Thursday, October 1, 2009

NAMs, others sensitised on harmful traditional practises

In a bid to create awareness on harmful traditional practices affecting women and children, The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP), last Tuesday, held a day’s sensitisation workshop for parliamentarians, members of the judiciary and security personnel, at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.

The one-day knowledge sharing session, organised by the GAMCOTRAP in collaboration with ‘No Peace Without Justice’, was, among other things, meant to discuss the effects of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on women and children’s sexual and reproductive health. It was also meant to share knowledge and strategies with other countries that have legislated against FGM, as well as to work towards a law against FGM.

This national forum is the third in a series of sensitisation campaigns organised by GAMCOTRAP for the country’s security apparatus, civil society groups as well as regional chiefs. In her introductory remarks, Dr Isatou Touray, the executive director, GAMCOTRAP, disclosed that her organisation is a women’s rights NGO that promotes women’s social, political, economic and cultural rights. "We also focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as create awareness on traditional practises and aim at preservation of beneficial practises as well as the elimination of harmful traditional practises that are inimical to the health and well being of women and children," she said.

Dr Touray further emphasised that the workshop was yet another milestone achieved in partnership with the government and the National Assembly of The Gambia. For her part, Alvilda Jablonka, the ‘No Peace without Justice’ programme officer on FGM, said the forum is crucial as they are about to dicuss vital issues to ensure that women and children no longer suffer the scourge of FGM. According to her, her organisation, "No Peace Without Justice’ started work on Female Genital Mutilation with a joint campaign for the adoption and ratification of the African Union Proctocol on the Right of Women in Africa, which is also called the ‘Maputo Protocol’. This, she added, in its article 5, explicitly called on states to work towards the elimination of FGM.

In her opening remarks, on behalf of the minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Mariatou Jallow, the assistant director, Family Health at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Ramou Cole Ceesay said that The Gambia government is committed to the promotion of women and girls’ health and in particular, their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Thus, she said, The Gambia, like other UN member states, has signed and ratified a number of international conventions and declarations to protect women and children, among them CEDAW, CRC, ICPD POA, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol.

"Article 5 of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) calls for enacting supportive legislation. To this end, government and development partners as well as stakeholders have developed policies to incorporate the component of the international conference on population and development, which also includes harmful traditional practices afftecing maternal and child health such as FGM, early marriage, and nutritional taboos among others," she said.

The advocacy strategies and social mobilisation processes undertaken by GAMCOTRAP with support from other stakeholders over the years, according to the Health and Social Welfare minister, have increased the level of awareness of the health effects of FGM and early marriage in particular. "Every year ,women die of complications associated with child birth and some of the contributing factors are related to effects of the traditional beliefs and practices that are deeply rooted in communities," she added.

source: daily observer

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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.