Ending Female Genital Mutilation in the Gambia“FGM…has been hurting us.”
Ndyandin Dawara recently made a momentous decision: she decided she would not subject her toddler daughter to female genital mutilation (FGM).
FGM is a long-running harmful traditional practice in her community in the Gambia that has led generations of women to a lifetime of pain, a lack of control of their own bodily integrity and sexuality, and debilitating health risks, including death. The taboo surrounding the topic has impeded women to freely discuss their experiences of harm and suffering caused by FGM.
“We didn’t know how to speak out about it,” said Ndyandin Dawara. “In the workshop we... talked about pertinent issues about FGM, something that affects our lives, that has been hurting us.”
Ndyandin Dawara made her decision after taking part in training on ending FGM provided by GAMCOTRAP, an advocacy group supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund).
GAMCOTRAP (the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children) was created 35 years ago. Since then, it has worked tirelessly to eradicate FGM in the Gambia, where almost 75 per cent of women have undergone FGM. In December 2015, after sustained grassroots activism, much of which from GAMCOTRACP itself, the Gambia passed a total legal ban on FGM, becoming the 27th African country to do so.
The training focused on other women from the same background who had decided to abandon FGM. That gave Ndyandin Dawara strength. “We need to work to change people’s mindsets,” she said, stressing that all women and girls should live free from this harmful practice. Her husband is also involved, intent on protecting his daughter and all other girls in their community. He also attended the GAMCOTRAP training and speaks out in the community and to other men about the profound damage FGM causes.
The UN Trust Fund is supporting a two-year project by GAMCOTRAP. The project, which began in 2015, involves training for community leaders and workshops aimed at empowering women to claim their rights and those of their daughters. So far, more than 300 women have taken part and 64 per cent of young mothers who attended sessions said they would not subject their daughter to FGM. For the first time, community leaders are discussing how to protect girls and their communities.
“When people are informed and empowered they demand their rights and take informed decisions.” Dr. Isatou Touray, Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP