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GAMBIA: 24 Communities Pledge To Abandon the Practice of FGC, Early / Forced Marriages

Through the intervention of Tostan International to end the practice of female genital cutting Africa, over 24 communities in both Wuli and Sandu pledged to stop both the cultural practice of FGC(FGM), early marriage and forced marriage at a ceremony held at Sandu Dasilameh.

In his welcoming remarks, the Alkalo of Dasilameh Kajali Danso expressed happiness over what he called historic in the history of his village. He pointed out that the Tostan intervention in his village has brought about significant changes. He thanked the participating communities for their large turnout and urged them to unite as one family.

Mr. Bakakry Fofana a community development assistant CDA resident in the village who is also the chairman of the steering committee underscored the importance of the day for the participating communities, Tostan Unicef and the Gambia government as twenty four communities pledged to abandon the practice of female genital cutting, early marriage and force marriage. This according to the steering committee chairman is one of the greatest achievements registered so far by the rural communities; noting that it materialised after an intensive three year community empowerment program jointly implemented by Unicef, Tostan and the Gambia government, on issues of democracy and good governance, human rights and responsibilities, problem solving, health and hygeine. He pointed out that the weekly cleaning exercise initiated by the Tostan intervention and adopted communities is complementing the effort of the department of state for health. Mr. Fofana while urging communities to sustain the project activities thanked Unicef for their generous support over the years making it possible to witness such a very important ceremony in the history of The Gambia and URR in particular. He also commended the executive director of Tostan International Madam Molly including popularly called Sukaina Njie in Senegal, for her unflinching support and dedication to the empowerment of African countries which he said cannot go unrecognized.

Speaking on behalf of the cutters Kobaye Nyabally a native of Dasilameh said she have been a cutter for nearly thirty years, since it is a cultural practice that she inherited from her parents. However according to Kobaye the practice has negative side effects on the health of young girls. She pledged to abandon the practice by dropping her knife in front of the crowd, for the sake of young girls. This she said is as a result of the knowledge gained from Tostan. She thanked the government and the Unicef for their support and urged them to expand the project to other communities in URR and beyond for the protection of the rights of the gild child.
A woman councillor Madam Nene Darboe commended the participating communities for their commitment in abandoning a practice that she said has over the year been contributing to the poor health of women and young girl. She said the declaration is a clear manifestation that Tostan is contributing to the empowerment of the Gambian women. She urged them to expand the project to other regions as well.
The regional health officer in URR Mr. Saikouna Sagina has commended the communities for what he called protecting the health rights of women and girls. He pointed out that the joint project is complementing the efforts of his department in various ways which he said is a step in a right direction. Mr. Sanyang noted that one is only educated, if the attitudes and behaviours are positively changed. He stated that the declaration by the twenty four communities is a clear manifestation that the knowledge gained in Tostan is impacting positively on their lives. He thanked the entire Tostan coordination for their continuous efforts and urged them to keep up the momentum.
The declaration/proclamation was delivered by Mnsata Kanteh in Mandinka and translated by Mariama Sellu Jallow who said the twenty four Mandinka communities took a historic decision, which she said aims to reinforce the national movement for the promotion of human rights in the Gambia, in Africa and the rest of the world. She expressed gratitude towards the development partners, especially Unicef for their constant support.
Addressing the communities, the Unicef country representative in the Gambia Madam Khang expressed happiness over what she called a great achievement in the history of the Gambia and URR. She pointed out that the objective of the joint project is to complement the efforts of the Unicef and the Gambia government in empowering the communities especially women and children. She stated that what has been manifested by the participating communities is a clear indication that the project is registering success. She urged them to internalize what has been learnt over the years by always committing themselves for the protection and promotion of human rights and democratic principles at community level. She thanked Tostan supervisors, partners and facilitators who have been working tirelessly for their hard work and dedication.
Closing the ceremony, the Deputy Governor of URR Momodou. S. Kah said the twenty four communities deserve commendation for pledging to abandon a practice that has very negative effects on the health of the women. He said the government of the Gambia attaches great importance to community and women empowerment which he said is very crucial in any nation’s developments. He thanked Unicef for their support in funding the project and urged the government to speedy up expansion in the region and beyond.
For the benefit of the readers, globally, an estimated 100-140 million girls and women have under gone FGC/M and more than 3 million girls will potentially go through this procedure every year within the African continent alone. It is reported to be practiced in twenty eight African counties and the Gambia is among the highest with a 78% practice rate among women 15-49 years. The practice rate is reported to be higher in URR at 99% (MICS 2005/6), which is one of the reasons for the expansion of the project and the piloting in URR. It has been linked to serious physical and mental health risks for girls and women including complications at child birth, maternal deaths, infertility, urinary infection and tetanus, amongst others.

SOURCE: Foroyaa Online

AUTHOR: Lamin Fatty

URL: Click here

DATE: 29/06/2009

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