Tuesday, September 29, 2009

School head defends alleged rapist

The defense counsel for one Momodou Musa Sidibeh, Lawyer E.M. Sissoho, last Thursday September 24, 2009, called on one Madam Anna Bertrand Cooker, the headmistress of Bakoteh Lower Basic School to testify as a defense witness before Justice Moses Richards of the Special Criminal Court in Banjul.

The accused, Momodou Musa Sidibeh, is alleged to have had carnal knowledge of a 7-year old school girl, in Bakoteh on October 10, 2007. The alleged victim is said to be a student of the Bakoteh Lower Basic School. The witness, Madam Cooker, said she came to know the accused during the 2004/5 academic year, when he came to the school and explained that he was from the provinces and had nobody in the area to stay with but wanted to engage in petty business so that he could help his parents who were in the provinces.

The mistress further said that after listening to the accused, she advised him to get some corrugated iron sheets and erected a kiosk outside the school gate and said she assisted the accused to get authorization from the K.M.C, after which the accused started operating his business. The defense witness revealed that her school has about 3,400 students of whom 1,780. She added that they all buy food from the accused person’s shop, including the teachers. The witness also said that she has a very close relationship with the accused, who calls her mummy.

The witness further said the accused moved into the kiosk as a bachelor but two years later, he got married when his parents in Niamina sent him a wife along with a little girl. The witness said she learnt about the alleged incident when the victim’s father accompanied his daughter to the school on Monday, October 13, 2008, alleging that his daughter was raped and had come late on October 10, 2008, a Friday.

The witness said she asked him whether he had taken his daughter to the hospital or to the police, but the father replied in the negative and said he had instead given her some Paracetamol tablets to drink. The witness said she then asked the victim’s father to accompany his daughter round the classes so as to identify the teacher who was alleged to have committed the act. She said the victim’s father left but returned some minutes later and left the school premises with his daughter.

The witness then told the court that the father returned after a while and told her that they have seen the culprit, whom he named as the man in the green kiosk. She said she then asked one of the senior teachers in the school to accompany them to call the man in the green kiosk. The mistress disclosed that when the accused arrived, he was quizzed but retorted that he has his wife and children in the house and could not do such a thing?
The witness said she then asked the alleged victim where the incident took place. According to her, the girl first said inside the accused person’s kiosk but later said that it took place at the dump site. She added that an argument then arose, leading to the crowd converging on the scene. She said she then advised the victim’s father to go to the police. The witness said the father left for the police station and the child ran into her class and throughout that day, was very active and played with her mates in the school until around 1.00pm when the father came back to collect her.

The headmistress told the court that she is confident that the accused cannot do such a thing on the premise that she knows him to be a person of decent character, and a very respectful person. She further said the accused lives with his family inside the kiosk where he was operating his business and the victim’s allegation that the accused sexually abused her in two different places led her to doubt that the accused person had committed the offense. She also concluded that the way that the child was playing that very Monday, she did not look like someone who had been sexually abused.
Hearing continues.

Man convicted for beating up ex-wife

One Ansumana Sanyang was recently convicted and sentenced by Magistrate Lamin George of the Bundung Magistrates Court, after he was found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm.

According to the particulars of the offence, on the 16th of November 2008, at Bakoteh, the convict assaulted one Mama Jobe-Sanyang, his ex-wife by beating her, thereby causing her actual bodily harm. He was ordered to pay D3,000 in default to serve a three-month imprisonment term.

Gov’t, UNICEF CPC review kicks off

The government of The Gambia and the United Nations International Children Fund (UNICEF), yesterday began a two-day mid-term review on Country Programme of Cooperation 2007-2011, at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.

The programme seeks to provide avenues for children and women to acquire adequate capacities and appropriate skills, knowledge, and means to claim their rights and as well achieve an enabling environment through child and gender-sensitive policies, programmes and legislation, supported by evidence-based data analysis and advocacy. The programme also promotes gender equality and encourages young people’s participation through community capacity development, with three main areas of focus: child survival and development, basic education, and child protection and social policy advocacy.

Fatou Lamin Faye, minister of Basic and Secondary Education who made a statement on behalf of the vice president and minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, recalled launching this programme in 2007 on behalf of the Gambian leader, Sheikh Professor Jammeh. “As a government, we are proud of the ownership and pleased with the good leadership we have demonstrated throughout the implementation of the programme and the planning of the Global Mid-Term review meeting. Our collaboration with UNICEF is no accident as the government of The Gambia is equally and fully committed to fulfilling the rights of children and women,” she said.

Minister Faye further explained that the government’s resolve in this regard was demonstrated by signing and ratifying of many international conventions and treaties including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the two optional protocols to the UNCRC, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). She also spoke at length on the commitment of the government in various sectors; ranging from education, health among others. Minister Faye also reported that the government had submitted the combined 1st, 2nd and 3rd periodic reports on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), in January and has adopted and ratified the two optional protocols to the CRC in 2008.

For his part, Dr Njogu Bah, secretary to the Cabinet, who deputised for the secretary general and head of Civil Service, Abdoulie Sallah, assured the audience that under the leadership of Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh, the government would continue to consolidate the gains of the enabling environment already created so as to enhance the scope and space for increased partnership with UNICEF and other partners assisting their processes and systems geared towards socio-economic growth and development. “My office finds the report rich in its analysis, independent in its assessment, and already provocative of the areas where adjustments are imminent not only to help us achieve better and rewarding outcomes in the remaining half of the programme cycle, but also to prepare the next Country Programme that succeeds the current one in 2011,” he asserted.

“I would like to urge all the implementing partners to be more resolute in their commitment to the Country Programme. We should commit ourselves to meeting and even surpassing the targets that we set for ourselves and encourage dialogue on every emerging issue that show up on our way. This way, we would be remembered as people who have utilized their productive energies in translating the resources put at the disposal of women and children in The Gambia into concrete, promising, socially-friendly, progressive and beneficial economic outcomes. The urgency for strengthened commitment to meeting this objectives is applicable to UNICEF as it is to the implementing partners,” Dr Bah further explained.

Dr Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF, regional director for West and Central Africa also spoke at the opening ceremony which was graced by ministers of Health, Social Welfare, Dr Mariatou Jallow; attorney general and minister for Justice, Marie Saine-Firdaus; and a representative of the speaker of the National Assembly, amongst other dignitaries.

source: dailyobserver

Friday, September 25, 2009

Man in court for raping 14-year old girl

Friday, September 25, 2009
One Sulayman Camara, was yesterday, arraigned before the special criminal court presided over by Justice Moses Richards for allegedly raping a girl of 14 years in Sibanor on the 1st of May 2008 in Sibanor village in the Fonis, Western Region.

The prosecution led by Principal State Counsel S.H. Barkun called on the victim who testified that on the day of the incident, she was sent by her ageing mother to go and sell some cooked mangoes, and when she arrived at the market, she was accosted by the accused who asked her to go with him to his compound that he was going to buy some mangoes from her.

The victim said when she arrived at the accused person’s compound, she was asked into his house and as she got in, the accused pushed and knocked her down on his bed, put clothes on her mouth, stripped her naked and forcefully had carnal knowledge of her.The mother of the victim, in her testimony said on the day of the incident she sent her daughter to go and sell mangoes. Upon her return she noticed some blood stains on her clothes and threatened to beat her if she did not tell her what happened to her.

