reproductive age, community based facilitators, young people in and out of schools youths and traditional communicators, amongst others. The wider population was reached through series of radio advocacy programmes with community radios and traditional communicators. Through its advocacy campaign over the period under review, thirty-three community based training and information campaigns, grassroots mobilization and advocacy activities were carried out in the region and a total number of one thousand nine hundred and fifty people were directly reached.

Adapting to culturally relevant approaches, such as the cluster approach, GAMCOTRAP used a multimedia modular training package embedded in the Rights Based Approach to raise the consciousness and awareness of the community representatives and built their capacity to advocate for an end to female genital mutilation and other harmful practices affecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women. Participants were also trained on gender based violence and the realization that FGM violates the rights of the child and the bodily integrity of women. This created ownership and effective engagement of the cluster communities to realize that they have to take responsibility and leadership in the protection of their girls and women.

GAMCOTRAP’s three year intervention has resulted in communities appreciating that FGM affects the bodily integrity of women and girls and their rights and the realization that culture is dynamic and changes overtime. Participants were also enlightened about the commitments that the state has undertaken on their behalf to promote the human rights of women. Despite the challenges, the project has also created the opportunity for participants from the three districts of Niamina to realize that FGM is not an obligation for Muslim women but a mere traditional practice. It has been realized that FGM has negative impact on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and as a result they have reached consensus to stop the practice.

Through a series of consultations with the Chiefs, women leaders and the office of the Governor, thirty Circumcisers had their capacity built on Alternative Employment Opportunities (AEO) and have embarked on small scale business within their communities through which they can earn income rather than subjecting girls to FGM.

The advocacy for promotion and protection of girls and women from FGM could not be complete without the dedication and commitment of the local media that shared and informed the public of the progress being made and changes being achieved using all the existing local languages. Thus the important role the Brikamaba Community Radio in particular and different media houses played cannot be underestimated. The media houses gave full support to the project throughout its implementation period by hosting panel discussions, covering and rebroadcasting proceedings of the activities, airing drama series and publications on newspapers. The media has made positive impact and this contributed to empower community members to make informed choices to end FGM. GAMCOTRAP seizes this opportunity to appreciate all the media houses engaged in the advocacy to end FGM in the Gambia.

GAMCOTRAP would like to thank the government of the Gambia for creating the enabling environment for reaching out to the people, to empower them with information to make the right choices and decisions.   All evidences are indicating that people are no longer interested in the practice now that sensitisation has reached all nook and corner of the country. Circumcisers’ declaring to abandon the practice on a UN designated day is also an indication that FGM is gender based violence and should be stopped. We are kindly urging the government to further manifest its political will to protect the innocent children and end violence against women by calling on the National Assembly to pass a law to protect girls from FGM as it violates the rights of the child and the bodily integrity of women.

Special thanks to the UNFPA and UNICEF Joint Project to eradicate FGM in One Generation and all other donor agencies whose support made it possible to reach out to remote communities with women’s rights information including FGM.

GAMCOTRAP would also like to thank The Governor of the Central River Region, Mr. Omar Khan, all the District chiefs, community members of the three Niamina, Lower and Upper Fuladu districts. We extend gratitude to the, women leaders, community based facilitators, the traditional communicators and religious scholars who assumed leadership roles to end the campaign on FGM.   They have proven that with trust, commitment and dedication to promote human rights development, we can together eliminate FGM in one generation and prepare a healthier generation of women and girls to effectively participate in national development and reduce the challenges of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Prepared by GAMCOTRAP