Source: FOROYAA Newspaper 
The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Protecting the Rights of Women and Girls (GAMCOTRAP), Saturday joined the rest of the world in celebrating "One Billion Rising Revolution" with the slogan "revolution," meaning each and every one should have a slogan as a revolution to end violence against women in different forms, namely, female genital mutilation, no to early and forced marriages, no to rape, domestic and sexual violence and all forms of harassment of the woman or girl.

The celebration was centred on the honouring of a surrogate mother adopted by GAMCOTRAP in Noo Kunda, Mba Fatoumata Dampha, who was the 'Ngansimbaa' (Leading woman circumciser), a powerful woman who leads and habours circumcisers in the North Bank Region. She has declared and decided to mobilise all the circumcisers and add her weight behind GAMCOTRAP to end female genital mutilation in two districts of the North Bank Region namely, Sabach Sanjal and Upper Baddibu.

Mba Fatoumata Dampha was welcomed by the large crowd of participants and the GAMCOTRAP team which together matched through the village to her home led by the Scout Band, and accompanied by traditional drummers, young people and children. Placards with slogans and messages were on display calling for an end to female genital mutilation. The event was filled with traditional songs by the circumcisers showing their support of this leading circumciser in connection with the One Billion Rising and V-Day to end female genital mutilation in the rural North Bank Region.

Attended by a large crowd including officials and community leaders from all the districts as well as the members of the councils of elders, Mba Dampha promised the GAMCOTRAP team on behalf of the women of Badibbu that she will do everything possible to promote a positive tradition and culture for the betterment and development of all the Gambian women. She further encouraged the circumcisers in the region to join hands with GAMCOTRAP to abandon the harmful traditional practices, especially those that affect the rights of women and girls.

"I was in the dark and since I met GAMCOTRAP, I realised that FGM is not a religious injunction but only tradition and we can stop it. In fact, we are full of regrets for what has happened in the past. Now we are together and it is over in this area," said Mba Dampha.

She said GAMCOTRAP has come to put them on a development footing and that they could not afford to lose the opportunity.

For his part, Mr. Bakary Jammeh, the GAMCOTRAP Coordinator in North Bank Region, said the event is an opportunity for all the populace living in the North Bank Region. He said GAMCOTRAP is out to educate every one on their rights in a very special way, using culturally relevant strategies that make them acceptable to everyone.

Mr. Jammeh said as the executive director has rightly said GAMCOTRAP is open to discussion in terms of any issue affecting the rights of women and girls. He noted that GAMCOTRAP is not there to force anybody to change but for him change is eminent and it is for the development of everybody.

Dr. Isatou Touray, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, said the 'One Billion Rising' is a day set aside for everybody to stand firm and be counted as a promoter of women's rights or advocate against violence against women. She said this day coincides with a day they chose to celebrate their surrogate mother who is brave enough to call for an end to female genital mutilation in this region.

Dr. Touray calls on women to seek knowledge to enable them to rule their own destiny. She added that the empowerment of communities has resulted to this phenomenal outcome which marks the beginning of protecting the girl generation to be given birth by mothers and fathers from this region.

The GAMCOTRAP Executive Director paid tribute to all the women rights activists who are in the fight against female genital mutilation and promoting the rights of women. "We are in the 21st century and this has shown us that the world is developing and we all need to change given the scientific evidence and the live realities of women regarding issues affecting us," she said.

She said the effects of female genital mutilation are not hearsay but something that has been documented by our hospitals and health workers. She noted that the work that women are contributing in our societies if recognised and remunerated no woman will be poor or be in a difficult situation. "It is high time that a law is put in place to respond to calls made by communities abandoning female genital mutilation," she recommended.

Aja Baboon Sidibeh, the GAMCOTRAP's surrogate mother and former Ngansimbaa in the traditional island of Janjanbureh in Central River Region, came to give support to the circumcisers in Sabach Sanjal and Upper Badibu. She also calls on the people of NBR to accept the wind of change in good faith and know that female genital mutilation, after knowing the dangers associated with it, has no place in our present society. She said at first she was a promoter of female genital mutilation, but after going through a series of trainings she has now changed her thinking towards what used to be her perspective. "This is possible because I am aware and enlightened," she added.

Speaking on behalf of the governor of the region, Mr. Kalifa Jammeh, the Regional Director of Islamic Studies in schools, said the 'One Billion Rising or V day' is worth celebrating. He said celebrating people like Mba Fatoumata Dampha is a worthy cause, adding that there is no body who can attest to the fact that female genital mutilation is Islamic or is a religious injunction. He said women should try and read the Quran so that they would be able to make decisions for themselves. He said since he started working with GAMCOTRAP, he has not seen anything that they are doing that is not in conformity with the teachings of Islam.

Mr Jonkong Dampha, who deputized for the Alkalo of Noo Kunda, and Mr. Muhammed Jadama, the Ward Councillor of Noo Kunda, both gave welcoming remarks.

The event was chaired by Mrs. Mary Small, the Senior Programme Officer of GAMCOTRAP.


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