WOMEN AND GIRLS Column
With: Aja Musu Bah-
The Nova Scotia-Gambia Association (NSGA) is on a strong stand in ending FGM/C and Child Marriage in The Gambia. The association has held outreaches in various communities to educate and enlighten people on the dangers of practicing FGM/C and Child Marriage through the engagement of children, youth, women as well as men in the Gambia.
NSGA organized a community outreach and engaged the people of Busumbala in West Coast Region (WCR) on the said issue on Monday 27 December, 2021 in a magnet theatre form.
Magnet Theatre means the hour-long performances explore issues affecting a community and encourage discussion and problem solving with audience members, through drama etc.
The event was graced by people of the surrounding communities of Busumbala, including health officials and the police. It was meant for people to make a public declaration to abandon the aforesaid practices.
Dramas and traditional songs on the negative effects of the practice were made by the cultural group of that community which was highly appreciated by the participants.
Speaking at the event, Aja Saptieu Kassim, the Program Coordinator of NSGA, said FGM/C and Child Marriage are both harmful practices affecting girls in the country, adding that they are against the rights of the girl child.
“No girl should be subjected to these practices because every girl has the sole right to education up to university level as women have taken the responsibility of working in all sectors for the development of the country”. Saptieu said.
In the Gambia, she said women are working as teachers, ministers, nurses, doctors, lawyers and so on. Therefore, Aja Kassim urged all the participants to refrain from the harmful practice as women have been suffering the practice both medically and psychologically, adding that laws have been put in place which condemned the act.
Nfansu Jatta, speaking on behalf of the Alkalo of Bumsumbala, Boto Jatta, acknowledged NSGA for the great initiative, saying the event stands to ensure that children are well protected and seize the harmful practice against every girl child.
He encouraged parents to stop putting their girls less than 18 years old through early marriage because that will harm them and equally prevent them from going to school.
“Children into forceful marriages are harmful to their health and it is a criminal offence as it goes against the code of conduct thus, it is a violation of their human rights,” the younger brother to the Alkalo said.
Mr. Jatta asserted that in the recent generation, girls and women contribute more to family’s needs and they seek to ensure sustainable development in the country.
The Councilor of Busumbala, Amie Bangura, also shed light on the topic of discussion stating that FGM/C is known to be a culture. However, she said research has shown that it greatly affects girls and women during pregnancy, delivery and that some even lost their lives during the process of delivery.
Dilating on child and early marriage, the Lady Councillor stressed that both men and women have equal rights, hence, they (girls) should not be forced into any unwanted and teenage marriages. She urged mothers to frequently have mutual dialogue with their girl child in order for them to have better understanding of what is happening in the society and to equally have deep knowledge on women issues, their rights and responsibilities.
“If the formal education becomes a problem for girls, their parents should introduce them to informal education (skills). They should be taken to various skill centers and learn different skills in order to enhance their capacities and to also earn a living rather than to put them through early marriage,” Councilor Bangura advised.
A trainer, Mid-Wife and a Nurse at the Brikama Health Center, Fatou Camara while explaining the negative effects attached to FGM, affirmed that there are four (4) types of FGMs which she said are:
1. Clitoridectomy; she said that is the partial or the total removal of the clitoris.
2. Excision; she said that is the complete or partial removal inner labia
3. Infibulation; she said is the complete or partial of both the inner and outer labia and the fusion of the wound. That is to close the private part of women and living a small portion unclosed, (sealing)
4. She said the fourth one includes the other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes.
Mid-wife Camara continued that these practices affect women greatly as they chronologically lose too much blood and that disturbs their health status as most of them go through swelling, excessive bleeding, pain, urine retention and healing problems.
She also added that it gives infection to many girls, noting that the materials used on these girls are not sterilised and are continuously used on different individuals which she termed ‘very bad’.
Briefly talking on the negative effects of child marriage, Madam Camara stated that girls that go through early marriage, may place them at higher risk of problems during pregnancy and childbirth, which she added are more common with the more extensive FGM procedures. She said when that happens, they suffer from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Meanwhile, participants unanimously agreed that both FGM and Child Marriage are harmful and most be abolished. They equally said that educating people on the negative effects on these practices will enlighten them and will also bring to the understanding of men on such issues which will make them (men) have sympathy on every girl child and women.
The Nova Scotia – Gambia Association (NSGA) began in 1985 as major force in youth education in The Gambia. NSGA projects emphasize the concept of learning through active involvement. It uses drama and theatre, radio and community video shows, and peer education techniques to build healthy communities and to introduce its programs.