Sarjo Camara Singateh Gamcotrap in collaboration with Article 19 celebrated the United Nations day designated to zero tolerance to female genital mutilation on the 6th of February, 2015 at the Brikama Box Bar Stadium in the West Coast Region. The theme for this year is “Mobilization and Involvement of Health Personnel to Accelerate Zero Tolerance for FGM.”The event was marked by a match pass from Jah Oil petrol station to the venue, accompanied by the police band. The executive director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr Isatou Touray, said female genital mutilation is a painful act that violates the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and exists as one of the most violent acts performed on women and girl-children. She said since 1984, the advocacy to eliminate FGM in the Gambia has been progressing phenomenally. Circumcisers and their communities have been abandoning the practice and protecting their girl-children, she added. The level of awareness is at its peak and the communities are aware of the effects of FGM on the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girl-children, Dr Touray pointed out. Dr. Touray stated that in 2007, 18 circumcisers and 63 communities abandoned the knife and made a public declaration. “This was the beginning of the wind of change that nobody can prevent because communities were aware of the effects of FGM and recognized FGM as a violation of the rights of the child. From 2007-2013, a total of 128 circumcisers and 900 communities have abandoned the knife, decisions were all publically declared in Dropping of the Knife (DOK) celebrations”. She said during this process, GAMCOTRAP trained 247 Community Based Facilitators (CBFs) to engage in advocacy with their cluster communities to end FGM. As a result of the community sensitization and advocacy, communities and circumcisers have crafted a network across the regions of the Gambia and are working closely with their communities to protect girls. “Currently, there is escalation of the acceleration of the abandonment of FGM by communities. The advocacy is intensified in all regions that GAMCOTRAP succeeded in getting funds for. “We are pleased to inform the public that in 2015, GAMCOTRAP, with support from the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme, will be celebrating 30 circumcisers and 107 communities in the three Niamina Districts of Central River Region who will publically declare their decision to end FGM”. After three years of advocacy in the region, they have reached consensus to abandon the practice,” she remarks. Dr, Isatou Touray the executive director of GAMCOTRAP said in the Kombos, Save the Children, one of the leading donors in child protection, is funding GAMCOTRAP projects in the West Coast Region, which is reaching out to 13 clusters consisting of 159 communities in four districts of the Kombos in the West Coast Region. She said over 1,250 women and men, including young people, have been reached under the project, titled: “From a Health-Based to a Rights-Based Approach – Fighting against Female Genital Mutilation in 2014. This will escalate in 2015 to cover the whole region, and hopefully in 2016, the region may be poised for a public declaration in the form of a Dropping of the Knife. Speaking at the event, the executive director of women’s’ Bureau Mrs. Binta Jammeh Sidebeh also affirmed the government’s support for creating an enabling environment for all the non- governmental organization in the country and also to accelerate the discuss of female genital mutilation. She said in 2010, a national steering committee on gender based violence was established to coordinate intervention that addresses gender based violence. She further stated that the national plan of action on gender based violence and female genital mutilation/cutting is being developed. Mrs. Binta Jammeh Sidibeh, the executive director of women’s bureau said the formation and implementation of the Gambia National Action plan on gender based violence and female genital mutilation/cutting is part of efforts for the harmonization and coordination of interventions of both state and non state actors in the eradication of traditional and cultural issues that affect the health and wellbeing of women and children. For his part, Mr. Kebba K. Barrow, the networking officer at the association of nongovernmental organizations (TANGO) said 140 million women and girls are affected with this deeply rooted tradition, according to Mr. Barrow if the trend continues a an additional 86 million women and girls would be affected. He said the United Nations has called for global efforts to end female genital mutilation. He noted that female genital mutilation is a violation of women’s rights. He also assured GAMCOTRAP of his office unflinching support. A representative of the regional health director of west coast region, one Mr. Buba Jallow, said the theme for this year is fitting: “Mobilization and Involvement of Health Personnel to Accelerate Zero Tolerance for FGM”. He also extended the felicitations from the ministry of health to the gathering and stated that the Gambia is a signatory to convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) and there is a moral justification to protect girls. He indicated that some of the regional charters including the Banjul Charter all show that there is an enabling environment in the country to protect girls. Mrs. Laliya Hydara, a community based facilitator, also called on women in West Coast Region to understand that female genital mutilation is not about tradition only, but it is a harmful tradition that needs to be abandoned. She noted that the training she received from GAMCOTRAP is not limited to female genital mutilation, she said issues like gender based violence, reproductive health rights, children’s rights, to name a few.]]>
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