By Lamin Fatty
More than 30 Communities in Upper River Region (URR) on Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th December, 2020, called it quit to Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage.
These communities gathered in Sutukoba in Wulli East at a special ceremony to publicly declare their intentions to abandon these harmful traditional practices.
The communities, through deep conversation and in consultation with religious leaders, decided that the traditional practices of FGM/C and child marriage are no longer fit with their vision of wellbeing.
The communities are partnering with Tostan- a non-governmental organisation that shares a three-year community employment programme with communities that want to create a vision for the wellbeing of all and promote dignity for all.
The programme encourages communities to define and fulfill their own vision on key areas such as education, health, governance, economic growth, and environment.
The Community Management Committee (CMC) Coordinator in Sutukoba, Mama Jabbai, while giving her statement at the declaration ceremony, indicated that the practice of child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting was important to their culture, but they never knew the health complications of the practices.
“Our participation in Tostan classes helped us learned that these practices have lots of negative health effects on women and girls and also are violation of their fundamental human rights to health,” she said.
The VDC chairman of Sutukoba, Karamo Jabbai, and the Steering Committee Chairman for the particular event, Morro Jatta, highlighted the achievements of Tostan in their community, which included empowering the people on health, governance, economic growth and environmental management through classes and social mobilisation.
The VDC chairman, Mr. Jabbai, called on other NGOs to emulate Tostan.
“If all NGOs in the Gambia emulate and follow Tostan’s approaches at the community level, this country would soon develop socially, economically and even politically,” he said.
Isatou Sumareh, the head of Tostan Social Mobilisation Team, pointed out the approach they took by sensitising religious, community and traditional authorities on health complications and human right violations attached to these practices.
This, she said, led to the achievements of their mission of voluntary declaration.
Similar statements were given by other members of the community and regional authorities as well as invited guests. Cultural performances by traditional cultural groups, testimonies from cutters and cultural display, and declaration statement read in English, Mandinka and fula, were among the highlights of the ceremony.
UNICEF, Swedish Post Code, Tostan, and the Government of Gambia through women bureau have been implementing a Community Empowerment Programme (CEP) in the Upper River Region since 2006 to 2016, covering 73 Mandinka, 70 Fula and 30 Sarahuleh communities.
With funding from NORAD and GATES foundation, Tostan currently scaled up the programme into 30 new communities in URR in 11 Mandinka and 18 Fula communities from 2017 to 2020.
“Tostan” which means ‘breakthrough’ in Wolf, is a non-governmental organisation with its international headquarters in Dakar Senegal. The organisation’s mission is to support communities to develop and achieve their vision for the future and inspire large scale movements leading to “Dignity for all.” The organization, which was created in 1991, started working in the Gambia in 2007.