The witness said her daughter then narrated her ordeal with the accused. The matter was later reported to the Alkalo of the village who referred her to the police. When asked by Justice Richards if she knows the accused very well, the witness replied in the affirmative, saying the accused is a sex maniac and had once requested her daughter for marriage when her daughter was a toddler but she had refused. The witness said her daughter was a virgin until the time the accused had carnal knowledge of her.

Thursday, September 24, 2009
One Nfamara Saidykhan was yesterday arraigned before Justice Moses Richards of the Special Criminal Court for allegedly raping a 14-year old girl at Sankwia village in Jarra West District of the Lower River Region on January 12, 2009.

The prosecution, led by the principal state counsel, S.H Barkum, opened its case when it called on Corporal 581 Jereba Banda of the Mansakonko Police Station to testify. The corporal revealed that on the day of the alleged incident, the victim and her adopted father, Ebrima Samateh, came to the station and reported the alleged incident.

The witness said the victim was taken to the Soma Health Centre, where she was examined by a medical officer.The witness further said he saw blood stains on the victim’s private part sand the medical report, according to him, indicated that there was penetration.

The witness also said the accused was later cautioned and charged. He added that here corded the accused person’s cautionary and voluntary statements.

The medical report as well as the cautionary and voluntary statements of the accused person were tendered, admitted and marked as exhibits.

Hearing continues.

source: daily observer

Women’s Work and Economic Empowerment

In nearly every country, women work longer hours than men, but are usually paid less and are more likely to live in poverty. In subsistence economies, women spend much of the day performing tasks to maintain the household, such as carrying water and collecting fuel wood. In many countries women are also responsible for agricultural production and selling. Often they take on paid work or entrepreneurial enterprises as well.

Unpaid domestic work – from food preparation to caregiving – directly affects the health and overall well being and quality of life of children and other household members. The need for women’s unpaid labour often increases with economic shocks, such as those associated with the AIDS pandemic or economic restructuring. Yet women's voices and lived experiences – whether as workers (paid and unpaid), citizens, or consumers – are still largely missing from debates on finance and development. Poor women do more unpaid work, work longer hours and may accept degrading working conditions during times of crisis, just to ensure that their families survive.

Intergenerational gender gaps

The differences in the work patterns of men and women, and the 'invisibility' of work that is not included in national accounts, lead to lower entitlements to women than to men. Women’s lower access to resources and the lack of attention to gender in macroeconomic policy adds to the inequity, which, in turn, perpetuates gender gaps. For example, when girls reach adolescence they are typically expected to spend more time in household activities, while boys spend more time on farming or wage work. By the time girls and boys become adults, females generally work longer hours than males, have less experience in the labour force, earn less income and have less leisure, recreation or rest time.

This has implications for investments in the next generation. If parents view daughters as less likely to take paid work or earn market wages, they may be less inclined to invest in their education, women's fastest route out of poverty.

The urgency of addressing the vulnerability of young women and adolescent girls of all backgrounds, but particularly the poor, cannot be over stated. Innovative, far-reaching and rapid responses are needed to impact whole generations so that the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty can be within reach.

Understanding gender equality and women's empowerment

Gender equality implies a society in which women and men enjoy the same opportunities, outcomes, rights and obligations in all spheres of life. Equality between men and women exists when both sexes are able to share equally in the distribution of power and influence; have equal opportunities for financial independence through work or through setting up businesses; enjoy equal access to education and the opportunity to develop personal ambitions. A critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives. Women's empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all.

Despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They usually have less access than men to medical care, property ownership, credit, training and employment. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

The ability of women to control their own fertility is absolutely fundamental to women’s empowerment and equality. When a woman can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life. When she is healthy, she can be more productive. And when her reproductive rights—including the right to decide the number, timing and spacing of her children, and to make decisions regarding reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence—are promoted and protected, she has freedom to participate more fully and equally in society.

Where women’s status is low, family size tends to be large, which makes it more difficult for families to thrive. Population and development and reproductive health programmes are more effective when they address the educational opportunities, status and empowerment of women. When women are empowered, whole families benefit, and these benefits often have ripple effects to future generations.

The roles that men and women play in society are not biologically determined -- they are socially determined, changing and changeable. Although they may be justified as being required by culture or religion, these roles vary widely by locality and change over time. UNFPA has found that applying culturally sensitive approaches can be key to advancing women’s rights while respecting different forms of social organization.

Addressing women’s issues also requires recognizing that women are a diverse group, in the roles they play as well as in characteristics such as age, social status, urban or rural orientation and educational attainment. Although women may have many interests in common, the fabric of their lives and the choices available to them may vary widely. UNFPA seeks to identify groups of women who are most marginalized and vulnerable (women refugees, for example, or those who are heads of households or living in extreme poverty), so that interventions address their specific needs and concerns. This task is related to the critical need for sex-disaggregated data, and UNFPA helps countries build capacity in this area.

Key issues and linkages

  • Reproductive health: Women, for both physiological and social reasons, are more vulnerable than men to reproductive health problems. Reproductive health problems, including maternal mortality and morbidity, represent a major – but preventable -- cause of death and disability for women in developing countries. Failure to provide information, services and conditions to help women protect their reproduction health therefore constitutes gender-based discrimination and a violation of women’s rights to health and life.

  • Stewardship of natural resources: Women in developing nations are usually in charge of securing water, food and fuel and of overseeing family health and diet. Therefore, they tend to put into immediate practice whatever they learn about nutrition and preserving the environment and natural resources.

  • Economic empowerment: More women than men live in poverty. Economic disparities persist partly because much of the unpaid work within families and communities falls on the shoulders of women and because they face discrimination in the economic sphere.

  • Educational empowerment: About two thirds of the illiterate adults in the world are female. Higher levels of women's education are strongly associated with both lower infant mortality and lower fertility, as well as with higher levels of education and economic opportunity for their children.

  • Political empowerment: Social and legal institutions still do not guarantee women equality in basic legal and human rights, in access to or control of land or other resources, in employment and earning, and social and political participation. Laws against domestic violence are often not enforced on behalf of women.

  • Empowerment throughout the life cycle: Reproductive health is a lifetime concern for both women and men, from infancy to old age.UNFPA supports programming tailored to the different challenges they face at different times in life.

    Experience has shown that addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment requires strategic interventions at all levels of programming and policy-making.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why is girls' education important?

There are several compelling benefits associated with girls’ education, which include the reduction of child and maternal mortality, improvement of child nutrition and health, lower fertility rates, enhancement of women’s domestic role and their political participation, improvement of the economic productivity and growth, and protection of girls from HIV/AIDS, abuse and exploitation. Girls’ education yields some of the highest returns of all development investments, yielding both private and social benefits that accrue to individuals, families, and society at large by

  • Reducing women’s fertility rates. Women with formal education are much more likely to use reliable family planning methods, delay marriage and childbearing, and have fewer and healthier babies than women with no formal education. It is estimated that one year of female schooling reduces fertility by 10 percent. The effect is particularly pronounced for secondary schooling.
  • Lowering infant and child mortality rates. Women with some formal education are more likely to seek medical care, ensure their children are immunized, be better informed about their children's nutritional requirements, and adopt improved sanitation practices. As a result, their infants and children have higher survival rates and tend to be healthier and better nourished.
  • Lowering maternal mortality rates. Women with formal education tend to have better knowledge about health care practices, are less likely to become pregnant at a very young age, tend to have fewer, better-spaced pregnancies, and seek pre- and post-natal care. It is estimated that an additional year of schooling for 1,000 women helps prevent two maternal deaths.
  • Protecting against HIV/AIDS infection. Girls’ education ranks among the most powerful tools for reducing girls’ vulnerability. It slows and reduces the spread of HIV/AIDS by contributing to female economic independence, delayed marriage, family planning, and work outside the home, as well as conveying greater information about the disease and how to prevent it.
  • Increasing women’s labor force participation rates and earnings. Education has been proven to increase income for wage earners and increase productivity for employers, yielding benefits for the community and society.
  • Creating intergenerational education benefits. Mothers’ education is a significant variable affecting children’s education attainment and opportunities. A mother with a few years of formal education is considerably more likely to send her children to school. In many countries each additional year of formal education completed by a mother translates into her children remaining in school for an additional one-third to one-half year.

Girls’ education and the promotion of gender equality in education are vital to development, and policies and actions that do not address gender disparities miss critical development opportunities.


Friday, September 18, 2009

The Empowered Woman

by :Sonny Carroll

The Empowered Woman, she moves through the world
with a sense of confidence and grace.
Her once reckless spirit now tempered by wisdom.
Quietly, yet firmly, she speaks her truth without doubt or hesitation
and the life she leads is of her own creation.

She now understands what it means to live and let live.
How much to ask for herself and how much to give.
She has a strong, yet generous heart
and the inner beauty she emanates truly sets her apart.
Like the mythical Phoenix,
she has risen from the ashes and soared to a new plane of existence,
unfettered by the things that once that posed such resistance.

Her senses now heightened, she sees everything so clearly.
She hears the wind rustling through the trees;
beckoning her to live the dreams she holds so dearly.
She feels the softness of her hands
and muses at the strength that they possess.
Her needs and desires she has learned to express.
She has tasted the bitter and savored the sweet fruits of life,
overcome adversity and pushed past heartache and strife.

And the one thing she never understood,
she now knows to be true,
it all begins and ends with you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Empowering Women aims to inspire women with the courage to break free from the chains of limiting belief patterns and societal or religious conditioning that have traditionally kept women suppressed and unable to see their true beauty and power.

Gender equality and women's empowerment are human rights that lie at the heart of development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Despite the progress that has been made, six out of ten of world's poorest people are still women and girls, less than 16 percent of the world's parliamentarians are women, two thirds of all children shut outside the school gates are girls and, both in times of armed conflict and behind closed doors at home, women are still systematically subjected to violence.

Situational analysis of the Gambia shows that, the population is 1.3 million of whom 51% are female(2003 Census). persistent gender inequalities & inequities continue to marginalize and exclude women in spite of their enormous contributions to the socio cultural & economic development of the country. the majority of the Gambian women are poor, dependent and enjoy low social status compare to their male counterparts.

This is due to, the division of labour along gender lines which has resulted to daunting challenges for women as they carryout their productive,reproductive and community role. Also, the incidence of rural-urban migration is increasing the burden of responsibility on women. farming is becoming feminized as males and youths travel leaving the productive in the hands of women.

The amount of time women spend on carrying out their unpaid reproductive roles serve as a barrier for them to participate in self enhancing activities such as education, governance e.t.c. In the area of governance, women's invisibility is pronounced especially in local government administration. There are no women governors, mayors, chairpersons of councilors or district chiefs out of 1,873 villages in the country. There are only five(5) female ''Alkalo's.''

Some of them few women who find themselves in leadership positions at national or local level finds it very difficult to effectively contribute and influence decisions in the male dominated system. In the legislative, Only 10% of the National Assembly members are women.



According to the 1993 Population and Housing Census, the Gambia has a population of 1,038,145 and estimated 49.9% of these were females.

Over the years, Gambian women have lagged behind men. This is mainly due to cultural and religious reasons, which have made them believe that they are inferior. This is evident in the special treatment accorded to boys over girls, this continues throughout their lives.

Women have very little decision-making power even regarding their health and that of their children. This has contributed to the high fertility rate of 6.0. Women start childbearing at early ages of 15 � 16 and continue up to 40 � 45 and at short intervals, thus the reason for the maternal mortality rate of 1,050 per 100,000 live births, one of the highest in the sub-region.

As their counterparts in the sub-region, Gambian women are engaged in formal and informal employment, domestic chores, community work, childbearing and rearing during their lifetime, their womanhood is only defined by their latter role. They receive recognition for this single role and are not given the required support in it.

The empowerment and the status of women in the Gambia and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status is a matter of concern to individuals, government and non-governmental organisations.

Concern about the situation of women in the Gambia has drawn attention chiefly to the daily threats to their lives, health and well-being, as a result of over worked and their lack of power and influence.

One issue that was and is still clear by all indications in Gambian society is the opposition at all levels to equality in sharing power and decision-making with women. While decision-making is male dominated and is largely done by men, whether in offices in the home or elsewhere, equality of opportunity is yet to become a reality.

The integration of women as equal partners in all aspects of development has been a major issue since the 1970s. The United Nations declared 1975 as the International Women�s year, devoted to promote equality between men and women and to fully integrate them into development.

The achievements of the women�s year and decade resulted in the ratification of the convention on the Elimination of the All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) by most countries including the Gambia. With the declaration of the International Women�s Decade (1975 � 1985), Gambian women began to gain visibility in terms of their participation in socio-economic development as well as in their decision-making capacity.

This period saw the setting up of the National women�s Council and Bureau by an Act of Parliament in 1980 to advise government on women�s issues and concerns.

An important development in the Gambia from 1985 to date has been the translation of commitment to women�s concerns into definite action through programmes and projects. Attempts have been made to uplift the status of Gambian women as called for in the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies, the Beijing Platform of Action and the Cairo Programme for Action.

National Policies have now placed high priority on women and their role in the development of the Gambia. It is for instance the policy of the Agricultural sector to increase the productivity and production of women as they form the majority of the people working on the land as well as being the main food producers in the Gambia. The Health sector is on the trial of eradicating diseases within which the active participative role of women is indispensable.

It is also the policy of the Department of State for Education to increase opportunities for women through the enrolment of girls in primary and secondary education as well as the creation of a trust fund for the retention of girls in school.

The National Population Policy has clearly underscored that improving the status of women also enhances their decision-making capacity at all spheres of life, especially in the area of sexuality, reproduction, maternal and child health. It is the goal of the first national Policy for the Advancement of Gambian women to improve the quality of life of all Gambians, particularly women through the elimination of all forms of gender inequality by concrete gender in development measures.

The vision of the National Family Panning Policy is to promote the health and welfare of all Gambians and enhance the status of women, enabling them to fully participate in socio-economic development and to create an enabling environment that will enable couples and individuals to choose the desired family size to improve their reproductive life.

The Gambia�s development policies are based on the rationale that broad-based development in general and economic development in particular cannot be achieved without the active participation and involvement of women. Furthermore, the role of women as child bearers and nurturers in the society gives them the very important task of shaping the attitudes and outlooks of future generations of men and women at a very early stage.

With the realisation that government alone cannot meet all the challenges of development, the latter has created an enabling environment for other partners and actors in the development scene such as NGOs, to complement government�s efforts.

In a developing country like the Gambia, collaboration between NGOs and government has been able to focus on the development needs of the country while reinforcing each other�s roles in the drive to fulfil the objectives of growth and women�s access to the productive process in many different ways, and several NGOs focus exclusively on impacting the status of women.

Since its establishment in 1980,the National Women�s Council and Bureau has been fully supportive of strides made by local women�s NGOs working towards the empowerment of women and improvement of the status of women.

