The following was prepared by Dr. Isatou Touray, One Billion Rising Gambia Coordinator & Executive Director GAMCOTRAP on the historic national ban on female genital mutilation:
Fellow Gambians today marks an important day for the Gambia Feminist Movement in their effort to end female genital mutilation over a period of thirty years of grassroots activism and social mobilization in various regions of the Gambia. It has been a very cumbersome and hard won effort to arrive on a day like today in the history of the Gambia Women’s Rights movement. GAMCOTRAP is extremely happy that a struggle which landed two of the senior management staff in prison has yielded fruits. Going to prison was worth it for the sake of the innocent children who were never informed of what was going to happen to them. It was worth going through the ordeals. GAMCOTRAP appreciates the good gesture from His Excellency, President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh Babili Mansa for making a pronouncement to call for a ban on FGM and a bill to effectively ban it. Therefore I would categorically say that this bill was sponsored by His Excellency. Your Excellency, I congratulate you for taking this bold step and thank you on behalf of all the girl-children of the Gambia for promoting their sexual and reproductive health rights, their bodily dignity and integrity.
The passage of this bill makes the Gambia the 27th Country in sub-saharan African to legislate against FGM. Congratulation to the Gambia and congratulation to the women and men of the Gambia!
Although belated, this day is very important for all the children of the Gambia. It therefore implies that Gambian children as well as all children from different countries living in the Gambia will henceforth be protected from female genital mutilation.
The passage of a bill would create an enabling and conducive environment for further necessary sensitization of the remaining communities to abandon FGM. GAMCOTRAP will continue its efforts in this direction.
GAMCOTRAP wishes to recognise the 1015 communities, their chiefs and Alkalolu (Village heads), the 158 ngansingbalu (ex-circumcisers), the Community Based Facilitators (CBFs), and GAMCOTRAP Regional Coordinators with the support of the Governors of those region, who did not wait for this pronouncement and the bill but made an informed choice to abandon the practice. Behind GAMCOTRAP are the dedicated group of Board Members and Chairpersons who facilitated the work of GAMCOTRAP resulting to this success. We acknowledge their immense contributions.
We would like to appreciate the great efforts made by The UNFPA and the UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme and Trust Fund and the Women’s Bureau, for supporting the advocacy work for Accelerated Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation in The Gambia. This project is aimed at the attainment of article 5 of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as well as the MAPUTO Protocol. The Gambia is a signatory to these key articles which served as a tool in addressing gender inequality, reproductive rights and empowerment of women and adolescent girls, so as to promote an enabling socio-cultural environment that is conducive for the elimination of harmful practices.
The issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the Gambia has evoked a lot of sensitivities from numerous quarters resulting to strong patriarchal resistance. Consequently, the fight against FGM and other Harmful Traditional Practices in the country has been difficult, challenging and protracted. Despite such daunting challenges, the gender specific nature of FGM motivated women’s rights organizations in the country to take it as a relevant and necessary development agenda and proceeded to develop and implement programmes on it. Some of these organizations have been operational in the country for a long time while some are relatively new. GAMCOTRAP salutes all of them for promoting the rights of the girl-child.
Apart from the UN Agencies appreciation goes to a number of International NGOs and donors who have provided sustained financial and technical support to GAMCOTRAP to continue the advocacy at grassroots level when it was taboo to talk about it. These are the Inter-African Committee (IAC), Save the Children, NORAD, NPWJ, Feminist Review Trust, Equality Now, V-Day, One Billion Rising, The Pond Foundation, Yolocamba Solidaridad, Global Fund for Women, ODAM ONGD, AWDF, WLUML, MUSAWAH, Musukangbeng Kafoo –Norway, UN-Women Trust Fund and many individuals, organizations and institutions abroad who were motivated by the work we did.
To the media fraternity nationally and internationally for amplifying the advocacy work being done throughout the Gambia for informing, educating and communicating to the population we say well done. GAMCOTRAP would also like to appreciate the sustained efforts of the print media, community radios and individual journalists who followed our Campaign trails as we move from one community to another. Ms. Sue Lloyd Roberts of the BBC and Alice Mcdowell of the Ideas Project covered our work on FGM and made objective reporting from different angles. Together their contributions brought the activities of GAMCOTRAP and the issue of FGM to the attention of the whole world.
We Praise Allah the Almighty for making this day possible during our lifetime.
Let the world celebrate the Gambia!
In 2015 activists across the Gambia ROSE to end FGM and all harmful practices: