Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014
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INTERNATIONAL DAY ON THE ELEMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN PDF Print E-mail
Written by GAMCOTRAP   
Monday, 01 December 2014 16:49

 

 

Speech delivered on the Occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Organised by

the Delegation of the European Union and UN Organisations in Banjul,

by Dr Isatou Touray, Executive Director, GAMCOTRAP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L-R: Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray amongst panelists on

International Day against Violence Against Women 2014 at Ebunjan Theatre, Kanifing.

 

As we celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, I would like to take this opportunityto urge all of us to reflect on the many abuses that women are subjected to every second of every day.

Allow me to put this in perspective. I was asked to speak for five minutes, and I regret to say that, during these five minutes, at least five women will die in childbirth resulting from reproductive health complications, some of which are caused byfemale genital mutilation. Multiple women face assault every second, so while I speak, more than 300 women will experience some form of sexual or gender-based violence. Women and girls will be raped, girls will continue to be mutilated, and children will be married off, depriving them of a valued education. Many women are denied their rights and their illiteracy makes them even more vulnerable.

I just spent eight days in the most remote areas of the Upper River Region of the Gambia and what I witnessed was deplorable. I would like to focus on three of these issues today.

First, FGM:More than 133 million girls and women have experienced some form of FGM in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common. Beyond extreme physical and psychological pain, girls who undergo FGM are at risk of prolonged bleeding, infection, infertility, complications during childbirth, and at times death. This is especially evident in the Gambia, where there is no law to protect these girls and where efforts to eradicate this practice rest on the shoulders of a few NGOs in the country. I met a circumciser in Sabi Koromba who has circumcised 100 infants. In explaining her procedure, she says she removes the entire clitoris because she believes that, with it in tact, women are incapable of having sexual intercourse. She removes the labia minora because she is under the impression that they cause men extreme pain.And she seals these children to prevent promiscuity. The sexual and reproductive health of our girl children is in the hands of people who lack the basic knowledge of its anatomy and physiology and who feel that the practice must continue just to fulfill the man’s desires. It is crucial that we give due attention to this issue, as there is need for more informationon the impact of this practice, not just on the woman but on the family, community, society and the country at large. The state must take its responsibility to protect the girl-child from such a degrading and inhumane practice.

Second, early marriage:Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children. More than one in three—or some 250 million—were married before 15 years old.I saw so much of this in the villages of URR. Countless girls who were forced to marry and stripped of even the possibility of getting a basic education.Is this really what we are accepting for our children? That they are deprived of quality education and spend their lives being dependent on a likely abusive husband?  That they are sexually violated? Thatthey are unable to negotiate sex, leaving them highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and assault? That they are at a much greater risk of problems during pregnancy and childbirth because they are not physically mature enough to give birth? We must work tirelessly to empower our girls! We must live up to our obligations to protect the girl-child.

Finally, rape: Despite our efforts, it seems as if rape is as rampant as ever, if not more. Rape in marriage, rape of children, rape by men who are supposed to protect victims of such atrocities.Young girls are raped and this is justified by men who claim it is okay because she is his wife. What kind of world do we live in, where culture is used to justify this act, victims are punished and perpetrators go about as if nothing even happened? Is this not impunity?

We must stand up to these injustices. We cannot stand by with indifference as women in this country are treated as property, as they are degraded and tortured. It is also crucial for us to remember our counterparts in the rural areas who continuously live under threats, fear, physical, mental and psychological abuses and continue to see it as destiny.

Colleagues, it is crucial that we treat every day as a day to eliminate violence against women in order to uphold women and children’s rights; in order to protect this nation’s greatest resource; and in order for gender equality to be meaningful. We must do so in the name of acquiring human rights for everyone and in the name of sustainable development for the Gambia.  I urge all of us to commit ourselves to a revolution. My revolution is, until FGM ends, I will continue to raise my voice to raise awareness about the harmful effects of FGM.

In conclusion, I urge all of us to please raise our voices during this campaign and raise awareness about the devastating impact of violence against women in the Gambia.

My mind harkens back to the incredible women who led the way for equal rights for women and I urge my fellow women’s rights champions, men and women tocontinue this work and say no to violence.

