The Gambia Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) recently embarked on series of community outreach on thematic issues relating to Female Genital Mutilation Laws enacted in 2015.
The community awareness forums were held in Lower Nuimi, Upper Nuimi and Jokadou districts, all in the North Bank Region.
Funded by the United Nations Fund for Population Affairs, the events were aimed at enlightening the people on laws promulgated to protect women from FGM, gender based-violence and early or forced marriages in The Gambia.
The first meeting held at Albreda in Upper Niumi, targeted 100 participants from 10 surrounding communities offering social services to their respective communities.
Representatives were drawn from the police, Drug Law Enforcement Agency The Gambia, The Gambia Immigration Department, teachers, health workers, village development committees (VDC), the local authorities, and the technical advisory committees (TAC) in the region.
Speaking at the various meetings, Mary Small, the acting executive director of GAMCOTRAP, acknowledged the crucial role played by targeted participants in supporting and re-enforcing the enacted laws, which banned the harmful traditional practices affecting our society.
The awareness forums, she went on, would enable people to understand the content of the recently enacted laws which bans FGM, saying it would also help in promoting the health and wellbeing of women and children to contribute to the sustainable development goals, thereby reducing maternal and infant mortality rates.
Small acknowledged that issues regarding FGM and other related traditional practices are culturally sensitive thus the organization takes holistic approaches to create awareness to ensure full community participation.
Baboucarr Ceesay, a teacher at Aja Fatou Bojang Upper Basic School at Albreda, described the forum as timely, as the teachers are responsible for children while in school. “FGM is a threat to women’s health and wellbeing and many people termed it as a religious,” he noted.
He pointed out that marriage is positive but early marriage is dangerous to the girl’s health especially during labour.
He elaborated on some of the dangers associated with early marriage and that it also interrupts education of girls as it affects their career both in the short and long term.
Ceesay advised parents to take care of their children and provide them with the necessary information and protection against the harmful traditional practices.
“With these latest move by GAMCOTRAP targeting local communities including service providers, would greatly help to raise their awareness on the consequences of FGM,” he stated.
Alieu Joof, a midwife nurse at Albreda health centre underscored the consequences associated with FGM, early marriage and gender-based violence.
He explained how excessive bleeding could occur when veins on the female genitalia are cut, which he said, could even result to dead.
by Lamin S.M. Jawo