In addition to the above, the government has responded to the call to women�s empowerment at decision making levels by setting up a Department of State for Women�s Affairs, appointing the first female Vice President in West Africa, ten women Secretaries of State in five years, a female Secretary General, Accountant General, Auditor General and also ratifying the National Women�s Policy for the Advancement of Gambian Women.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009



One of the major contributing factors to domestic violence is early forced and arranged marriages.

It is clear from all indicators that most parents force and arrange marriages for their children without seeking for their consent which is a violation of their Human Right. According to Article 6a of the protocol to the African Charter on human and People’s Right on the Rights of Women in Africa states that, no marriage shall take place without the FREE and FULL consent of both parties. This in most cases leads to wife blathering, marital rapped, uncompleted formal education and physical body damage, sexual abuse among others.

Early forced and arranged marriages is a key contributing factors to domestic violence in our communities as the girl will never do anything to please her husband which leads to the severe battering by the husband. For example, there was a couple around my neighborhood, prior to their marriage, they never meet each other but they are cousins. They happen to be married due to the commitments made by their parents. Unfortunately, the couple never grow to like each other or even love each other. As i get to know them, i learned that both husband and wife were in a serious relationship prior to marriage which probably will end up in marriage before their parents impose on them. It was horrible. As a neighbor, i witnessed several episodes of their fights and bitter argument and fights which start from the first day the wife arrived in her husband’s house. This is only one of much domestic violence you have due to forced and arranged early marriage.

Another issue with forced and arranged early marriage is the fact that the children especially the girl child has to stop the formal education to get married. Some of these girls are bright students always at the top of their class. But their potential is diminished in order to satisfy their parents’ selfish desire of marrying them out. Only one percent (1%) of the husbands allow and support wives to finish their education and achieve their goals.are our future and we need to do whatever it takes to ensure that they have a chance for a better future by educating them and protecting their rights. Teenagers are our future and we need to do whatever it takes to ensure that they have a chance for a better future by educating them and protecting their rights.

Forced and arranged marriages does not only deprive them from education but also destroys their body (physical). Because, many of this girls are young teenagers and cannot sustain a full time pregnancy as a result face some difficulties during child birth which causes most of the damages on their body. This in most cases can lead to poor physical and mental health.

The main aim of this blog as part of a community project i am working on the is: To reduce the amount/number of early marriage in our community and also empower the girl's to make an informed decision about the man they want to marry and at their own time.


To pave way for women and girls to make informed decisions on the right time of marriage and the appropriate choice of getting the right man at the convenient time.


A better community with active and effective female participation in making decisions on issues affecting their own lives.

Therefore, i create this blog( part of my community project strategy- Moremi Initiative) as a tool to raise awareness about domestic violence( more especially early marriage) and the important role that the public can play to address its causes and consequences. I firmly believed that, we need to reduce or stop early marriage from happening in the first place, and to provide help and support to girls who are victims.

comments are welcomed from all readers because sharing our ideas on the issue in hand will make a big difference in the the future....TOGETHER WE CAN!

by: fcmalang

Monday, September 14, 2009

Where Have All the Women Gone?A manifesto against gender apartheid.

As soon as I started reading this cry against the global wasting of women's lives, I could smell Shahnaz's face—what was left of it—again. By the time I met her in a hospital in Bangladesh, Shahnaz's face flesh was a mess of charred meat: Her skin, the soft tissue of her cheeks, and the bones beneath had been burned away. Her nose was gone, replaced by two flared holes. Her lips hung down over her chin like melted wax. Her left eyelid couldn't close, so a trail of tears was forever slowly tracking down over the wounds. Shahnaz was 21 years old, and her husband had just thrown acid in her face.

Her "crime"? To insist on continuing her studies—she loved science and poetry—when her husband wanted her to have babies. She smelled of a day-old barbecue left out in the rain.

In much of the world today, it is Shahnaz, not her husband, who would be judged to be in the wrong. For them, a woman is there to be a servile baby machine, and if she refuses, she can be beaten, raped, or burned with impunity. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his Chinese-American wife, Sheryl WuDunn, have written an impassioned exposé of this subjugation—and a roadmap to equality.

They start with an extraordinary fact that shows how deep this abuse runs. Today, now, more than 100 million women are missing. They have vanished. In normal circumstances, women live longer than men—but China has 107 males for every 100 females in its overall population, India has 108, and Pakistan has 111. Where have these women gone? They have been killed or allowed to die. Medical treatment is often reserved for boys, while violence against women is routine. More girls are killed in this "gendercide" each decade than in all the genocides of the 20th century. This year, another 2 million girls will "disappear."

But this isn't considered a story. While we rightly roared at racial apartheid, we act as though gender apartheid is a natural, immutable fact. With absolutely the right Molotov cocktail of on-the-ground reporting and hard social science, Kristof and WuDunn blow up this taboo. They ask: What would we do if we believed women were equal human beings, with as much right to determine their life story as men? How would we view the world differently?

We would start by supporting the millions of women who are fighting back. This isn't merely a story of victims; it is predominantly a story of heroines. Mukhtar Mai is a 37-year-old woman who was born to a peasant family in southern Punjab, Pakistan. She was never sent to school because there were no schools for girls in her area: Why would girls need to read? In July 2002, her younger brother was kidnapped and gang raped by a higher-status clan. In order to cover up the crime, the gang accused him of having raped one of "their" girls. A tribal council heard the case and found him guilty—and ruled that, as punishment, his sister Mukhtar should be gang raped.

After she was dragged into a barn and raped by four men in turn, Mukhtar was supposed to kill herself to remove the "shame" from her family. As she explains: "They know that a woman humiliated in that way has no other recourse but suicide. They don't even need to use their weapons. Rape kills her."

But Mukhtar did something a woman wasn't supposed to do: She went to the police and demanded justice. Unusually, the police arrested the attackers. Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf heard about the case and sent $8,300 in compensation. She used it to build a school for girls, saying it was the only way to start eroding the attitudes that led to her rape. But once she started speaking out—saying rape was a systemic problem in rural Pakistan—Musharraf declared that she was "embarrassing" Pakistan and had the secret services order her to shut up. She refused—so she was placed under house arrest and then kidnapped by Musharraf's goons.

Even then, Mukhtar wouldn't give up. She got word out to her supporters—and they ensured that she was released. Her campaign is working. As Kristof and WuDunn explain, "Rape is no longer a penalty-free sport, and so it seems to have declined considerably in the Punjab." Thanks to her, thousands of girls are in school, and tens of thousands now will not be raped.

It's a humbling story in a book full of humbling stories. An illiterate woman from a middle-of-nowhere village stood up to her country's president and security services, in the name of the most basic human value of all, equality—and she won. It forces you to ask: What have I done, with almost none of the odds stacked against me that Mukhtar had?

Perhaps that sounds depressing. But on the contrary, Kristof and WuDunn's book is empowering for the reader. It shows that, while there is a mountain of misogyny to be climbed, it is being ascended, woman by woman, day by day. The authors are constantly pointing readers toward practical things they can do, from giving to the best charities to volunteering for Mukhtar's schools in Pakistan.

They take the reader on a grand tour of all the issues that are ignored because women are ignored. For example—who has heard of fistula? It is today's leprosy, causing 2 million women to live and die as despised outcasts—yet it is virtually unknown. When a woman has a long, obstructed labor with no doctors to help her deliver, the blood supply to her vagina, bladder, and rectum can be cut off. The tissues die, and a hole is ripped in her flesh. From that hole, shit and piss will leak for the rest of her life in one long incontinent streak. Because she stinks, she is rejected by her husband and her community, and forced to live scavenging on the streets.

