|women calling for end to FGM|
Zero tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) means the practice should not be tolerated for any reason, no matter the type, who is doing it and on whom.
FGM which involves the removal of part, or all, of the female genitalia has been recognised as a serious form of violence against women and girls.
The practice should not be allowed to continue under the guise of tradition or religion, leaving many women’s lives miserable.
As GAMCOTRAP joined the rest of the world to commemorate Zero Tolerance Day on FGM, world leaders should acknowledge the bravery of women who have been campaigning for the rights and health of women and their achievements.
This year’s celebration marked the ninth commemoration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting.
An estimated 100 million to 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), and more than 3 million girls in Africa alone are said to be at risk of undergoing the practice each year.
Zero Tolerance Day originated on Feb. 6, 2003, when the first lady of Nigeria, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, officially declared “Zero Tolerance to FGM” in Africa during a conference organised by the Inter-African Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children, a non-governmental network headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Since then, this day has been observed around the world.
The theme for 2012 is: “From Malabo to New York, support the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly banning FGM worldwide.”
It has been discovered that the most common form of genital mutilation performed in The Gambia is known as the excision, which includes removal of all, or part of the labia minora, and cutting of the labia majora to create raw surfaces, which are then stitched or held together in order to form a cover over the vagina when healed.
During this process, a small hole is left to allow urine and menstrual blood to flow. In some less conventional forms, less tissue is removed and a larger opening is left. Other forms, such as clitoridectomy and infibulations are also practiced.
“FGM has long survived due to religious misconception and the patriarchal system has succeeded in attributing a negative image of the female body to such a degree that women themselves have internalized the value of self-negation and self-devaorisation,” Dr. Isatou Touray, executive director of GAMCOTRAP has said on the commemoration of Zero Tolerance to FGM.
GAMCOTRAP is one of the lead organisations working in the area of women and girls’ empowerment, FGM and other harmful practices that affect the lives of women and girls in The Gambia.
GAMCOTRAP’s years of struggle and countess efforts have contributed significantly to the development of women and girls in The Gambia and elsewhere and has led to over 100 (one hundred ) circumcisers dropping their knives publicly and abandoning the practice
But the government of The Gambia is yet to come up with a special law to ban FGM, despite pressure from women’s right activists and even though The Gambia has ratified almost all the international and regional conventions/instruments regarding women and children’s rights thus showing the political will and commitment to advance the strategic interest and human rights of women and girls.
For instance, The Gambia is a signatory to the MAPUTO Protocol, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Children. Article 5 of MOPUTA Protocol, calls for prohibition through legislation measures to all forms of Female Genital Mutilation.
“Since the first dropping of the knife in 2007, communities and individuals have been calling for a law to protect girls from FGM,” Dr Touray added.
Section 21 of the Women’s Act 2010 specifically guarantees women the right to protection of health and safety including the safeguarding of the function of the reproductive health.
“Gamcotrap is not an enemy to The Gambia government but partners who want to promote the rights and health of women. We still not have chance to meet the president because there is no replied to our letters.” Dr. added.
“I want the president to give us the chance to sit with him and talk to him about women issues because this not about me but the Gambian women who wants a law to protect women’s right.”
Discussing on the subject of Female Genital Mutilation in The Gambia especially in the rural communities was regarded as taboo but the struggle of women rights activists has given the public to speak against the practice which infringe their rights and affect their health in numerous ways.
“Celebrating Zero Tolerance Day is another significant day because 20-30 years ago no one dear to talk about FGM but GAMCOTRAP has made break through” said Ousman Yabo, executive director of TANGO
The commemoration attracted the participation of ex-circumcisers from all the five regions in The Gambia. Hundreds of women gathered at Westfield some 7 kilometers from the capital city, Banjul and marched through the streets up to KMC hall, Jimpex where a meeting was held.
The ex-circumcisers who were trained and exposed to the implications of FGM used the platform to translate what they have learnt into songs.
These songs reflect how the girl child suffers in the hands of circumcisers, how women continue to suffer in the guise of tradition, how they are being swindled and the misconception of FGM as a religious conjunction
“Our vision is for a world where every girl and woman would be protected from female genital mutilation. The practice should not be allowed to continue under the guise of tradition or religion,” they said in their songs
“We know GAMCOTRAP is a women’s right organization fighting against harmful practices that are inimical to our health and wellbeing of women and girl child,” they further said.
Recently, a public declaration of some villages in The Gambia to abandon FGM drew thousands of supporters.
“While the country is yet to legislate against the practice, women as well as men in Central River Region emphasized the importance of specific laws to protect women bodily integrity and health,” said Momodou Keita, from the Central River Region (CRR)
Imams are in fact becoming increasingly involved in the fight against FGM. They have condemned the practice describing it as non Islamic.
Yet challenges remain in The Gambia, as some religious scholars including the country’s Islamic council remains silent about FGM.
Fatou Njie-Fofana, Jarra Soma, LRR said “What happened to us should not happen to our children. Let join GAMCOTRAP to wipe the tears of the girl child.”