 

Thank You

 

Last Updated on Monday, 01 December 2014 17:06
 
Women Leaders in Kombo Central and Kombo East reached consensus to protect their girls from FGM PDF Print E-mail
Written by GAMCOTRAP   
Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:48

 

 

Women Leaders in Kombo Central and Kombo East reached consensus to protect their girls from FGM

Participants from a series of three days workshops with women leaders from the Kombos in the West Coast Region came to consensus to end FGM and protect girls from Harmful Traditional practices. The three days reached women leaders from Brikama Sateba Cluster Kabillos, Kabafita Cluster Kabilos and Kombo East district. The workshops held in Brikama and Giboro Kuta respectively are part of the Save the Children funded 2014 project activities to end Female Genital Mutilation.

 

In his speech, the Alkalo of Giboro Kuta, Sherrif Jatta, welcomed GAMCOTRAP to his village and thanked them for hosting Kombo East Women leaders in his community. The Imam of the village, Muhammed Njie led the opening prayers. In solidarity to his colleague, the Alkalo of Pirang Berending, Maline Touray advised the participants to listen and share the information. He said FGM is not about religion but a problem women and girls are facing and finally prayed for peace and harmony in the country.

Speaking earlier at Brikama, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray said research has affirmed the negative effects FGM has on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. She noted that despite challenges, she is optimistic about the progress being made in the Kombos and urged the women to educate the girls rather than subject them to harmful traditional practices.

The resource person on Religion, Oustass Muhammad Sanuwo told participants that FGM is not an obligation on Muslim women nor has it been the examples from the family of the Prophet SAW. He informed them that FGM is not a requirement for spiritual cleanliness of a Muslim woman. Sanuwo further clarified that it is wrong for people to deny women sexual pleasure by subjecting them to FGM and said it is Allah who determines how much pleasure to give to people. He called on them to instill God fearing attitudes in their children to prevent them from engaging in wrong doings.

Participants were also exposed to dynamism of culture, the four principles of children’s rights, Women rights and Gender Based violence and the effects of FGM on sexual and reproductive health and rights. There was a call on the government to enact a law to prohibit FGM because it affects the health and rights of women and girls.

Prepared by GAMCOTRAP

September 2014

 

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 11:48
 
NED LET THE FIGURES SPEAK FOR WOMEN IN GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP PDF Print E-mail
Written by GAMCOTRAP   
Tuesday, 24 June 2014 13:10

 

 

NEWS UPDATE

LET THE FIGURES SPEAK FOR WOMEN IN GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP

The mass representation of women in ‘Ashobis’ during public gatherings, having the first female Vice President and Minister of Women’s Affairs, a few female cabinet ministers and a few female parliamentarians give an assumption that women are fairly represented in governance and leadership in the Gambia. Thus the question what more do women want? This question tends to silence the critical minds that say “let the figures speak for women”. It is under this backdrop that the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices affecting the Health of Women and Children – GAMCOTRAP in partnership with the National Endowment for Democracy – NED brought together women and men from different political parties in the Gambia to engage in the discussion the theme: “Women’s participation in Governance and Leadership”. For the first three days, the discussions were held in series of workshops for women from various political parties in the Kanifing Municipality, Kombos of the West Coast Region and Banjul. The fourth day witnessed a consultation with key party representatives from various political parties.

Women participate in governance and leadership workshops

The first elected female politician in the Gambia, Honourable Nyimasatta Sanneh chairing the workshops, said Gambian women cannot continue to rely on the Gambian President’s gesture of nominating women to the National Assembly because the Constitution limits how many he can nominate. She called on both men and women to realise that there is need for more women to be voted so as to have a high representation in the Parliament. Honourable Nyimasatta Sanneh shared her experience during the first regime when she was the only female in parliament and had to talk to only men during her early years. She underscored the importance of the meetings which she noted will increase awareness and empower women will be elected to the National Assembly.

Experts in various fields engage in Women’s Political participation in governance and Leadership

The discussions were led by various experts in their relevant fields, engaged on the legal Context of Women’s Rights to political participation in governance and leadership, Case study on Women’s Political participation, Importance of Women’s Political participation in promotion Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, Role of National Council for Civic Education to Promote Women’s Political Participation in Governance and Leadership, Gender Issues in the promotion of Women’s Political Participation in governance and Leadership, Role of Media in the promotion of Women’s Political Participation in Governance and Leadership. The discussions amongst the participants revealed the need for more women representations and spelt out challenges for effective participation of women in governance and leadership. Amongst the issues raised during the three days specifically targeted to women in political parties, was that educated women shy away from partisan politics, women in opposition parties are intimidated by the arrest of opposition militants, limited financial support to effectively engage in raising awareness for women’s effective participation in politics, women lack resources to campaign for election, and limited access to the media among others.

