By Binta A Bah
Residents of Kombo South, in the West Coast Region are having their share of the intensifying sensitisation campaign that seeks to eliminate the deep-rooted cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia.
Although significant gains have been made in the crusade against FGM, the practice is reported to be high at places such as Kombo East and South.
After concluding a two-day training on Friday and Saturday for 200 participants in Brikama and Kafuta where both women and men resolved to join the campaign, GAMCOTRAP, a women’s rights advocacy group on Sunday July 7, 2013 wrap up a similar training workshop at Siffoe village, Kombo South.
The event brought together 100 community leaders, women leaders, religious leader, and teachers among others from various villages in Kombo South.
The project, from a health-based to a right-based approach fighting against Female Genital Mutilation seeks to accelerate the abandonment of the practice. It is funded by Save the Children International.
Gamcotrap, have over the years been very active and effective in the promotion of women and children’s rights. Gamcotrap’s agenda is to end discriminatory practices like female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriage.
The director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray in her address, lauded the turnout of the participants describing it as a tangible move to the call to the banning of FGM.
She described the previous training in Brikama and Kafuta village as successful, noting that more women circumcisers have vowed to drop their knives.
Dr. Touray, said the practice remains one of the main reasons for the high maternal mortality and infant death in many African countries.
“We are not forcing people to stop it. We are trying to convince them by sensitizing them to know that it is a health hazard and it break the rights of the girl child and that of the woman,” she said.
“The misreading of cultural norms and values leaves women suffering in silence from mistreatment by men and even fellow women,” said Amie Bojang-Sissoho, programme coordinator of GAMCOTRAP.
Aside female circumcision, the rights activist said, wife battering, forced and early marriage is also common in The Gambia and is being associated with culture even though it traumatises women, who are accepting it as their fate.
Sheikh Ebrima Kanteh, the Kalifa of Siffoe said, the body of a woman should be respected. He said dangerous practices should be avoided in order to shape the future of the girl child.
“Why should we remove the sexual desire of women? How can you mutilate the women’s sexual parts where she gets her pleasure?” he cautions.
He called on Islamic leaders fear God in promoting the health of women and pleads parents to respect the rights of the girl child and that of the woman.
Generally, FGM in The Gambia appears to be linked to traditional beliefs rather than religion.
A renowned Islamic scholar, Muhammed Sanno, condemned the practice, saying it is not an Islamic conjunction.
According to him, practices of Prophet Muhammad practices are against any practices that harm human beings and women should not suffer in the name of religion that does not command it.
“What the prophet say is clear. It is only people who abuse it,” said Oustass Sanno, who was presenting on the religious perspective on the harmful practices.
According to him, FGM is only a cultural believes which is traditionally performed on women widely. He added the practice which is associated to Islamic religion is harmful to the health of girls/women.