By Sarjo Camara Singateh

Female genital mutilation continues to hamper lives of women and girls. The US ambassador, Patricia Aslup said at least 200 million girls and women alive have under gone some form of FGM/C.

She said the act is a grave and lifelong harm, it has been proven to cause to the physical and mental health of women and girls.  She highlighted that if the current trends continue, many more millions of girls are at risk of being subjected to the practice by 2030.

It is with this backdrop that GAMCOTRAP and its partners join the whole world to commemorate Zero tolerance to end female genital mutilation yesterday at the Friendship Hostel, in Bakau Stadium.

Aslup said the event aims to create greater awareness and understanding of the law banning FGM/C in The Gambia in order to contribute to its effective enforcement. U.S Department of State officials continue to engage diplomatically with host governments and through bilateral and multilateral partners to end the practice.

She noted that the information you will garner, will help to protect generations of the Gambians from the harmful effects of female genital Mutilation and cutting and ensure the health and reproductive rights of women and girls.

She recalls that it was four African first ladies who came together 15 years ago to declare February 6 the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM/C. These first ladies knew that by targeting and holding back girls, this practice harms and holds back entire communities.

Since then countless women have joined to say FGM/C has no place in any community and undermines their efforts to celebrate and empower women and girls.

She stated that in 2017, the department contributed 5million dollars to UN efforts combatting FGM/C, and its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices include country-by-country information on the prevalence of the practice and international efforts taken to combat it.

Chief Yaya Jarjuesey, Jarra West who doubles as the board chair of Gamcotrap said the Zero tolerance day was set up to create awareness to end female genital mutilation.

NiccoloFiga-Talamanca, BanFGM Project Worldwide Secretary General of No Peace Without Justice said the duration to end female genital mutilation is been a while but gaining momentum. “A right is a right if it is protected by the law,” he said

He noted that the physical manifestation of women leaders in the struggle to end FGM cannot be estimated. He also calls for the enforcement of the law to protect women. He stated that collective measures are needed to protect the girl child, because it takes a lot of energy to protect women from harmful practices.

Musa Jallow, Finance Director Gamcotrap said The Gambia, through the Women’s (Amendment) Act 2015, has legally prohibited the practices of FGM within the territory of The Gambia. He said this does not mean that their work is over but more effort is needed to effect implementation and the public awareness of the law.

He acknowledged the role that media practitioners play in advocacy that has changed the minds and hearts of the population.

Sainey Cham of Women’s Bureau said female genital mutilation is one of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations and it is perpetrated mostly on women and girls. He noted that FGM violates girls’ rights to health, security, physical and psychological integrity, their right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and when the procedure results in death, their right to life.

Ousainey  Njie of Mingdow  Lower and Senior Secondary School said FGM is an inhumane act. He said concerted efforts is needed to end the practice.

Abou Bangura a member of GAMCOTRAP youth advocacy group said they are doing everything possible to get FGM information to the masses.

The event was marked by a march-past led by the police force, a cross-section of anti FGM campaigners.

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