In every African town, you see fistula-stricken women, wandering aimlessly, their heads down in shame. They are the saddest people I have ever met. But this problem is cruelly easy to treat. For $300, a fistula can be repaired in 90 percent of cases. Fistula can be beaten, if only we value women enough to do it. There used to be a fistula hospital in Manhattan. Today, it is the Waldorf-Astoria.

Or how about the enslavement of women in brothels, which is now far larger than the trans-Atlantic slave trade at its height? Some 3.5 million women are being jailed, drugged, and raped for cash today. This brutalization of women doesn't have to happen any more than the enslavement of Africans did in the 18th century. As the authors write: "The tools to crush modern slavery exist, but the political will is lacking. That must be the starting point of any abolitionist movement." International pressure—set in motion by the acts of ordinary citizens—works.

In a book that comes close to being a masterpiece of modern journalism, it's sad—and a little squalid—that Kristof has allowed a discredited cause from his columns to crawl into its pages. He has long defended sweatshops, where by definition women are forced to work near-impossible hours for a pittance. He does so again here, writing: "Sweatshops have given women a boost. … Women and girls still stream to such factories because they're preferable to hoeing fields all day back in a village. … Instead of denouncing sweatshops, we in the West should be encouraging manufacturing in poor countries."

But Kristof surely knows that it is a false choice between having poor women hoeing the fields and having them working in dangerous conditions in factories. There is a third—and better—way. Anti-sweatshop campaigners—who he has explicitly chided—want all factories, everywhere, to adhere to certain minimum standards: No use of beatings, a maximum working day, safety precautions. Then they won't be sweatshops; they'll just be factories.

Whenever he is confronted with this argument, Kristof says that any country that imposes basic human conditions on sweatshops loses its trade to a country that won't and women suffer. But this ignores an obvious truth: Anti-sweatshop campaigners want to see these rules imposed everywhere. There should be no escape clauses and no places where multinational corporations can go to cheaply abuse women for a few extra pennies of profit. Given his genuine disgust at the abuse of women elsewhere, it's bewildering that he endorses it in this form—and as a species of feminism, too!

There is another, more subtle flaw with this book. The Kristof journalistic template is plain: He finds individual heroines in countries ignored by the United States who personify both the problem and the fight-back against it. He then tries to marshal U.S. public opinion and, in turn, U.S. governmental power behind it. It's effective—but he uses it only when the victims are marginal to the bigger goals of American power. The U.S. government has no interest in maintaining the sex trade, or fistula, so it is relatively straightforward to enlist its support in eradication efforts.

But when it comes to crimes of commission by the United States, rather than of omission, this formula falters. One of the worst places in the world to be a woman is Saudi Arabia, where you can be imprisoned for trying to drive a car and lashed for being raped. Perhaps the very worst is Afghanistan, where—outside the Potemkin village of Kabul—women are almost invariably imprisoned in their homes and used as property-cattle in private fiefdoms run by warlords.

Yet woman-lashing Saudi Arabia is the closest U.S. ally in the region (along with Israel), and woman-crushing Afghanistan is actually occupied by the United States. The rights of women are being casually sold out in exchange for oil, military expediency, and hard geopolitics. U.S. citizens have the most responsibility for this, because it's your government doing it—but Kristof and WuDunn choose not to focus on these places, skimming over them briskly. The closest they get to condemning a U.S. ally is the fragile regime of Musharraf, who was already widely criticized within elite U.S. circles and has subsequently been junked for a more pliable puppet. To assume the U.S. government could easily become a nuclear-armed Amnesty International if only its citizens would ask it more assertively is dangerously naive. It overlooks the massive structural changes that need to happen at home—like kicking America's oil addiction—before the United States can consistently support women's rights everywhere.

Even with these stains, Half the Sky—named after the Chinese proverb: "Women hold up half the sky"—remains a thrilling manifesto for advancing freedom for hundreds of millions of human beings. Yet many people who should be buying this book and supporting the women it describes are inhibited by the fear that it would be "cultural imperialism." Isn't it their culture to treat women differently? Who are we to judge?

This is historically illiterate. Cultures can change. It was the "culture" of Massachusetts to burn witches once; it was the "culture" of Alabama to enslave black people. A century ago, China was the worst place in the world to be a woman. Your feet would be bound into gnarled, bloody stumps. Often, you weren't even given a name, just called "Daughter No. 4." For all its flaws, China has left these bloody bandages far behind it. "If culture were immutable," the authors say bluntly, "Sheryl would be stumbling along on three inch feet."

This argument collapses even further into The Chasm of Lousy Excuses for Inaction when you speak to the women themselves. It wasn't Shahnaz's culture to have her face burned off or Mukhtar's to be gang raped. No—it was the culture of their oppressors. Slaves do not love their chains; women do not love to be subordinated. There is a conflict within these cultures—and we must now pick a side or sit out the great civil rights battle of our time.

Solutions and Programs to Prevent Child Marriage

Education is the most important key to helping end the practice of forced child marriages. Many believe that education may prove to be more successful in preventing child marriages than banning child marriages.

  • Education of the parents is just as important as education of the children.

    Education will broaden their horizons and will help convince parents of the benefits in having their children educated.

  • It is important to provide education involving more than reading, writing, and math.

    Teaching these young girls life skills, including reproduction and contraception information, how to have fun and how to play in sports, is proving to be a positive way to change the lives and futures of these adolescent girls.

  • By providing more educational opportunities, India has been able to cut child marriage rates by up to two-thirds.

    Girls who are able to complete primary school tend to marry later and have fewer children. Source: Chicago Tribune

The Problem of Early, Forced Marriage

By Sheri & Bob Stritof, About.com

Throughout the world, the problem of early, forced marriages of children is considered to be a violation of basic human rights. It has been estimated that 49 countries have a significant child bride problem.

Here is an overview of the problem of child brides and solutions to the issue of early marriages.

Saying No to Child Marriage

Breaking out of the tradition to marry young is difficult. These girls do not often receive support from their families to say no to marriage.

Additionally, cultural, economic, and religious aspects of the communities when they live make it nearly impossible for the girls to break free from marrying early.

The Problem of Child Brides and Forced Marriages

  • Egypt, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, India, and the Middle East: In the rural villages of these countries many young girls are rarely allowed out of their homes unless it is to work in the fields or to get married.

    These uneducated girls are often married off at the young age of 11. Some families allow girls who are only 7 years old to marry. It is very unusual for a girl to reach the age of 16 and not be married.

  • In Afghanistan , it is believed that between 60 and 80 percent of marriages are forced marriages.
  • Even though the legal age to get married in Egypt is 16, and in India and Ethiopia, the age is 18, these laws are quite often ignored.
    • England and the United States: The issue of child brides has also reached other countries such as England and the United States where secret illegal weddings are being performed.
    • The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) found in a study, Is Teen Marriage a Solution? that marriages by teens in the United States jumped tremendously in the 1990s.

      The awareness of early forced marriage and sexual abuse of young girls in the United States was increased by the April 2008 rescue of numerous children living on a ranch owned by a polygamist sect in Texas.

    United Nations Report on the Violation of Basic Human Rights of Child Brides

    According to "Factsheet: Early Marriage" (page 4), a report issued by the United Nations, these early marriage unions violate the basic human rights of these girls by putting them into a life of isolation, service, lack of education, health problems, and abuse.
    The UNICEF paper states: "UNICEF believes that, because marriage under the age of 18 may threaten a child's human rights (including the right to education, leisure, good health, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination), the best way to ensure the protection of children's rights is to set a minimum age limit of 18 for marriage.

