In collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, GAMCOTRAP, women’s right organisation conducted a series of training seminars and programmes for teachers in 2011.
2010 meeting witnessed the representative of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education reporting on the budding of a syllabus that would be integrated into the educational curriculum of the Ministry, in which teachers, cluster monitors and appropriate partners would be equipped to be able to forge in advance with the long established culture that has been dragging on for more than thirty years now.
Almost for two years now, these teachers have spoken against FGM saying authorities should put an end to the practice by introducing a law against the practice.
Despite FGM being rampant in The Gambia, Gamcotrap, a women’s right group is working hard to educate local women, teachers, security men and women about the health dangers associated with the practice.
The most common form of FGM 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 remove and a larger opening is left. Other forms, such as clitoridectomy and infibulations are also practiced.
But the battle against FGM is increasing intensifying. A good example is the recent ‘dropping of the knife’ ceremony held in Soma, in the Central River Region some 300 kilometers from the capital city Banjul in 2011.
Fortunately in The Gambia, many men are now discouraging circumcisers to continue the practice. Last year Ebrima Bojang, Alkalo (village head) of Lamin Village, Kombo North, West Coast Region among 20 men condemned the practice.
The Gambia is among 9 remaining countries in Africa that are yet to come up with a specific legislation to eliminate FGM but teachers have raised their concerned on its health implication.
Lamin AK Fofana, health worker attached to the Busumbala Health Centre said the practice has many implications.
“I attend women at the clinic whose private parts are very abnormal. FGM changed the formation of their private parts and they do suffer a lot during delivery,” Fofana said
He said the practice has caused many women to develop genital malformation fearing that the practice of FGM is fueling the spread of HIV in many communities.
Two renowned Gambian Imams, Baba Leigh and Muhammed Sanno last month strongly denied the practice of FGM.
“There is nothing positive as far as FGM is concerned and no scholar can tell you that it is ordain unless they fabricate it” said Imam Baba Leigh. “Give the woman what she merit islamically but don’t make her suffer,” he said.
According to them FGM is only a cultural believe which is traditionally perform on women widely. They added the practice which is associated to Islamic religion is harmful to the health of girls/women.
Kebba Jallow, a science teacher at Mingndow Upper Basic School said the practice is inhuman.
“I really feel bad about it because it is human torture. It is a deep rooted culture and people, especially teachers should advocate for the eradication of FGM.
Awa Saho Jallow, senior education officer at the Curriculum Unit, MoBSE said honesty from elites and Islamic leaders can save many girls from the practice.
“Some people will not do it to their children but will satisfy the society by faking them. And some of these people are elites who are aware of the consequences,” Mrs Jallow said.
She said she comes from a community where the practice is common. “They would call me abusive words in school and I will go home crying. My children will not go through she said.
Kumba Sallah Home Science & Social Environment Studies teacher at Sukuta Upper Basic School said she felt shocked during the training.
Momodou Jobe, also a teacher said religious leaders should give the correct information and stop confusing the Islamic community.
“I used to believe that it is a religion obligation because of religion leaders which is not the case now,” he said
Mariama Camara Home Science and SES teacher at Mingndow Upper Basic School said she was not sphere because she came from a family where the practice is common.
She said she still feel the pain emotionally. “It is pity and the pain is just too much for human beings. I cried when I saw the pictures because I cannot forget the pain.”
She added that religious leaders should stop misleading the public. “It is just a deep rooted culture which can be eliminated,” she said.
Yahya Drammeh also a science teacher at Gunjur Upper Basic School said the implications of FGM are negative.
Momodou Sarr, Agricultural teacher at Sukuta Upper Basic School said he cried when he saw victims of FGM.
Abdoulie Daffeh, science teacher at Mingndow Upper Basic School said he always support the practice because he thought it was part of the Islamic religion.
Fatou Bittaye, curriculum directorate at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education said the practice is wicked in itself and should be stop at all means. “This is war against women and we should be supported and protected from harmful practices.”
Fatou Colley, science teacher at Gunjur Upper Basic School said she feels sorry for herself because she is still hurt. She said the act is criminal and it should be stop.
“All what I was told when I was child is not true,” she said
She said religious leaders should come together rather than sitting on the fence. “It is time for action to free women from the pain.
Dr Isatou Touray Executive Director GAMCOTRAP described the practice as abnormal. .”