Lawyer Sagarr Jahateh informed the participants that women have the right to participate in politics because of the constitutional provisions, international and regional commitments the Gambia has undertaken to promote women in governance and leadership.

Amie Sillah in her discussion on Women’s Political participation presented facts and figures that indicated that while there is 30% representation in the Cabinet, only 9% of the National Assembly is female and only 5 (representing 0.26 %) of the 1873 village heads (Alkalolu) are women. There is no female chief or governor in the Gambia.

Mary Small noted that awareness on sexual and reproductive health issues is important for representatives to take appropriate legislative measures to safe guard the rights of women and children against practices such as female genital mutilation and early/forced marriage. She enlightened participants on how practices such as FGM, early marriage, rape, sexual abuse undermine the dignity of women and girls in particular.

In her analysis, the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray emphasized the importance of women to be educated so as to have them in the top positions where decisions on policy issues are taken such as the National Assembly. She emphasised that women community mobilizers and leaders also have important roles to play in the political arena but should not be deceived that they should vie for Parliamentary seats if they cannot read and write. She noted that the political landscape is not yet enabling for uneducated women to participate effectively and influence positive policies for women in parliament, because the criteria for the different leadership positions in governance are specified in the relevant national documents. These criteria are reverted to when the chips are down despite the fact that these women have been involved in politics and have something to offer. She appreciated the women mobilisers for their strength and powers and told them that “you can influence policy through your support to educated women and men you trust to represent you”. She underscored the relevance of numbers and called on women to recognize their strengths and advocate for their common agenda to increase the number of women in decision making positions. The social perceptions, religious misinterpretations and the economic status promote patriarchal principles that are entrenched in social structures and institutions that hinder women’s effective participation were discussed. She encouraged the women to reflect and analyse their situation and poor status and to make efforts to address them by improving on female representations at all levels of politics and governance.

National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) officer, Mr. Kebba Jobe shared the relevant Constitutional provisions that empowers his office to do Civic education and appreciates the efforts undertaken by GAMCOTRAP to raise more awareness about women’s participation in the political processes. He noted that women have equal rights to participate effectively in politics and called on all the political parties to consider the gender dimensions when selecting representatives in their various structures to increase the number of women in the various structures at all levels. He also called for tolerance, positive attitudes and perceptions towards women so as to encourage them to participation in governance and leadership.

The IEC Coordinator Mrs. Amie Bojang Sissoho, discussed how the media could be used to promote the image of women.

Participants at Consultation meeting at KMC Hall

During the workshop with key political party representatives, it was reiterated that if women are not well represented in decision making positions, there can be no transformation in the political processes. It was noted that women cannot be divided on rural/urban lines but to appreciate the roles of different women with regards to their strength and ability in mobilising for change. It was noted that while all women have a role to play people should recognise and appreciate the comparative advantages they have to make effective change. There was an appeal for relevant institutions and structures to respect the aspiration of women, to improve the number of women in parliament and other decision making positions. The women noted that the under representation of women in Parliament and key decision making positions have resulted to bills or laws prepared to advance the rights of women are subjected to scrutiny resulting to expunging the real essence of the documents.

Hence the need to promote gender equality and get more women into parliament where laws are?? made or passed for national development. Amongst the recommendations made were to have an ‘all parties’ forum for women and to advocate for the UN call for at least the 30% quota systems in their political parties when identifying aspirants for the various elections both at local and national levels. This will be in line with section 15 (1) of the Women’s Act 2010, which calls for temporary special measures in favour of women, “ Every organ, body, public institution, authority or private enterprise shall adopt temporary special measures as set out in this Act aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women.” They called for intensive Civic Education in raising gender consciousness regarding women and leadership through community (“bantaba”) meetings and use of the national media in particular. The important role of the media to promote positive portrayal of women aspirants and politicians as well as gender stereotypes and misconceptions about women taking leadership in public institutions were highlighted, as well as promotion of peace in politics and respect of opposing views. It was stated that having different partisan affiliation is a Constitutional right and should not create enmity amongst women in particular.

That educated women should come out of their comfort zones and present themselves to engage in electoral politics and not wait to be offered positions. All the women noted with appreciation that bringing all the political parties and creating the inter-face between them was towards the right direction in advancing the effective participation of women in governance and leadership positions. They also appreciated the support of the “men who care” and noted that both men and women can be leaders.