    UNICEF is opposed to forced marriages at any age, where the notion of consent is non-existent and the views of bride or groom are ignored, particularly when those involved are under age."

    Problems Attributed to Child Marriage

    Health and Education Issues

    Poor health, early death, and lack of educational opportunities lead the list of problems attributed to child marriage.

    • Child brides have a double pregnancy death rate of women in their 20s.

    • In developing countries, the leading cause of death for young girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is early pregnancy.

    • Additionally, from having babies too young, child brides are at an extremely high risk for fistulas (vaginal and anal ruptures).
    • The babies of child brides are sicker and weaker and many do not survive childhood.

    • Child brides have a higher risk of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

    • These young girls are at an increased risk of chronic anemia and obesity.

    • Child brides have poor access to contraception.

    • These young girls have a lack of educational opportunities.

    • Being forced into an early marriage creates a lifetime of poverty.

    • Statistically, child brides have a higher risk of becoming a victim of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and murder.

    The challenge

    Marriage before the age of 18 is a reality for many young women. According to UNICEF's estimates, over 60 million women aged 20-24 were married or in union before the age of 18.

    Factors that influence child marriage rates include: The state of the country's civil registration system, which provides proof of age for children; the existence of an adequate legislative framework with an accompanying enforcement mechanism to address cases of child marriage; and the existence of customary or religious laws that condone the practice2.

    A violation of human rights

    In many parts of the world parents encourage the marriage of their daughters while they are still children in hopes that the marriage will benefit the children both financially and socially and relieve financial burdens on the family. In actuality, child marriage is a violation of human rights, compromising the girls’ development and often resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, with little education and poor vocational training reinforcing the gendered nature of poverty. The right to 'free and full' consent to a marriage is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - with the recognition that consent cannot be 'free and full' when one of the parties involved is not sufficiently mature to make an informed decision about a life partner.

    The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women mentions the right to protection from child marriage in article 16, which states: "The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage...". While marriage is not considered directly in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, child marriage is linked to other rights - such as the right to express their views freely, the right to protection from all forms of abuse, and the right to be protected from harmful traditional practices - and is frequently addressed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Other international agreements related to child marriage are the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

    Child marriage was also identified by the Pan-African Forum against the Sexual Exploitation of Children as a type of commercial sexual exploitation of children3. Young married girls are a unique, though often invisible, group. Required to perform large amounts of domestic work, under pressure to demonstrate fertility, and responsible for raising children while still children themselves, married girls and child mothers face constrained decision-making and reduced life choices. Boys are also affected by child marriage but the issue impacts girls in far larger numbers and with more intensity.

    Cohabitation -- when a couple lives together as if married -- raises the same human rights concerns as marriage. Where a girl lives with a man and takes on the role of caregiver for him, the assumption is often that she has become an adult woman, even if she has not yet reached the age of 18. Additional concerns due to the informality of the relationship -- for example, inheritance, citizenship and social recognition -- might make girls in informal unions vulnerable in different ways than those in formally recognized marriages.

    Risk factors for child marriage
    Number of women aged 20–24 who were married or in union before age 18, by region (2006)

    The literature suggests that many factors interact to place a child at risk of marriage. Poverty, protection of girls, family honour and the provision of stability during unstable social periods are considered as significant factors in determining a girl's risk of becoming married while still a child. Jenson and Thornton found little overall change in the average age at marriage for age cohorts born between 1950 and 1970 in most regions, as well as little change in the incidence of child marriage. Focusing primarily on Benin, Colombia, India and Turkey, Jenson and Thornton noted strong correlations between a woman's age at marriage and the level of education she achieves, the age at which she gives birth to her first child and the age of her husband. Women who married at younger ages were more likely to believe that it is sometimes acceptable for a husband to beat his wife and were more likely to experience domestic violence themselves. The age gap between partners is thought to contribute to these abusive power dynamics and to increase the risk of untimely widowhood, although Westoff notes that older husbands may be better providers for the household.

    Closely related to the issue of child marriage is the age at which girls become sexually active. Women who are married before the age of 18 tend to have more children than those who marry later in life. According to Bhattacharya, 97 per cent of women surveyed in India in 1992-1993 did not use any contraception before their first child was born. However, the Population Council and UNICEF found that, in Pakistan, a substantial number of young married women indicated an interest in the use of contraception in the future. Pregnancy related deaths are known to be a leading cause of mortality for both married and unmarried girls between the ages of 15 and 19, particularly among the youngest of this cohort.

    Percentage of women aged 20–24 who were married or in union before age 18, by wealth index quintile (1987–2006)

    Protection from HIV/AIDS is another reason for child marriage. Parents seek to marry off their girls to protect their health and their honour, and men often seek younger women as wives as a means to avoid infection. In some contexts, however, the evidence does not support this hypothesis and practice. Bhattacharya found that in India, 75 per cent of people living with HIV/AIDS are married10. In fact, the demand to reproduce and the stigma associated with safe-sex practices lead to very low condom use among married couples worldwide, and heterosexual married women who report monogamous sexual relationships with their husbands are increasingly becoming a high-risk group for HIV/AIDS.

    Strategies to end the practice of child marriage

    # Evidence shows that the more education a girl receives, the less likely she is to marry as a child. Improving access to education for both girls and boys and eliminating gender gaps in education are important strategies in ending the practice of child marriage. Legislative, programmatic and advocacy efforts to make education free and compulsory, as well as to expand Education for All programming beyond the primary level, are indicated by the strong significance of educational attainment in terms of reducing the number of girls who are married. Increasing the level of compulsory education may be one tactic to prolong the period of time when a girl is unavailable for marriage.

    # It is also important to capitalize on the window of opportunity created by the increasing gap in time between the onset of puberty and the time of marriage by providing substantive skills enhancing programmes and opportunities. There is a need to develop methods to protect girls at risk of child marriage and to address the concerns of girls and women who are already married by ensuring the fulfillment of their right to a full education and providing them with life skills-based training to ensure that they can earn a livelihood.

    # Efforts are also required to protect girls who are in union. Decreasing the pressure on young women to conceive through education and advocacy on the dangers of early motherhood should be considered. Similar consideration should be given to ways to improve access to effective contraceptive methods.

    # Services for survivors of domestic violence should be accessible. Outreach efforts should consider targeting women who were married before age 18 as potentially in need of assistance. Mapping child marriage levels within countries may be a useful practice for programmatic purposes when determining where to launch new prevention campaigns. It can also be used to track future progress by comparing child marriage levels at different points in time.

    # Further data collection and research is also required to explore the impact of child marriage on boys and men. The demand-and-supply relationship of child marriage should be qualitatively explored to illuminate dynamics, such as the reasons why households marry their children and why men prefer younger brides, in order to inform programming strategies.

    Source for figures: UNICEF global databases, 2007, based on MICS, DHS and other national surveys, 1987–2006.
    # UNICEF estimates based on MICS and DHS data (1986-2004).

    # UNICEF (2001), Early Marriage: Child Spouses, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.

    # Mikhail, S. (2002), 'Child marriage and child prostitution: Two forms of sexual exploitation', Gender and Development, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 43-49.

    # Jenson, R. and R. Thornton, 'Early female marriage in the developing world', Gender and Development, vol. 11, no. 2, 2003, pp. 9-19.

    # Tiemoko, R., 'The Gender Age Gap: Marriage and rights in the Côte d'Ivoire', Development, vol. 44, no. 2, 2001, pp. 104-106.

