Young people in the Upper River Region recently concluded a seven-day youth caravan, with renewed commitment by participants to contribute their quota to the socio-economic development of the country.
The forum, which came to an end on Monday in Basse, was organised by Tostan International The Gambia. The youths who converged at the forum are optimistic that such initiative could go a long way towards halting the ‘back way’ syndrome embarked on by many youths in the recent past.
During the event, participants came up with a manifesto, which was read by one participant, and later presented to the region’s governor, Alhaji Omar Sompo Ceesay for onward delivery to concerned authorities.
The manifesto, according to participants, is as a symbol of youth solidarity to solicit support from Government, considering the plights of rural youths and The Gambia in particular.
On behalf of the youths, Adama Banoro, a participant from Madina Balla in the Kantora District of URR, acknowledged that as young people preparing to become responsible future leaders, they are ready to disseminate the knowledge and skills gained from the forum to their peers.
She opined that through collective responsibility they can ensure respect for human rights that directly or indirectly affect children and adolescent.
Commenting on child protection and care, Banoro called on the Government to ensure that all children are protected from all forms of violence, exploitation, trafficking, rape, abuse and all forms of maltreatment including child marriage and Female Genital Cutting (FGC) within our homes and wider society.
“The issues highlighted in this manifesto are key priorities for the Government of The Gambia and her development partners. Therefore we believe that if we collaborate and work together, the challenges facing children and adolescents can be addressed in a holistic and sustainable manner,” she posited.
She posited that creating dialogue and more sensitisation on such issues has proven positive results despite very strong cultural and traditional misconceptions.
Banoro hailed the intervention of the community empowerment programmes, saying many youths, who participated in the programme are now actively engaged in community discussions and activities where their voices are heard.
On receiving the manifesto, the Governor of the region, Alhaji Omar Sompo Ceesay, underscored the significance of the forum, saying the grass-root NGO is here to complement the efforts of the Government towards it’s national development crusade.
Delving into some of the issues highlighted on the manifesto, Governor Ceesay affirmed that the Government of The Gambia is a champion when it comes to addressing the plights of young people, particularly on issues regarding education, health and child protection.
He recalled that since the official pronouncement of banning Female Genital Mutilation, the National Assembly members immediately ratified the bill to criminalise the menace and a heavy punishment is attached.
He described the practice as a deep-rooted cultural traditional practice affecting the wellbeing of our girl child. “We at the central government know the positive impact the grass-root NGO has brought to the door-steps of rural Gambians,” he stated.
He thus urged young people to continue their hard work in ensuring that more villages in the region benefit from the project, while promising to deliver their manifesto to the relevant authorities.
“We all know since the independence and coming up to the 1st Republic to the July 22nd Revolution there is continued peace and tranquility in the country. Therefore as young people we should stand firm and defend the peace and stability the country has been enjoying for the past years,” he remarked.
The deputy national coordinator for Tostan, Edrissa Keita, underscored the importance of the weeklong youth caravan.
He informed the gathering that the youth conclave, he added, was conceptualised by Tostan Gambia in their first year of CEP implementation in 2007.
“The idea of this annual event is to gather youth participants involved in Tostan classes an opportunity to visit a selected number of villages in the region to sensitise their peers, parents and authorities on the human rights and responsibilities of youth with the expectation of involving them in decision making, as well as participation at young age”.
Keita acknowledged that the meeting aims to foster learning and sharing of best practices among participants, for them to demonstrate these skills and how they are put into practice with their fellows from other participating villages.
The programme was characterised by a drama play on the menace of early marriage.
by Momodou Jawo
in Basse, URR