By Momodou Jawo
The Government of The Gambia has developed a national communication strategy on the deep rooted traditional practice Female Genital Mutilation.
The communication strategy on FGM will guide the communication efforts at all levels with specific focus at grassroots with a view to bringing about a positive behavioral change by accelerating the abandonment of the harmful traditional practice affecting the girl child.
The permanent secretary at the Office of the Vice President Nancy Nyang, speaking at the forum, said the Government has put in place legislations that protect, promote and safeguard the rights of women and children in The Gambia.
“Women’s Bureau has been leading the process in the development of the communication strategy with our development partners and the civil society organizations have been constantly involved in the process and have contributed to this document through their experiences and ideas,” she said.
She said the communication strategy, when finalize, will be used as a guide to the communication aspect of FGM in various communities.
Nyang added that despite the existence of the legal framework that criminalizes the practice in the country FGM still remains high.
“The practice is also worrying despite ongoing efforts of government and partners under Women’s Bureau. There have been gains made in addressing the practice but there still a large amount of work needed in order to eradicate the deep rooted traditional practice in our society,” she posited.
The UNICEF representative to the Gambia Mr. Rupert Leighton said in November 2015, the Government of The Gambia made a momentous and historical step and declared FGM as illegal.
This, he noted, was a significant milestone in protecting girls and women in The Gambia and defending their rights from a life free from harm.
According to the UNICEF rep, FGM is a practice that is deeply rooted in Gambian society where the belief that it is the right thing to do despite the massively harmful effects of cutting young girls. “Evidence has shown us that the act is massively damaging to girls and women, both physically and psychologically, thus Gambian women are suffering and we must redouble our commitment in addressing the longstanding cultural practice.”
In the new Gambia, he went on, we are increasingly seeing young people organizing themselves and taking action to protect themselves and their peers. Organizations such as Think Young Women, The Girls Agenda and Safe Hands for Girls, Leighton stated, are increasingly becoming aware of the power of their own voices and their capacity to influence and change perceptions of children and young women and men in The Gambia.