    # Westoff, C., Trends in Marriage and Early Childbearing in Developing Countries, DHS Comparative Reports No. 5, ORC Macro, Maryland, 2003.

    # Bhattacharya, G., 'Sociocultural and Behavioural Contexts of Condom Use in Heterosexual Married Couples in India: Challenges to HIV prevention programmes', Health Education & Behavior, vol. 31, no. 1, 2004, pp. 101-117.

    # Sathar, Z. et al., Adolescents and Youth in Pakistan 2001-2002: A nationally representative survey, UNICEF and Population Council, Islamabad, 2002.

    # Otoo-Oryortey, N. and S. Pobi, 'Early Marriage and Poverty: Exploring links and key policy issues', Gender and Development, vol. 11, no. 2, 2003, pp.42-51.

    # Bhattacharya, G., op. cit.

    12-year-old bride dies in labour

    12-year-old bride dies in labour
    A 12-year-old bride has died in Yemen after severe blood loss while giving birth.

    A 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labour to give birth, a local human rights organisation said.
    Fawziya Abdullah Youssef died of severe bleeding on Friday while giving birth to a stillborn in the al-Zahra district hospital of Hodeida province, 140 miles west of the capital San'a.
    Child marriages are widespread in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, where tribal customs dominate society. More than a quarter of the country's females marry before age 15, according to a recent report by the Social Affairs Ministry.
    Youssef was only 11 when her father married her to a 24-year-old man who works as a farmer in Saudi Arabia, Ahmed al-Quraishi, chairman of Siyaj human rights organisation, said.
    Mr al-Quraishi, whose group promotes child rights in Yemen, said that he stumbled upon Youssef in the hospital while investigating cases of children who had fled from the fighting in the north.
    "This is one of many cases that exist in Yemen," said Mr al-Quraishi. "The reason behind it is the lack of education and awareness, forcing many girls into marriage in this very early age."
    Impoverished parents in Yemen sometimes give away their young daughters in return for hefty dowries. There is also a long-standing tribal custom in which infant daughters and sons are promised to cousins in hopes it will protect them from illicit relationships, he said.

    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Violence against women

    Key facts:

    * Violence against women is a major public health problem and a violation of human rights.
    * A lack of access to education and opportunity, and low social status in communities are linked to violence against women.
    * Violence by an intimate partner is one of the most common forms of violence against women.
    * A wide range of physical, mental, sexual and reproductive, and maternal health problems can result from violence against women.
    * Many women do not seek help or report their experiences when violence occurs.

    The United Nations defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

    There are many forms of violence against women, including sexual, physical, or emotional abuse by an intimate partner; physical or sexual abuse by family members or others; sexual harassment and abuse by authority figures (such as teachers, police officers or employers); trafficking for forced labour or sex; and such traditional practices as forced or child marriages, dowry-related violence; and honour killings, when women are murdered in the name of family honour. Systematic sexual abuse in conflict situations is another form of violence against women.
    Scope of the problem

    * In a 10-country study on women's health and domestic violence conducted by WHO,
    o Between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner.
    o Many women said that their first sexual experience was not consensual. (24% in rural Peru, 28% in Tanzania, 30% in rural Bangladesh, and 40% in South Africa).
    o Between 4% and 12% of women reported being physically abused during pregnancy. More about the study
    * About 5,000 women are murdered by family members in the name of honour each year worldwide.
    * Trafficking of women and girls for forced labour and sex is widespread and often affects the most vulnerable.
    * Forced marriages and child marriages violate the human rights of women and girls, but they are widely practiced in many countries in Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
    * Worldwide, up to one in five women and one in 10 men report experiencing sexual abuse as children. Children who experience sexual abuse are much more likely to encounter other forms of abuse later in life.

    Health effects

    Health consequences can result directly from violent acts or from the long-term effects of violence.

    * Injuries: Physical and sexual abuse by a partner is closely associated with injuries. Violence by an intimate partner is the leading cause of non-fatal injuries to women in the USA.
    * Death: Deaths from violence against women includes honour killings (by families for cultural reasons); suicide; female infanticide (murder of infant girls); and maternal death from unsafe abortion.
    * Sexual and reproductive health: Violence against women is associated with sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, gynaecological problems, induced abortions, and adverse pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, low birth weight and fetal death.
    * Risky behaviours: Sexual abuse as a child is associated with higher rates of sexual risk-taking (such as first sex at an early age, multiple partners and unprotected sex), substance use, and additional victimization. Each of these behaviours increases risks of health problems.
    * Mental health: Violence and abuse increase risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep difficulties, eating disorders and emotional distress.
    * Physical health: Abuse can result in many health problems, including headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility, and poor overall health status.

    Social and economic costs

    The social and economic costs of violence against women are enormous and have ripple effects throughout society. Women may suffer isolation, inability to work, loss of wages, lack of participation in regular activities, and limited ability to care for themselves and their children.
    Who is at risk?

    Though risk factors vary, some characteristics seem to increase the likelihood of violence. The potential risk factors can be grouped into the following subsets.

    * Individual: Personal attributes associated with higher risk of violence include: a young age, lower socio-economic status, limited education, a history of abuse and substance use, and, for partner violence, the choice of partner. Partner traits that put women at risk include alcohol or drug use, low educational level, negative attitudes about women, and witnessing domestic violence against women or being abused as a child.
    * Family and relationship: Within families, risk of violence increases with marital conflicts, male dominance, economic stress and poor family functioning.
    * Community: Within communities, the risk is higher where there is gender inequality, and a lack of community cohesion or resources.
    * Societal: On a broader level, higher risk is found in societies with traditional gender norms or a lack of autonomy for women, and where there are restrictive laws on divorce and ownership and inheritance of property, or when there is social breakdown due to conflicts or disasters.

    Prevention and response

    More evaluation is needed to assess the effectiveness of violence prevention measures. Interventions with promising results include increasing education and opportunities for women and girls, improving their self-esteem and negotiating skills, and reducing gender inequities in communities.

    Other efforts with positive success include: work with teenagers to reduce dating violence; supportive programmes for children who have witnessed intimate partner violence; mass public education campaigns; and work with men and boys to change attitudes about gender inequities and the acceptability of violence.

    Advocacy for victims, better awareness of violence and its consequences among health workers, and wider knowledge of available resources for abused women (including legal assistance, housing and child care), can lessen the consequences of violence.
    WHO response

    WHO and partners collaborate to decrease violence against women through initiatives that help to identify, quantify and respond to the problem, including:

    * Building evidence on the scope and types of violence in different settings. This is a key step in understanding the magnitude and nature of the problem at a global level.
    * Developing guidance for Member States and health professionals to prevent violence and strengthen health sector responses to it.
    * Disseminating information to countries and supporting national efforts to advance women's rights and prevent violence.
    * Collaborating with international agencies and organizations to deter violence against women globally.

    source: who.int/mediacentre

    24 Communities Pledge to Abandon The Practice of FGC, Early/Forced Marriage

    Through the intervention of Tostan International to end the practice of female genital cutting Africa, over 24 communities in both Wuli and Sandu pledged to stop both the cultural practice of FGC(FGM), early marriage and forced marriage at a ceremony held at Sandu Dasilameh( Upper River Region-Gambia)

