By Momodou Jawo
Fatou Jammeh-Touray, the governor of the Upper River Region (URR) said her local government authority will not sit and allow the future generation of the country to undergo “the wicked practice” of female genital mutilation (FGM) and that it must end.
“There are lots of women in our societies who underwent the practise who are now suffering adverse consequences. Those of us who have undergone the wicked practice will not allow our children to undergo the same pain. There is no verse in the Holy Qur’an that states that if you don’t practice female genital cutting or mutilation, you are not a Muslim,” she stated.
She said this at a cross-border meeting in Sotuma Samba Koi village in Jimara District at a forum organised by the Women’s Bureau with support from Unicef that brought Gambians and Senegalese to discuss ways and means of addressing cultural practices peculiar to border villages.
“Lots of women in the region have being capacitised on the negative impact on the practice. Therefore, attitudinal change is of paramount importance in ending the menace,” she exhorted.
FGM, she added, is a global problem, and therefore The Gambia and neighbouring Senegal should cooperate as close neighbours toward ending the practice.
“If you end FGM in The Gambia and it is not ended in Senegal, people can smuggle young girls and conduct the practice in Senegal. So coming together to look at ways of ending it, is a very good thing,” she said.
Mrs Jammeh-Touray stated that despite the provision of a legal instrument that has criminialised the practice, sensitisation at forums like the cross-border should be made a priority to help change attitudes and ensure that the generations to come do not practise it.
Mr Edrisa Keita, national coordinator of the international NGO, Tostan, said over the past decade, many communities in the region have been sensitised on the health implications inherent in FGM and consequently “many have totally abandoned the practice”.
“The only way we can eliminate the practice, is for the two countries to work side by-side and the concerted effort by young people to lead in the awareness campaign against the deep-rooted harmful practice that continues to harm women and young girls in the country,” he said.
The Tostan coordinator for Kolda Region in Senegal, Abdoulaye Diao, and Sainey Cham the monitoring and evaluation officer at the Women’s Bureau, both spoke at the meeting.
“We want to see how The Gambia and Senegal could come together to eliminate the menace. Therefore, I urge participants to come out with good recommendations that will help them to have a good action plan,” Mr Cham challenged.
The chairman of Basse Area Council, Jahara Juwara and the seyfo of Jimara District, Kanimang Sanneh, both called for more sensitisation forums and cross-border meetings.