SOURCE: The Point
Safe Hand for Girls, an organisation for the rights of girls, in collaboration with UK-based newspaper the Guardian, on Monday started a weeklong seminar geared towards ending the perennial practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

The workshop, underway at a local hotel, was designed to reorient journalists and anti-FGM activists from all regions of The Gambia on the burning need for the abolishment of the harmful traditional practice.

Speaking on the occasion, Baboucarr Kebbeh, communications and advocacy officer of the National Youth Council (NYC), said there is need for positive transformation in the society for FGM to end.

He said the success of such transformation lies in the hands of young people.

Mr Kebbeh said the rehabilitation and renovation of NYC youth centres has created a wide platform for youth at regional level to engage and dialogue on issues affecting their lives and livelihoods, and come up with resolutions of development and change.

Siaka Marong, assistant director of Women's Bureau, said FGM is still prevalent in The Gambia, despite the government's effort to bring an end to the practice.
He said The Gambia government's commitment to end violence against women and girls is evident by the ratification of a number of instruments on violence against women and girls.

According Mr Marong, one of the ways to change culture is through awareness, saying the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Women's Bureau, and the National Women's Council have the firm belief that with education comes empowerment.

He said to end violence against women and girls, sensitisation of both men and women must be intensified to change gender stereotypes, attitudes and beliefs that condone violence and harmful practice.

"We must also promote gender equitable norms and behaviour and this requires the adoption of approaches at different levels and engaging all segments of society, including dedicated work with men, women and girls," the Women's Bureau senior official said.

Momodou Mboge of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said the 2012 Demography and Health Survey shows that despite some efforts, there still exists a lot of misconception and ignorance of the effects of FGM among people.

He said campaigners, especially journalists, should intensify efforts to let the public know the repercussions and dangers of FGM.

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