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Sunday, September 27, 2020

D340,000 FGM grant launched for Gambian journalists

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The grant will award D85,000 to the news media outlet that reports most on FGM. The same amount will be awarded for the best news story on FGM on newspaper, radio and TV. 

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The Guardian’s multimedia editor, Maggie Okane, said the journalism grant for The Gambia is part of her media’s ongoing global campaign against the practice of FGM. 

She said the award is meant to encourage the Gambia media to shine more light on issues of FGM in order to influence policy in favour of efforts to banning FGM.

“The role of journalists is, I think, underplayed in The Gambia. My journalists colleagues have an important role to play…we hope to share our experience and help to eliminate FGM in The Gambia.”

The newspaper has already rallied the support of US president, Barak Obama, and UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, to support its global campaign, which has also registered successes in Kenya and the UK. 

FGM is widespread in The Gambia. Decades of intensive awareness-raising campaigns have led to a series of abandonment by practising communities, though statistics show only a slight drop in national prevalence, from 78 percent to 74 percent. 

The launch of the media campaign came barely a few months after The Guardian supported a US-based young Gambian anti-FGM activist, Jaha Dukureh, held in The Gambia the first ever national youth forum on FGM, in collaboration with a local movement, Think Young Women.

“In other for us to end FGM in The Gambia, we need to collaborate with media houses, government, young people, older generation because we cannot do it all by ourselves,” Jaha said in her launching statement of the campaign on Friday. 

The campaigner, who is a survivor of the practice, said: “About two years ago, I started a blog online to campaign against FGM. I started to share the idea with some colleagues online and the first article that was published about my campaign was on New York Daily News. When that article came out the backlash from people in New York and The Gambia was tremendous. They were saying this people are lying, they had no effect from FGM, they are just trying to tarnish the image of our culture and they are going against our religion.

“There are some people that were judging me, saying, why am I doing this, maybe I am doing it because of fame or the western people are giving me money to tell lies. But no one get me paid to campaign or gives me the information to speak out but it was something that I believe in. Even at the level of my family, I was afraid to talk about this issue and I didn’t know how I was going to be received when that article came out. Because of the backlash, I literally went depressed. I didn’t want to talk to anyone because I felt like my own people turned against me just because I decided to say something in Western media and I just say I will never say anything about FGM. And, for a year, I was quiet about it.”

Mrs Fatou Kinteh, gender focal person for the UNFPA, said: “The UN is committed to promoting and protecting human rights, including the rights of young people, especially adolescent girls. It is for this reason that UNFPA and Unicef have come together to jointly implement the largest United Nations programme to accelerate the abandonment of FGM. The program is being implemented in 17 countries in Africa, including The Gambia.

“Since its inception in 2009, social mobilisation activities were targeted at men, women, youth, traditional and religious leaders and scholars, health workers, national assembly members, local government authorities, schools and traditional communicators. Since in 2009, over 40,000 individuals have been directly reached and more than 300,000 have been reached through newspaper publications, radio and traditional media.

“A total of 50 circumcisers in URR and NBR have made a public declaration to abandon FGM. FGM is integrated into the curricular of the health professional schools and 250 health professionals have been trained on the management of FGM complications. Going by the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey Statistics, the national prevalence for FGM has reduced from 78 percent to 74.9 percent with regional variations. Concerted efforts are required to reduce this further and for the total elimination of the practice.”

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