A three-day caravan took women rights activist campaigning against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) through most of the Kombos to popularize the anti-FGM and child marriage laws and to raise awareness on the health complications involved in the reproductive health of women and girls.
The national prevalence rate of FGM in The Gambia is at 75% despite efforts over the past 30 years to end the practice in the country. About a million girls and women alive have undergone some form of FGM and if this trend continues, fifteen million girls between 15 and 19 years risk being subjected to the practice before 2030.
“FGM can have serious sexual and reproductive health effects on girls and women depending on the procedure been used including fatal bleeding, infections, chronic pain and psycho-social consequences” said Fallu Sowe, Program Manager at the Network Against Gender Based Violence.
Sowe’s network in partnership with Action Aid International, The Gambia is funding the caravan tour through the 2016-2017 funded Amplify Change Project that took campaigners, teachers, students, journalists to Kafuta, Pirang, Sanyang, Gunjur, Kartong, Jambanjelly, Brufut and Serekunda.
FGM is recognized internationally as a human rights violations and The Gambia is among a handful of African nations that has criminalized the practice.
“It deprives girls and women their right to life, health, security and physical integrity,” said Mr. Sowe.
Engaging communities in a dialogue, the people of Brufut and Kartong in the West Coast region said they are committed to the campaign against Gender Based Violence.
Ward councilors Alh. Pa Lamin Fatty of Busumbala, Aja Maimuna Bojang of Brufut, Bakary Makalo of Kartong and Modou Mbye all denounced child marriage and FGM.
The local government authorities pledge to take actions to stamp out the practice in their communities rebutting claims that they are in line with the Islamic religion.
The Gambia is a majority Muslim country and many adhere to the religious practice mostly intertwined with customary beliefs.
Most women suffer from fistula and other infections as a result of FGM. Gambian women also suffer physical violence and the Gender and Child welfare officer at the Gambia Police Force, Maimuna Jammeh stressed that the laws criminalizing FGM and violence against women ‘will not be compromised.’
At a school in the southern Gambian city of Brikama, more than a hundred students gathered to pledge support to efforts aimed at ending Female Genital Mutilation in the region. The students at Mahad Senior Secondary School promised to sensitized their communities on the negative effects of FGM and work with stakeholders to protect vulnerable children.
The former president, Yahya Jammeh pronounced a ban on FGM in November 2015 and Child Marriage in 2016. The amended Women’s act 2015 provides that any person who subjects a child or a woman to FGM could face up to three years in prison or a fine of D50,000 or both.
It further states that if the practice leads to the death of the victim, the culprit could face life imprisonment.
The Gambia’s children’s act also provides up to 20 years imprisonment for parents or guardians who marry off their child below 18 years or by force.