Monday, February 20, 2012

GAMCOTRAP Dedicates Zero Tolerance Day To Jammeh

Dr. Isatou Touray GAMCOTRAP
As the world marked the International Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Day on 6 February, 2012, the Executive Director of the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices affecting women and children, popularly called GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touary, dedicated the day to President Yahya Jammeh.
She reasoned that they at  GAMCOTRAP dedicate the day to the President of the Republic of The Gambia for the very successful advocacy campaigns that have taken place over the years in an enabling environment of debates to enable communities make the right choices, “despite religious misconceptions”.
The international theme was “From Malabo to New York”: Support the Resolution of the UN General Assembly Banning FGM in The World.”
Back home (The Gambia) the theme was dubbed “From Koina to Kartong: Calling for a Law against FGM”.
Recognizing the importance of supporting the rights of women and children, Gamcotrap with funding from The European Union and under the Non-State Actors Strengthening Programme in the Gambia, on Monday 6th February 2012, celebrated International Zero Tolerance day to Female Genital Mutilation Day in the Gambia, and the event was in a form of a march pass, cultural performance and delivering of solidarity statements.
Civil society organizations, women circumcisers, traditional communicators, women activists, among others from across the country, graced the occasion and the Gambia Police Band entertain the marchers from West Field junction to Kanifing Municipal Council Hall on the Jimpex Road, in Kanifing where solidarity statements were delivered in observance to the event.
Gamcotrap has also taken the lead role in the campaign against FGM as well as the observance of the day.  Since the first Dropping of the Knife in 2007, Communities and individuals have been calling for a law to protect girls from FGM. 
The call has been getting louder from communities who have been exposed to the dangers of FGM and the need for adults to take responsibility towards the protection of children against the practice. 
This further led to two other ‘Dropping of the Knife’ celebrations by communities in 2009 and 2011, respectively. 
To date, in the Gambia, more than one hundred (100) circumcisers have dropped their knives in more than 564 Communities from the Upper River, Central River South and Lower River regions of the Gambia. 
Dr. Touray In her statement, said GAMCOTRAP since its formations has done a lot in the campaign against FGM, saying that The Gambia needs to consolidate these gains by passing a law against FGM.
“Effective national legislation is a vital component of efforts to accelerate the elimination of FGM in the country,” the GAMCOTRAP boss stated.
According to her, FGM is a violation of the human rights principles, as stipulated in Article 24.3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All  Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), among other international and regional instruments.
The Millennium Development Goals, Dr. Touray noted, advocate for the promotion of Gender Equality and Employment of women, reduction of child mortality and improvement of maternal health.
She pointed out that without a special anti-FGM law in the Gambia it would be a daunting task to clean the country of FGM as, according to the latest statistics, 78 percent of the female population still practice it- just a marginal improvement of 80 percent in 1999.
Dr. Touray said the absence of legislation contributes to the perception of FGM as “acceptable” and it weakens the legitimacy and impact of anti-FGM advocacy.
She believes the enactment and implementation of legislation against FGM demonstrates a formal, explicit and lasting commitment by public authorities.
 The legislation would also provide the legal tools to legitimise, and to protect women and girls willing to challenge the social convention of refusing to undergo FGM, she opined.
Therefore, according to Dr. Touray, what is needed is reform of national laws or enactment of new laws to protect women and girls from FGM which is inimical to their health, wellbeing and the human rights.
The efforts of the Gamcotrap over the years in raising awareness about the dangers and the myths surrounding the practice has yielded dividend.
Currently, more than one hundred FGM practitioners in the country have dropped their knives in 564 communities.
Mrs. Fatou Kinteh of UNFPA said FGM is among the deep-rooted traditional or cultural practices held by members of some communities for a very long time, noting that it persists because it is a social convention upheld, but underlying gender structures and power relations.
According to her, some ethnic groups practice FGM for religious reasons, noting that some Islamic religious leaders and scholars in the country on the other side of the coin also promote it for religious reasons.
“What is clear is that since some Muslims do not perform it; then it can be concluded that it is not a religious obligation but a deep-rooted traditional belief and practice,” she stated.
She went on to say that the practice has serious immediate and long-term health effects and it is a clear violation of fundamental human rights.
In a word that has reached seven billion people on 31st October 2011, she said the health challenges are enormous and 1000 women die daily from complications-circumcision associated with pregnancy and childbirth.
Under the Joint Programme for the accelerated abandonment of  FGM, she said UNFPA and UNICEF are working together in supporting governments, NGOs, religious leaders, traditional communicators and journalists to conduct training and create awareness among individuals, groups and communities on the health and psychological implications of FGM as well make clarifications on Islam and FGM.
The initiative aims to end a practice with serious immediate and long-term health effects and that violates the human rights of women and girls, she explained.
More than 8000 communities in West and East Africa including The Gambia and Senegal have abandoned the practice.
This, she said, is a clear indication that social norms and cultural practices are changing, and that communities are uniting to protect the rights of women and girls.
According to her, the UNFPA/UNICEF joint programme on FGM speeds through a culturally sensitive human rights based approach that promotes collective abandonment of the practice.
This, she went on, includes engaging all community groups, citing traditional and religious leaders, women, men, youths groups and girls in discussing the harms of the practice while highlighting that it is not a religious obligation.
According to her, the programme also supports legistation and policies against the practice.
On the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, she told her audience that UNFPA is renewing its commitments to end the practice.
In her last words at the celebrations, she said “we therefore call on the global community to join us in this critical effort.
“Together, we can end FGM and help millions of girls and women to live healthier, fuller lives and reach their full potentials.”
On behalf of UNFPA, she thanked GAMCOTRAP for observing the day on grand style and assured them that UNFPA would continue collaborating with them in their fight against FGM.
Also speaking  at the occasion was the US Ambassador, Mrs. Pamela Ann White who told the gathering that US Embassy office in Banjul is proud to be associated with the celebrations.
While noting that the Embassy has been supporting programmes on women and girl’s rights, the US top Envoy in the country commended GAMCOTRAP for their giant efforts in the fight against FGM campaign in the Gambia.
She called on President Yahya Jammeh to append his signature on the FGM bill so as it to be a law.
Mr. Ousman Yarboe, Executive Director of The  Association of Non-Governmental Organisation (TANGO) also commended GAMCOTRAP, saying  it’s  among the seventy NGOs in the country that are registered with TANGO and focuses on women and girls rights in the country.
Madam Liseli Bull, Coordinator of the Non State Actors Strenthening Programme also spoke at occasion.

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