By Omar Bah
The International Training on Caring Territories for Women Victims of Violence hosted in Banjul yesterday commenced with an intensive discussion focusing on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) ahead of the official opening today.
The issue of FGM has been a subject of debate in The Gambia over the past few weeks, but according to Banjul Mayor Rohey Malick Lowe, yesterday’s topic was chosen by Refela French partners Seine-Saint Denis, as FGM is also among the challenges women in the European country face.
The Head of Mission at the French Embassy in Banjul, Jean-Charles Allard, said violence against women remains a significant issue in the world.
“Women face sexual violence in all aspects of their lives and encounter strong inequalities economically, politically, and socially. On the African continent, female genital mutilation and enforced marriage remain particularly prevalent forms of violence against women and must be eradicated and condemned, and it’s not only in Africa,” he added.
He said forms of violence against women are diverse, and the number of victims is immeasurable.
“Many women experience too much fear or are ashamed to ask for help, often paying for their silence with their lives,” he said.
The diplomat added that continued prevention and awareness creation are crucial to combating violence and inequality in addressing the matter.
“We have a collective responsibility to put an end to this unadmirable act of violence. This requires not only frank discussions but also concrete action; putting an end to these violations must be a political priority for any democratic government, and speaking for the French Government, this is one of the main diplomacy policies,” he said.
He said the elimination of all gender-based violence against women, including sexual violence, is a significant battle that France carries out in its foreign diplomacy and domestic policy.
He commended the Banjul City Council for organising the seminar.
Speaking to journalists shortly after the opening, Mayor of Banjul Rohey Malick Lowe said the Banjul meeting will focus more on galvanising solidarity for women, especially those in the grassroots.
“We want to encourage women to come forward and support their fellow women, especially when they want to contest for office. We have people coming all the way from Europe just to support the empowerment of African women. The idea is to focus on empowering the rural women whom I take my inspiration from,” she said.
President Adama Barrow will open tomorrow’s meeting, which will be attended by three vice presidents and several other dignitaries.
Ms Ernestine Ronai, head of the Observatory of Violence Against Women at the Department of Saine-Saint-Denis (France), said fighting violence against women requires the support of all stakeholders.
“We are a powerful body together… Together, we can eliminate violence against women. There is no right that is affected as much as women’s rights. Why is there so much violence against women everywhere? The most fundamental reason is that men feel women belong to them, and the most terrible violence against women is rape, which hurts us terribly. The reason women are not empowered is because men want to be above us and dominate. But that was in the past; now women don’t let themselves be suppressed or dominated,” she said.