GAMBIA: International Forum On Harmful Traditional Practices Under Way

Wassu Gambia Kafo, an international NGO, operating in the Gambia since 1999, has organized a three- day international forum on harmful traditional practices at the Sheraton Resort Hotel in Brufut. The forum began on the 5 of May and ends today the 7th Mary 2009.

Delivering her opening remarks, the vice President, Aja Isatou Njie Saidy has noted that the Gambia government discourages all harmful practices and health hazards mainly through public education/ sensitization through creating awareness of the harmful effects of it. She further noted that harmful traditional practices are happening in Africa and many parts of the world and the practices endanger the lives of women globally ranging from fattening, foot binding, early marriages, incest, tattooing, tribal marks, and food taboos to female genital mutilation. She dilated that the harmful effects of FGM/C informed by medical practitioners namely; complication with child birth, VVF and other long term health complications for women, violate the rights of girls and women to bodily integrity. She mentioned that Gambia is one of twenty eight (28) countries in Africa that are practicing FGM. Statistics has it; she noted that UNICEF cluster survey or mics 2007 show a prevalence of almost 78%. “This figure indicates that a lot more work needs to be done in the area of FGM/C” she said. Vice President Njie Saidy stated that, it is the Gambia’s intention to redress the issue through sensitization GIEC and also to take alternative ways to address this global problem and concern. “We now realize that it is indeed a deep rooted traditional practice that has been passed on from generation to another since the pharsant and or Nubian era or days”. She said.

She reiterated that Gambia’s Endeavour to discourage FGM/C would reinforce is backed by sound policies and legislation. “Currently, the Gambia does not have any specific or particular law that is banning FGM/C through IEC and alternative initiation process for women and girls, it can be addressed” she said. She revealed that legislation to ban FGM/C may be difficult to implement but noted that public media education backed by facts and figures based on empirical data can create an understanding. She assured that, if medical facts and statistics can convince, the Gambia government and related sectors would be in a better position to formulate policies and ensure that measures are put in place to help them.
Madam Njie Saidy also noted that NGO’s such as BAFROW, Gamcotrap, APGWA and the Gambia family planning association have been working with communities throughout the country using similar methods. She commended the work of the international community such as WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA in the fight against harmful practices. These communities she said entered tremendous efforts in the fight against the practices. She further commended the non governmental organizations in the Gambia who are also working immensely in the fight. She stated that the women’s bureau and the female lawyers’ association (FLAG) have been collaborating in this field as the drafting of the women’s bill and plans are in the making, so as to develop a national programme on ending violence against women and rights. She noted that, the forum on harmful traditional practices encourages government, non governmental, international organizations and all other stakeholders to share their work and lessons of good practices.
The executive director of Wassu Gambia Kafo Prof. Dr. Adriana Kaplan noted that the objective of the forum is to learn, review and update female Genital mutilation cutting through the promotion of a holistic approach. The forum she said would help them to identify challenges and constraints faced by organizations and stakeholders campaigning FGM/C. She said the Gambia government has dedicated enormous efforts and commitment to women’s right and empowerment in health and education. “They see women’s right as a priority in polices for development of the country”, she said. The permanent secretary at the department of state for health and social welfare Dr. Saihou Janneh in deputizing for the SoS for health said the practices process a formidable challenge to the Gambia and other countries in Africa. He said, though it is a challenge but significant progress has been made in the Gambia by both health services especially GAMCOTRAP and BAFROW.

SOURCE: Forayaa Online

AUTHOR: Annia Gaye

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