Banjul, The Gambia (PANA) - A surge in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is feared in The Gambia as COVID-19 disrupts learning and programmes that help protect girls from this harmful practice, UNICEF and UNPFA warned here ahead of a high-level event to commemorate International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM Tuesday.
The event, to be graced by Vice-President Dr. Isatou Touray and other stakeholders, is being jointly organized by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, UNFPA and UNICEF to galvanize national efforts and strengthen partnerships to eliminate FGM in the country, a statement made available to PANA here Monday said.
Over the years, The Gambia has registered remarkable progress in eliminating FGM. Between 2010 and 2018, FGM among children of zero-four years old has dropped by 10 per cent to 27 per cent. Huge gains have also been made in changing perceptions, with 49 per cent of women now openly saying FGM should stop.
“Evidently, our collective work has translated into great progress in eliminating this human rights abuse,” said Kunle Adeniyi, UNFPA Gambia Representative.
“But while we take pride in our achievements, we must be more resolute to protect every girl and woman from FGM, including the 27 per cent of young girls who continue to undergo the practice.”
Even before COVID-19, reports of a widespread practice of FGM in The Gambia were rife, despite its criminalization. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has made the Sustainable Development Goals target of ending FGM by 2030 an even more ambitious commitment.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted critical programmes and shuttered schools, leaving many girls vulnerable and at increased risk of FGM,” said Gordon Jonathan Lewis, UNICEF The Gambia Representative. “That is why we insist that schools must remain open at the slightest opportunity and that all measures must be taken to support programmes that help protect girls.”
"To build on progress registered and protect more girls and women from FGM, UNFPA and UNICEF are calling for unified voice and action from multi-level, multi sector stakeholders; increased funding to sustain mass mobilization and actions on commitments; and urgent and decisive action to ensure that years of progress is not unraveled by the on-going pandemic."
Meanwhile, at Tuesday’s high-level engagement on FGM, 10 “End FGM Champions” will be presented and recognized for their efforts to accelerate the abandonment of the harmful practice in The Gambia. These champions, who are already leading grassroots conversations and national level advocacy to support the end FGM agenda, are expected to intensify their efforts and serve as the face of the End FGM campaign in the country.
-0- PANA MSS/RA 8Feb2021