Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation
Thousands of people witnessed the 5th Dropping of the Knife Ceremony held at Niamina Jareng celebrating 30 Circumcisers and 115 communities in the Central River Region South who publicly declared their decision to protect girls from Female Genital Mutilation, early marriage and other forms of gender based violence. Declaring the Circumcisers’ commitment on behalf of her colleagues, Fatoumata Konyagie Jaiteh, from Jafaye Koto said the knowledge gained on the effects of FGM and early marriage and realizing that FGM is not a religious issue, but a deep rooted culture which they have realized is causing harm to the women and girls during marriage and at child birth, have convinced them to dropped their knives. They have learned about the rights of children and women and have been empowered with alternative means of earning income.
Ex-Circumcisers and protected girls at the DOK 2015
Each of the circumcisers dropped their razors solemnizing the end of FGM in their respective districts and subsequently in the CRR South.
The village head of Jareng, Alhajie Waa Ceesay in welcoming the guests pledge their support to end FGM and added that they will never go back to the practice again. He stated that “our main constraint is adequate health service. We have no health centre, the only health facility we have is the weekly clinic for pregnant and lactating women. Women and our children are our future and their health is our major concern. This is why the people of Jareng have decided to support GAMCOTRAP in their struggle to protect women particularly girls against FGM and all forms of harmful practices such as forced and early marriages leading to teenage pregnancy and removal from school.” Concluding his remarks, he thanked H.E the President for his support for the cause (No to FGM) which he demonstrated by taking courageous political decision to ban FGM in the Gambia.
The Chief of Niamina East District speaking on behalf of his colleagues praised Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP Dr. Isatou Touray and her team for not giving up the tough campaign. They appreciated the patience and commitment to empower women and children and assured her of success because the characteristic of trustworthiness she embodies. Chief Alhajie Kebba Touray further acknowledged the condusive environment the government has created for GAMCOTRAP to thrive to achieve success in its engagement. In his analysis, he argued that 95% of religious leaders agree that Female Genital Mutilation is not a religious issue. He said the Dropping of the Knife is worth celebrating because the chiefs, Alkalolu, circumcisers and their communities all came to consensus to bring FGM to an end.
Deputy Governor Malang Saibeh Camara, Dr.Isatou Touray and Chiefs amongst dignitaries
The Deputy Governor of Central River Region, Malang Saibeh Camara said “truth will always prevail” as attested to that GAMCOTRAP promotes health. He reiterated that FGM is not a religious obligation but culture and asserted that culture is dynamic and can change. Deputy Governor Camara added his voice calling for an end to FGM because it is culture and called on all to reflect on the messages and share it with others. . He thanked all who contributed to make the celebration a success and affirmed the commitment of the Gambia Government that allowed the environment that made it possible for GAMCOTRAP to operate with local institutions. He acknowledged the declaration to ban FGM in The Gambia as a policy statement by the Head of State and acknowledged the harmful effects of FGM at marriage and at child birth.
Chief Yahya Jarjusey Chairperson of GAMCOTRAP Board and district Chief of Jarra West extended gratitude to the UNFPA for supporting GAMCOTRAP over the years and H.E the President for banning FGM in The Gambia. In his appealed to the gathering he said “now that the practice has been banned people should abide by it to avoid them facing the consequences”.
In his keynote statement Mr. Alieu Jammeh speaking on behalf of the UNFPA Assistant Representative said UNFPA’s association with GAMCOTRAP has been long and commended the organization for the efforts made to urge and mobilize people to change attitudes to end FGM. He pledged that UNFPA will revisit the funds provided to GAMCOTRAP because there is evidence of its work towards the right direction.
He assured the gathering that “we will continue to fight against FGM, violence against women and other harmful practices affecting the health of women and children”. He also extended appreciation to H. E. The President for the pronouncement made.
(Above) Dr. Isatou Touray and Mr. Alieu Jammeh delivering their statements and (Below) cross-section of crowds at the DOK
In her welcome statement, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP Dr. Isatou Touray described the event as historic, and adds ups to the change taking place in the promotion of the health and rights of Gambian women and children on a day which coincides with the International Day to End Violence Against women, marking the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism. Dr. Touray said while GAMCOTRAP yearn for a Gambia free from FGM and other harmful traditional practices, the organisation will continue to work towards a Gambia united towards a future far better than the one currently inherited. She expressed pride that the children and young people of the Central River Region will inherit a better future, a future that they have participated in building and a future that will ensure the empowerment of women and promote the best interest of the girl-child. Dr. Touray informed the audience that all the target groups have benefited from multiple programmes and their communities have been reached effectively through the cluster approach – an approach embedded in the true nature of the social structures, demography and social understanding of how communities relate, make decisions and share values, norms and practices.
The GAMCOTRAP Executive Director noted that the Niamina people have responded to efforts made and FGM is no longer a taboo since the issue is now subjected to open debate amongst different sectors of the region Dr. Touray noted that the initiative in Niaminas was possible through the support of UNFPA and other donors in addressing traditional practices, Women and Children’s rights and gender based violence. Dr. Touray asserted that the Dropping of the Knife has manifested that indeed once people are trained and empowered with information they can make change of attitude a reality that can take quick pace than anticipated; and that GAMCOTRAP can proudly associate itself with one hundred and fifty eight (158) Ex-Circumcisers and One thousand and Fifteen (1015) communities throughout the Gambia who have gone through the process of empowerment and change to protect girls from FGM. These achievements were possible by working within; and closely with the indigenous people and communities to create a better understanding of the social practices and norms that affect them. The young people have taken leadership in their various regions to end FGM and early marriage and she thanked them for engaging to end such harmful traditional practices.
In her statement she urged the National Assembly Members to ensure progressive and violent free environment in accordance to the spirit and commitments of internationally agreed principles and standard on human rights. Women of The Gambia demand the recognition and enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedom, unfettered and unrestricted by unnecessary justifications premised on traditional, patriarchal standards and interpretations which are embodied in some of the discourses in The Gambia.
The 5th DOK celebration marked by colourful cultural performances by Kankurang (masquerade) Fula and Konyagie groups, Jaliba Kuyateh and Kumareh Band, Takka Tikki and Women theatre groups. The celebration was further heightened when two circumcisers who have been hiding could not resist the change. Lala Krubally of Touba Demba Sam and Bakoto Janneh of Kununku in Niamina East joined the 30 Circumcisers to publicly declare their intention to stop practising FGM.
2nd December 2015