By Rohey Jadama
The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr Isatou Touray, said this year’s is an important day for the Gambian women and children, bringing in a new lease of life in promoting their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“Ten years ago GAMCOTRAP led the first Dropping of the Knife in this stadium to celebrate the first group of 18 circumcisers and 63 communities, at a time we were not sure if we would witness the banning of FGM in the Gambia during our lifetime. Nevertheless we mustered courage and patience to continue the advocacy despite the challenges we faced across the country,” she said.
She said her organization the leading women’s right organisation has been engaged in a social mobilization campaign to create awareness about the effects of FGM on the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and children.
“A lot of gains have been registered in the Gambia to eradicate the practice with the most recent historic actions taken by the Gambia government to eradicate the practice. On the 23rd November 2015, Gambia President issued a presidential proclamation banning Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Following this, on 28 December 2015, the National Assembly adopted the “Women’s Act Amendment Bill on FGM,” said the GAMCOTRAP Executive Director.
For her part, Madam Ade Lekoje, the United Nations Resident Coordinator to the Gambia, said the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation is a United Nations (UN) campaign to end this harmful practice that violates the rights of women and girls. “FGM/C has been in our societies for a long time. We have our girls and women violated in the name of religion and tradition, leading to serious health and reproductive health consequences for them,” she said. “I am glad that the UN support through UNFPA and UNICEF joint program funded by the Department for International Development of the Government of United Kingdom (DFID) to end FGM in the Gambia is working with all stakeholders,” she added.
The UN Resident Coordinator said the presidential pronouncement banning FGM in the Gambia followed by the enactment of an anti-FGM/C bill on the 28th December 2015 by the National Assembly which the president has now signed will turn things around for women/girls. She said these actions show the Gambia’s strong continued commitment to implementing the International Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as well as the UN General Assembly Resolution for the Elimination of FGM/C, which the country adopted in 1979, 1989 and 2012 respectively.
“The abandonment of FGM will play a pivotal role in the critical transition for the women and girls in the Gambia, the UN will continue to support women empowerment and advocacy for pro-women policies,” said Madam Lekoje.
She also shared a personal story about complications she received from the procedure in the name of culture and tradition and urged women to seek knowledge to say no to harmful traditional practices.
For her part, the United States Ambassador to the Gambia Ambassador Alsup, said they reaffirm their commitment to bring an end to FGM here in the Gambia and worldwide.
“The fight against practices that violate human rights especially the human rights of women and girls is a fight that is full of challenges but also of victories. FGM is the violation of human rights of women and girls that occur worldwide and in recent years there has been some momentum towards accelerating its elimination and it is only happening because of decade long efforts by committed activists in the Gambia and other parts of the world. FGM is a problem throughout the world. Recently UNICEF came with a study that FGM is practice in Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, India, Pakistan as well as in Europe and the United States of America.”
She said effective legislation backed by actions are fundamental and crucial factors to successfully combat this form of Gender Based Violence, to protect its victims and to end impunity; in addition the perpetrators are to be held accountable as legislation protects and provides the legal tools for women and girls willing to defy social pressures and tradition and reject FGM and also establish the legal environment that legitimizes and facilitates the advocacy and educational work of anti FGM activists and women’s rights groups.
She said there are other countries where legislation is absent and women/girls are not protected.
She posited that the role of activists continues to be to sensitize the citizenry to the existence of the laws to protect themselves against the violation.
She appealed to states that have not legislated against the practice to follow the likes of the Gambia where legislation has recently being adopted and she hailed it as a great step in the battle against FGM not only in the Gambia but worldwide.
GAMCOTRAP also awarded eminent persons and institutions for the great work and support they have given to the organisation to end FGM.
After the opening ceremony consultation process continued as eminent speakers carved the way forward for the organization; Overview on progress made in banning FGM in The Gambia was done by the Executive Director GAMCOTRAP; Reflections on the banning was done by Sidia Jatta former GAMCOTRAP Chair; Understanding the legal implications of the law on FGM to the population by Amie Sillah of Foroyaa; the role of civil society in the implementation of the FGM law was presented by K.K Barrow of TANGO; Imam Yaya Janneh of Pirang and Oustass Sanuwo of Foreign Affairs gave the religious perspective while Ajaratou Fatou Njie Fofana Regional Coordinator and Deputy Mobiliser APRC led the Grass root women’s reflection on FGM law in the local language.