Banjul- Gambia (PANA) -- GAMCOTRAP, a womanâ?s Rights NGO that promotes womenâ? s social, political, economic and cultural rights and focuses on sexual and repr o ductive health rights on Monday marked the symbolic abandonment of the Female Ge n ital Mutilation (FGM) practice.
The ceremony, the second in the series which took place in Gambia's Basse Upper River Region, marked the official "dropping of the knife" by 60 circumcisers fro m the 351 communities where circumcision is still practiced.
Opening the ceremony, Dr.
Isatou Touray, Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, said e fforts leading to these events were challenges but also satisfying, because the c ommunities were now responding to the need for change.
According to her, discussions on the jealously-guarded secret about FGM, which w as wrongfully associated with religion, formed part of the core challenges for m a king the debate more sensitive for womenâ?s rights activists to engage.
She said with effective social mobilization, tact and frankness, the topic was n ow subjected to debate amongst different sectors of the society, adding "It is n o longer a taboo and GAMCOTRAP has operated in this region for over 20 years and a lot of changes have been realized.
Touray said over the years the regions had responded to efforts by GAMCOTRAP to sensitize the communities on the negative effects of FGM and the rights of t h e girl child.
â?In May, 2007 GAMCOTRAP led a movement for change with the first public declar ation ever held in The Gambia, where 18 circumcisers from 63 communities dropped the knife.
As a result of sustained advocacy, community awareness building and d i alogue, more communities are beginning to see the need to drop the knife and pro t ect Gambian women and children," she stated.
She pointed out that such advocacy and training activities had motivated 60 circ umcisers into publicly declaring that they had decided to stop the practice.
She added that these circumcisers had been trained on small-scale entrepreneuria l skills to be able to manage small businesses to sustain their livelihoods.
Also speaking at the ceremony, Bakai Camara of the Gambian National Assembly, sa id the practice of all forms of FGM was a violation of human rights, and in part i cular the rights to personal integrity, physical and mental health of women and g irls, and an assault on their human dignity.
He called on Gambian authorities to promulgate legislation banning all forms of FGM, punishing anybody who engages in it, taking in account the provisions set o u t in the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.
PANA recalls that the ceremony comes shortly after the Beijing +15 Africa confer ence on women, a conference whose aim was to assess the fulfillment of the commi t ment that governments made in the first international women conference more than a decade ago in Beijing, the Chinese capital.