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The following report and photos were provided by the One Billion Rising West Africa Coordinator, Dr. Isatou Touray:

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Display of national flags as the Gambian OBR delegation were welcomed by the Sindian community

As the One Billion Rising Revolution (OBR) 2016 is sharpening and escalating the Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau converged in the provincial village of Sindian, in the Casamance area of the Republic of Senegal. The main objective of this activity is to energise and amplify the voices of vulnerable women and girls men who care in the strive to end all forms of VAW+G. The Gambian contingent comprises of 65 youths, boys and girls from Young People Without Borders (YPWB) of Siffoe village headed by Kalifa Kanteh and two Danish, Pia Steen Malmstrup and her husband Kim Brandstrup Sorensen who were on a visiting trip from Young Children Without Borders of Denmark to YPWB of Siffoe.

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Representatives of YPWB left and right excitement (Drumming, singing and dancing)

The team was hosted by COPI, a community based peace organization headed by Abdoulie Gassama. The event was attended by, the Governor of the region, the surprefect based in Ziguinchor, the army commander of the area, Alkalo (village head) of Sindian village, women leaders and the directress of a local community radio station in Sindian, Zig FM among others. Other participants came from Dynamic De Peace, Guinea Bissau and Ziguinchor chapters to strike, rise and dance.

 TRIPARTITE 7 TRIPARTITE 6The Governor of the area, Susprefect and army commander and right friends from Denmark

COPI welcoming Dr. Isatou to the arena and right a cross section of risers from different communities.

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Representatives of women leaders from the area

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The OBR West Africa coordinator, Dr. Isatou Touray started her statement by appreciating the great architect Ms Eve Ensler, who is behind this global initiative and how she has inspired activists all over the world to take bold steps to denounce violence against women. She noted that VAW+G affect everyone and women cannot eradicate it singlehandedly without support from the men folk. She noted that the One Billion Rising is to galvanise the energies of all to rise against the injustices meted on women in the name of culture, tradition and religion. Dr. Touray informed the representatives from the three regions that everyone matters and it is fundamental that all get involved to address VAW+G and make it their agenda for revolution. The Cassamance region she stated has suffered a protracted war and women are victims of all sorts of sexual, physical and psychological abuse. Therefore GAMCOTRAP a women’s right organization in the Gambia partnering with COPI and Young People Without Borders (YPWB) are coming together to celebrate the great women of Cassamance, Guinea Bissau and the Gambia and to show that we can end VAW by putting our voices together and rise against any injustice. She made special thanks to Young People Without Borders (YPWB) and their chairperson Kalifa Kanteh as they are the leaders in this rising. She appreciated the number of young people taking leadership in expressing their situation using all forms of expressions to resist violence and encouraged them to engage and be part of the revolution.

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The OBR West Africa Coordinator Dr. Isatou Touray delivering her statement

The One billion rising is a global energy that galvanize action to raise awareness about violence against women. GAMCOTRAP is against all forms of violations on women especially those associated to tradition and religion and prominent among them is FGM.   The West Africa Coordinator called on the people to stop practicing FGM even though it is a long and deep rooted culture. Senegal and the Gambia have been sensitizing communities until Senegal criminalized it and the Gambia has just legislated against it. FGM negatively impacts on women’s reproductive health rights as well as their sexuality. It is a deterrent to women’s social advancement and progress and must therefore stop immediately in other to protect the girl child. Dr. Touray went on to say that they should also desist from early marriage, another traditional practice that destroys the development and future of young girls. It was noted that parents give away their daughters to marry fearing that they will become pregnant out of wedlock but if our men folks are able to abstain from abusing young girls, they shall never become pregnant. Women are being impregnated by men and usually they do not want to be associated with such pregnancies. These young girls are desperately left out frustrated without care and attention. It was observed that sometimes they are impregnated by elderly men and some key figures in the society. Young girls need protection so that their educational career is not interrupted or ruined. Many a times they are married to the perpetrator and when they do, they are being further abused, battered, harassed, and used as domestic slaves thus affecting their mental and physical status..

Women can become leaders and decision makers but their status is being frustrated by cultural taboos and religious misinformation. There are few women in our national assemblies. Women are not adequately represented no matter what level of education. This is unacceptable. Women can become presidents and parliamentarians. Women are not fighting to control men but instead seeking to work with them as partners in development. Dr. Touray asserted, “In dire situations it is the women who suffer, they are raped, imprisoned, serve as sex slaves, enter into polygamous families without respect, maltreated, marginalised and grossly abused. They are dumped when pregnant. This must come to an end. Women are not sex objects.

She further reiterated that YPWB, COPI, GAMCOTRAP and Dynamic De Peace are rising with great energy and vibration to add our voices to the rest of the world to say “no to all these forms of violence against women and girls;” She appealed to the men folks who care to join the crusade and concluded, “We will never stop until our voices are heard and respected.

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Cross section of celebrants including children

The youth are taking high risks by illegally migrating to Europe by the back way. This is due to frustration and lack of employment. Young children find it very frustrating to watch their parents do everything for them when they cannot contribute even to their very own upkeep, that’s why they travel by the back way. If the policies in place are not enabling, young people will find other means of survival and development. Youth development is what YPWB and COPI are endeavoring so that young children, boys and girls can self-actualize and meaningfully participate in national development as good citizens. If the present trends continues, youth will migrate which makes them vulnerable and desperate thus the tendency to associate themselves to terrorist groups, drug traffickers and radicalized groups. This has a negative effect to world peace and stability. She noted that COPI is doing a lot in providing education to victims of war, children who lost one or both of their parents in the Casamance conflict. This is laudable. Mr. Abdoulie Gassama has resigned from active government services in the interest of children. Last summer his private school was demolished by the wind, rain storms and erosion and this continues to affect the children. It was emphasized that the daily suffering of the children must stop immediately. It is a collective responsibility to sensitise women about their rights and responsibilities.

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Above left and right, display of drummers and wrestlers respectively

Other speakers were the Governor of the region, President de community rurale of Gingaky, Chairperson of YPWB and the village head who all echoed similar sentiments. The celebration witnessed series of cultural fanfare including masquerades, wild drumming, singing and dancing and wrestling contests, a culture distinct in that part of Senegal. The fanfare continued for three days.

Eve Ensler, V–Day and One Billion Rising – Revolution are supporting GAMCOTRAP and many other organizations worldwide to amplify and energise our voices to end VAW+G. As the West Africa Coordinator the visit was to open the doors for others in the sub-region to engage and participate in this global movement. As the years go I will try to respond to all the requests coming from the sub-region to galvanise and increase actors in the movement. I hope that by February 4th you will mobilize, organize and engage those who did not have the opportunity to attend this important event with us today. Special thanks to all of them more so Eve Ensler. All of us must Strike, Rise and Dance, sing to the top of our voices to let out our frustration.

Dr. Isatou Touray

OBR West Africa Coordinator