    In his welcoming remarks, the Alkalo of Dasilameh Kajali Danso expressed happiness over what he called historic in the history of his village. He pointed out that the Tostan intervention in his village has brought about significant changes. He thanked the participating communities for their large turnout and urged them to unite as one family.
    Mr. Bakakry Fofana a community development assistant CDA resident in the village who is also the chairman of the steering committee underscored the importance of the day for the participating communities, Tostan Unicef and the Gambia government as twenty four communities pledged to abandon the practice of female genital cutting, early marriage and force marriage. This according to the steering committee chairman is one of the greatest achievements registered so far by the rural communities; noting that it materialised after an intensive three year community empowerment program jointly implemented by Unicef, Tostan and the Gambia government, on issues of democracy and good governance, human rights and responsibilities, problem solving, health and hygeine. He pointed out that the weekly cleaning exercise initiated by the Tostan intervention and adopted communities is complementing the effort of the department of state for health. Mr. Fofana while urging communities to sustain the project activities thanked Unicef for their generous support over the years making it possible to witness such a very important ceremony in the history of The Gambia and URR in particular. He also commended the executive director of Tostan International Madam Molly including popularly called Sukaina Njie in Senegal, for her unflinching support and dedication to the empowerment of African countries which he said cannot go unrecognized.
    Speaking on behalf of the cutters Kobaye Nyabally a native of Dasilameh said she have been a cutter for nearly thirty years, since it is a cultural practice that she inherited from her parents. However according to Kobaye the practice has negative side effects on the health of young girls. She pledged to abandon the practice by dropping her knife in front of the crowd, for the sake of young girls. This she said is as a result of the knowledge gained from Tostan. She thanked the government and the Unicef for their support and urged them to expand the project to other communities in URR and beyond for the protection of the rights of the gild child.
    A woman councillor Madam Nene Darboe commended the participating communities for their commitment in abandoning a practice that she said has over the year been contributing to the poor health of women and young girl. She said the declaration is a clear manifestation that Tostan is contributing to the empowerment of the Gambian women. She urged them to expand the project to other regions as well.
    The regional health officer in URR Mr. Saikouna Sagina has commended the communities for what he called protecting the health rights of women and girls. He pointed out that the joint project is complementing the efforts of his department in various ways which he said is a step in a right direction. Mr. Sanyang noted that one is only educated, if the attitudes and behaviours are positively changed. He stated that the declaration by the twenty four communities is a clear manifestation that the knowledge gained in Tostan is impacting positively on their lives. He thanked the entire Tostan coordination for their continuous efforts and urged them to keep up the momentum.
    The declaration/proclamation was delivered by Mnsata Kanteh in Mandinka and translated by Mariama Sellu Jallow who said the twenty four Mandinka communities took a historic decision, which she said aims to reinforce the national movement for the promotion of human rights in the Gambia, in Africa and the rest of the world. She expressed gratitude towards the development partners, especially Unicef for their constant support.
    Addressing the communities, the Unicef country representative in the Gambia Madam Khang expressed happiness over what she called a great achievement in the history of the Gambia and URR. She pointed out that the objective of the joint project is to complement the efforts of the Unicef and the Gambia government in empowering the communities especially women and children. She stated that what has been manifested by the participating communities is a clear indication that the project is registering success. She urged them to internalize what has been learnt over the years by always committing themselves for the protection and promotion of human rights and democratic principles at community level. She thanked Tostan supervisors, partners and facilitators who have been working tirelessly for their hard work and dedication.
    Closing the ceremony, the Deputy Governor of URR Momodou. S. Kah said the twenty four communities deserve commendation for pledging to abandon a practice that has very negative effects on the health of the women. He said the government of the Gambia attaches great importance to community and women empowerment which he said is very crucial in any nation’s developments. He thanked Unicef for their support in funding the project and urged the government to speedy up expansion in the region and beyond.
    For the benefit of the readers, globally, an estimated 100-140 million girls and women have under gone FGC/M and more than 3 million girls will potentially go through this procedure every year within the African continent alone. It is reported to be practiced in twenty eight African counties and the Gambia is among the highest with a 78% practice rate among women 15-49 years. The practice rate is reported to be higher in URR at 99% (MICS 2005/6), which is one of the reasons for the expansion of the project and the piloting in URR. It has been linked to serious physical and mental health risks for girls and women including complications at child birth, maternal deaths, infertility, urinary infection and tetanus, amongst others.

    reorted by:By Lamin Fatty, FOROYAA news paper

    Early Marriage is a Harmful Traditional Practice

    Early marriage refers to any marriage of a child younger than 18 years old, in accordance to Article 1 of the Convention on the Right of the Child. While child marriage affects both sexes, girls are disproportionately affected as they are the majority of the victims. Their overall development is compromised, leaving them socially isolated with little education, skills and opportunities for employment and self-realization. This leaves child brides more vulnerable to poverty, a consequence of child marriage as well as a cause.

    Child marriage is now widely recognized as a violation of children's rights, a direct form of discrimination against the girl child who as a result of the practice is often deprived of her basic rights to health, education, development and equality. Tradition, religion and poverty continue to fuel the practice of child marriage, despite its strong association with adverse reproductive health outcomes and the lack of education of girls.

    Early/Child marriage is a violation of human rights, compromising the development of girls and often resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation. Young married girls face onerous domestic burdens, constrained decision-making and reduced life choices. There are numerous detrimental consequences associated with Child marriage, with physical, developmental, psychological and social implications.

    When a young teenager is married she is likely to be forced into sexual activity with her husband, and at an age where she is not physically and sexually mature this has severe health consequences. they are likely to become pregnant at an early age and there is a strong correlation between the age of a mother and maternal mortality. Young mothers face higher risks during pregnancies including complications such as heavy bleeding, fistula, infection, anaemia, and eclampsia which contribute to higher mortality rates of both mother and child. At a young age a girl has not developed fully and her body may strain under the effort of child birth, which can result in obstructed labour and obstetric fistula. Obstetric fistula can also be caused by the early sexual relations associated with child marriage, which take place sometimes even before menarche.

    Being young and female in Africa is a major risk factor for infection and young girls are being infected at a considerably disproportional rate to that of boys. Whilst early marriages are sometimes seen by parents as a mechanism for protecting their daughters from HIV/AIDS, future husbands may already be infected from previous sexual encounters; a risk which is particularly acute for girls with older husbands.

    It also has considerable implications for the social development of the girl child , in terms of low levels of education, poor health and lack of agency and personal autonomy.Whilst girls in our communities are already less likely to go to attend school than boys, particularly in poorer households, the non-education of the girl child is a problem compounded by early marriage. Large numbers of the girls who drop out of school do so because of early marriage, leaving many women who married early illiterate. lack of education also means that young brides often lack knowledge about sexual relations, their bodies and reproduction, exacerbated by the cultural silence surrounding these subjects.This denies the girl the ability to make informed decisions about sexual relations, planning a family, and her health, yet another example of their lives in which they have no control.The cyclical nature of early marriage results in a likely low level of education and life skills, increased vulnerability to abuse and poor health, and therefore acute poverty.

    Women who marry early are more likely to suffer abuse and violence, with inevitable psychological as well as physical consequences. women who marry at young ages are more likely to believe that it is sometimes acceptable for a husband to beat his wife, and are therefore more likely to experience domestic violence themselves. Abuse is sometimes perpetrated by the husband's family as well as the husband himself, and girls that enter families as a bride often become domestic slaves for the in-laws

    We need to outline strategies to help those who have been married at an early age, and for the prevention of early marriage through education, advocacy and alliance-building.

    Most early marriages are considered to be forced which is true but children entering into an early marriage out of choice should also be warned of various personal and health issues that can complicate their lives forever.

    Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.