Tuesday, April 16, 2013

CRR Women Slams On Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) As Harmful and Surrender Knives

women dropping their once much-treasure tools-the FGM knives

It was a moment filled with emotions under the sunny afternoon in historical village of Wassu, North of Central River Region, where 30 once-committed women mutilators publically rose up to denounce the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and surrender their sharp knives, knives they use to mutilate young girls and ladies with.

The first ever in the region, women danced to the rhythm of the drums and the melodious tunes of traditional music as they denounce FGM, and promised never to go back to what they described as harmful.

The colorfully dressed women, paraded themseves with their hands raised up in front of the guests including the governor and other traditional leaders of the area. These includes Community groups, religious leaders, local leaders, FGM survivors, youth groups, ex-cutters and individual activists and European delegates in the country and one by one, they lay on the ground their once much-treasured tools – the FGM knives.

This spectacular event took place during the fourth ‘dropping of the knife’ held at Wassu on 13th April 2013. Many women, village heads and chiefs had travelled many kilometers from other parts if the country to the venue to take part in the event.

Amidst cheers from the crowd, the women said they made the decision to stop the practice after understanding that FGM was harmful and had negative impact on the lives of women and girls. One woman said I was educated about the negative consequences of FGM by GAMCOTRAP, a women’s right organization that fight and create awareness about the dangers of cutting women/girls; and advocate for change in attitudes towards a culture that is supportive of the social and economic empowerment of women and girls.

Girld dressed in traditional Gambian costume
Since most of these women earn a living from the act, GAMCOTRAP provides alternative sources of income for them by facilitating the creation of small-scale business ventures.

Dressed uniformly in traditional Gambian costume, girls were seated on the ground to demonstrate the traditional practice. The day-long programme also witnessed the performance of Kora maestro, Jaliba Kuyateh and handing out certificates to chiefs, alkalolus, and health centers in CRR.

“This day does not only make me realized my mistakes but has teach me to take up another trade to protect innocent young-girls’,” said one of the ex-cutters, Kumba Mbowe.

Dr. Isatou Touray, Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, described the day as bigger than the moment. It signifies the giant community to say no to FGM

“When people are empowered they demand their rights. It is the beginning of a change” she said.
Dr Touray speaking at the 'dropping of the knife' ceremony

UNFPA funded both third and the fourth dropping of the knives. “We have come a long way in the struggle to abandon FGM and will not relent” said Fatou Kinteh, The National Programme Officer responsible for Gender and FGM programme at UNFPA. “It is not easy for individuals and communities to abandon A DEEP ROOTED traditional practice which is over hundred years old, but with continuous and persistent engagement, GAMCOTRAP can make it”

There is no law for the abandonment of FGM in the Gambia, but according to the regional director of health in CRR, FGM is a serious concern for the government of the Gambia. Jankubeh Jabbi deputized for the minister of health who was supposed to attend the ceremony on behalf of president Jammeh.

He said women who had undergone the practice are likely to suffer during childbirth. He said to end maternal mortality, there is need to take action to end FGM and gender violence.

“The dropping of the knife celebrated at Wassu is a signal to the ultimate abandonment of FGM in the Gambia’ he said, the event marks a celebration that has given people the confidence and belief that change is a possible in our communities”

Author: By Binta A Bah

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