By Aminata Ceesay
Think Young Women on Friday started a two-day ‘Artvocacy’ workshop engaging young Gambian artists (musicians and poets) to end Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage in the country, at CIAM in Kanifing.
The forum was funded by UNICEF in series of activities aimed at addressing gender-based violence, with specific focus on FGM and child marriage.
Speaking at the event, Dr Ngashi Ngongo, the country representative UNICEF The Gambia, said: “Because of socio-cultural and behavioral reasons, many children suffer from harmful practices such as FGM/C, child marriage and gender based violence in the Gambia and the numbers are staggering 42 per cent of young girls undergo female genital mutilation before the age of 15 years and 30 per cent of women 20-24 years are married before they reach 18 years.
“This practice has long-term negative social, psychological and health consequences that include urinary incontinence, painful sex, and serious complications of childbirth. Likewise, child marriage has implications on the health and development of children, including the high risk of dying at the time of childbirth.
“In December 2015, the government of the Gambia enacted a law criminalizing FGM that included penalties up to life in prison to discourage the perpetrators of these horrible practices. However, this law is not implemented and the new government is silent on it.
“Despite the ban on child marriage, the practice continues unabated with some marriages being tied across the borders and later the child wives are returned in country to their husbands. Young Gambian artists cannot stand by silently watching the suffering of our sisters. We know of many examples of artists that have made a positive impact and changed their societies for the better.”
Also speaking the national coordinator, Musu Bakoto Sawo highlighted the significance of musicians in disseminating information to the general public through the songs they record.
She said: “We target the young Gambia artists because they have a unique comparative advantage to capture and captivate, inform and educate audiences on gender based violence, FGM/C and child marriage. We need to carry the message that these practices are violations of human rights that harm the future and wellbeing of women and children.”
Lamin Darboe, the executive director, National Youth Council, recognized the effort of TYW in focusing on child protection to prevent and respond to violence, abuse and exploitation of children.
He further urged young people to continue in the struggle to end FGM and child marriage.
Ya Sally Njie, music promoter and CEO Wahsahalat award, thanked the artists for answering to the call of TYW and willingness to help in the campaign to end FGM/C and child marriage.