The commemoration was characterised by a procession as rights activists, including ex-circumcisers-turned activists marched through the streets of Kairaba Avenue, The Gambia’s business hub. They held up banners with messages, which among others, call for a law against the fading, yet deep-seated widespread cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Officially declared by late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, a former First Lady of Nigeria, February 6, is set aside by a UN resolution as International Day on Zero Tolerance to FGM to remind as well as renew efforts towards eradicating FGM.
The international theme for this year’s commemoration is: “From Malabo to New York, Support the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly banning FGM worldwide.”
However, GAMCOTRAP, a leading Gambian human rights NGO advocating against harmful traditional practices has however localised the theme.
“From Kartong to Koina: Calling for a Law against FGM,” the activists held up banners with this message, renewing their calls for Gambian authorities, who allegedly blocked a number of legislations against FGM, to criminalise the practice across the length and breath of the country.
Dr Isatou Touray, executive director of GAMCOTRAP, said through years of rigorous sensitisation, hundreds of circumcisers from over 564 communities in The Gambia have voluntarily abandoned the practice.
For Dr Touray, who was speaking at the KMC Hall where a conference was held following the procession, the massive dropping of the knife should be accompanied by a legislation in order to prevent girls and women from the practice which has been scientifically proven to be inimical to the health and wellbeing of women and girls.
Also speaking at the event, Pamela White, US ambassador to The Gambia, said the practice which involves the removal of part, or all, of the female genitalia has left many women depressed.
She added that about 100-200 million girls/women have undergone the practice, incurring severe pain, shock and bleeding.
“It is recognised as a violation against women’s rights and it is a torture against girls/women,” ambassador White said.
Fatou Kinteh of UNFPA, said FGM is a global problem which requires immediate solutions to safe millions of girls who face the risk of FGM.
“In a world that has reached seven billion, the health challenges are enormous and 1000 women die daily from complications (including circumcision),” said Mrs Kinteh
Meanwhile, this year’s commemoration was funded by the European Union/Non-State Actors.