Prepared by GAMCORAP

April 2014

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 13:40
 
GAMCOTRAP ENGAGES WITH THE LIVED REALITIES OF RURAL WOMEN PDF Print E-mail
Written by GAMCOTRAP   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 16:30

 

 

 

 

GAMCOTRAP Engages with the Lived Realities of Rural Women

Nine hundred women and religious leaders in the Upper River, Central River and Lower River Regions are targeted to increase awareness on the lived realities of rural women within the context of QIWAMAH AND WILAYAH. The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP), funded by The Tides Foundation, through the New Field Foundation will build the capacity of a critical mass of male and female religious leaders, women leaders and women of reproductive age in the rural areas to foster exchange of experience and mutual support of women’s rights and justice within their communities. This is within the context of the project entitled "Increasing Awareness and Documentation of Women's Rights Issues on the Life Stories on Qiwamah and Wilayah in Three Districts of Rural Gambia." The project is specifically targeting 450 religious scholars and 450 women.

In 2012, GAMCOTRAP as a member of MUSAWAH, a global movement to promote Equality and Justice in the Muslim family undertook a research project on the lived realities of thirteen Gambian women within the context of QIWAMAH and WILAYAH (QIWI). While QIWAMAH and WILAYAH are contextualized as legal responsibilities of men providing protection and upkeep of the family, the data collected from the lived realities of the women revealed different narratives.

The data collected, revealed how women struggled in their daily lives to survive and support their families irrespective of whether the husband is alive or dead, or whether he is around or travelled or whether divorced or inherited. This is irrespective of geographical location, educational background, age or status. The high illiteracy rate among women, the prevalent rate of violence on women, and the strong adherence of deep-rooted culture and traditional practices exacerbate the problem. These coupled with women’s limited knowledge about their rights in their religion all have negative impact on women’s health and livelihood.

This is the main aim of the project sharing experiences and providing evidences of how QIWI concepts actually acts out or manifest for Muslim women in the Gambia. The voices of the thirteen (13) respondents have been developed into a video documentary and a booklet funded by New Field Foundation. These will be used as resource materials to raise the awareness of women, religious and Islamic scholars to effect change. The resource materials will be widely disseminated for people to appreciate what women experience. It will also serve as resource material for feminist analysis within the framework of Islam and Human Rights of women.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 July 2014 16:34
 
CELEBRATING ZAINAH PDF Print E-mail
Written by GAMCOTRAP   
Thursday, 19 June 2014 14:45

 

 

 

A Letter to Zai, A Muslim Feminist and Activist

Dear Zainah Anwar,

As you celebrate your birthday in April, allow GAMCOTRAP to seize the opportunity to share your story with the world. It was in 1987 when you and some like-minded people challenged the global perception that Muslim Women cannot enjoy their basic human rights, thus establishing a now well recognized and respected organization Sisters in Islam- SIS. In less than a decade, this influence brought birth to yet another global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family - MUSAWAH. This is important because the dominant perception that the life of Muslim women can only be within the private space yet that space is muzzled with patriarchal interpretations of Islam and control over women. Your leadership has contributed to the struggle in search of the alternative voices for us within and outside of Islam. More Muslim women have gained cognizant that a religion that calls for peace, unity and respect for humanity cannot undermine its own people based on gender or sex.

Your leadership has contributed to challenging the notions of violence against women justified in the name of Islam. Today, MUSAWAH Advocates throughout the world, have learned from your courage and motivation to understand Women’s Rights in Islam from the lived realities of women perspectives as well as contextualized the text within the lived realities of Muslim Women.

Thus, Muslim women today have the ability and courage to question such patriarchal interpretation of Islam. Indeed you were right to say,

It’s as if in Islam, women don’t have any rights at all. One woman asked, if the house were on fire, would she then have to seek her husband’s permission to flee! Women cannot even use their common sense to save their (own) lives. This cannot be Islam. God is just. Islam is just.”

It is not by chance that the French government awards you its highest award, the “Legion of Honour”. It is with pride and indeed real honour that GAMCOTRAP joins the rest of the MUSAWAH advocates to celebrate this award and many of your great achievements in bringing women’s rights in Islam in the forefront of the global debate. You made us realize that we can have it all, be a Muslim, Feminist and Activist at the same time because they are compatible, we don’t have to choose one or the other.

GAMCOTRAP celebrates and congratulate you for boosting the image of all Muslim women. Thank you for everything you have given to humanity and particularly to women.


With Much love,

From GAMCOTRAP

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 15:01
 
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