FGM Survivor Challenges Colleagues To Speak Out

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By Momodou Jarju

A survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM) Isatou Dea Sawaneh has recently challenged fellow survivors to speak out while participating at the national assembly joint committee of health and gender consultative meeting on the pro-FGM bill.  

Madam Sawaneh, who is also the chairperson of the National Women’s Council, said speaking out will help their fight against the harmful practice of FGM in the country. She said if young people see her and former vice president Dr. Isatou Touray being addressed as victims and survivors, it will aid their fight as well.

“We have doctors, we have lawyers, we have nurses who themselves are victims and survivors of FGM and they are treating victims and survivors of FGM all over the world. If they cannot come out and say, hey, I am also a victim, let’s fight this fight together, it is of no essence,” she said. 

“It’s our body. It’s the body of our children for generations to come. And I see it as a suppression—a continuous suppression of women.”

The anti-FGM campaigner however shared her gratefulness to the Foni Kansala lawmaker Hon. Almameh Gibba for tabling the pro-FGM bill at the assembly because the issue will be dealt with once and for all, through rightful debate and it will be treated like “thrash”. She believes the aforesaid bill will die a natural death.  

“I am 60 plus. And you know what, if any doctor is willing to observe me, I will open up to the doctor. I will do it, because I can sit here and talk about the effects of FGM, what I am going through every day,” she said. 

“People call me and say, dear, why do you bother yourself advocating? I say yes, I will do it for the sake of the future ones. So it’s not only our responsibility. But it’s obligatory for every citizen of this country to make sure we don’t harm our children.”

Madam Sawaneh is against age of consent for FGM, saying once something is banned, it is illegal.

“When you are into drugs, it’s banned. Do they say go up to 21, you can ‘do’ the drugs? No, it is a crime. Once a crime, it’s always a crime. It stays a crime.

“Everybody has the right to have their feelings and their stand. And amongst the National Assembly, you represent us. But when you represent us, represent us fairly. Don’t go into this subject because you are already preempted that this is what you believe in. This is what you want to do. Let’s look at the facts. And I hope at the end of the session, please, let’s do the right thing. And your legacy is very important,” she concluded.