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Friday, 19 April 2013 14:32

 

Greatness manifests itself in many ways. It could be a gesture of kindness, respect and dedication to duty when you expect nothing in return. The campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation has not been an easy or smooth ride..............

 

Dr. Isatou Touray


 


CITATIONS

4th DROPPING OF THE KNIFE CELEBRATION

HELD AT WASSU,

NIANI DISTRICT

CENTRAL REGION NORTH

13th APRIL, 2013

Introduction

Greatness manifests itself in many ways. It could be a gesture of kindness, respect and dedication to duty when you expect nothing in return. The campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation has not been an easy or smooth ride. It requires courage and support to engage and convince 30 Circumcisers and 336 Communities to take a decision to protect girls from Female Genital Mutilation. There is a Mandinka saying “Ining bara buka bata bundi bari aka dokula jusoola le” basically means ‘saying well done to a person for a job well done does not relieve the person from fatigue but it makes the person feel good.’

On behalf of the Board of Directors, Staff and Volunteers, I would like to thanks everybody for believing in the cause to protect the rights of women and children and in particular the campaign to eliminate FGM in the Gambia and in CRR-North in particular. So many people have done so much and so well for the success being celebrated at the 4th Dropping of the Knife celebration in the historic town of Wassu in Niani District of the Central River Region North. One thing they all have in common is the personal responsibility they have taken in their own field and within their ability to contribute to making a difference to the protection of girls from FGM. For the nationals being cited here, it is because they have taken a bold step in leading change in their communities or have realized that the people cannot change without information and dialogue and the

media is crucial in that process of reaching the masses. The media echoed the voices against FGM from the communities to the wider society.   To the friends of GAMCOTRAP who appreciate the work we do, we say thank you for caring and giving all the moral support as well as sharing our work with the wider world. It is with pride and honour to express our appreciation and to award you for your dedication.

For this event the following people will be recognised for their efforts and contribution in the advocacy for the elimination of female genital mutilation in the Gambia

Madam Nyimansata Sanneh

Madam Rose Gakuba

Mr. Momodou Keita

Aja Babung Sidibeh

Mr. Ebrima Jobarteh

Proffessor Sylvia Chant

Mr. Abdurahman Sallah

Madam Carol Blell

Citation on Honourble Nyimasata Sanneh

at the 4th Dropping of the Knife Celebration in the Gambia

She chaired the first ever Dropping of the knife in the Gambia in 2007. She did it again in 2009 and in 2011. At the age of 72 years, Honourable Nyimasata Sanneh is in the midst of thousands of people again celebrating the 4th Dropping of the Knife celebration to protect girls from Female Genital Mutilation and other Harmful Traditional Practices. Who is Nyimasata Sanneh?

Aja Nyimasata Sanneh, born to parents from the heart of the  Kombos - Brufut and Sukuta Sabiji, was one of the lead organizers of FGM in her communities. A practice she believed was grounded in religion. With knowledge she was empowered to say No to FGM. Nyimasata as a young woman briefly worked as a nurse, as well as an educationist and later a politician, holding many portfolios, including the Minister of Health. Honourable Nyimasata Sanneh took a strong stand against FGM shaking off the cultural feathers she had.

Aunty Nyima, as she is fondly called, is a board member of GAMCOTRAP and has been leading the campaign to end FGM in the Gambia. Honourable Sanneh is very astute and courageous in standing up for her beliefs. When she learnt about the impact of FGM on women and girls, she was determined to fight the wrong by openly joining GAMCOTRAP in its mission to protect women and children’s rights in general and FGM in particular. Being the first female political leader who earned her seat to the Parliament through the ballot box, Honourable Sanneh is an inspiration for women in leadership positions. She led GAMCOTRAP in a ground breaking project to promote the participation of women in Politics and Decision Making in 2008.

Honourable Sanneh built her career by briefly joining the nursing profession as a young woman but quickly moved on to the teaching field. She started as an unqualified teacher but with determination she later qualified and taught in different schools in the Kombos and in the North Bank Region and rose to the position of head teacher.

Being one of the rare role models at the time, especially from her Mandinka ethnic group, young Nyimasata engaged with the local social structures and became part of the peer group - “fulang kafo”. This availed her opportunity to sensitize her peers and encouraged them to engage into meaningful and gainful activities. As Public Relations Officer of the Women’s Bureau in the 1980s; she organized, sensitized and mobilized women to participate in all spheres of nation building.

She was amongst the many who initially thought that if a girl did not go through FGM, she will not be a good Muslim. This perception changed when she learnt the effects the practice has on women and girls. Her commitment to change earned her membership in the board of Directors of GAMCOTRAP and has served from 2006 to date. Honourable Sanneh chaired many GAMCOTRAP public events including the Dropping of the Knife celebrations held since 2007.

May you continue to be blessed in your striving to better the lives of Gambian women and children.

 

 

Madam Rose Gakuba

“A Woman of Great Vision for Women’s Development”

Mrs. Rose Gakuba a woman who has started her work with the UN System with various responsibilities has risen to the top to make a great impact in the lives of the vulnerable groups in the world. Her experience working with UNFPA has taken her through a journey of improving the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women in the world. She has placed UNFPA in the forefront of Development with regards to issues of Reproductive health, particularly women’s health and well being as well as children. She had lived the mantra of UNFPA: “Delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled”. Thus she has made many valuable contributions through her administration as Country Representative to all her countries of postings such as Liberia and The Gambia just to name a few.

She believes in justice and has not taken Justice for granted and that makes it difficult for people who defend the rights of others to accept any form of injustice. This is embedded in the strong and pleasant personality she possesses in pushing the agenda for positive development on matters of sexuality which always evokes sensitivities. Even though, the retired UNFPA Country Representative was based in the Senegalese capital Dakar, Mrs. Rose Gakuba visits the Gambia as frequently as possible to support the Government of the Gambia and UNFPA Country Office which were under her direct mandate.

In 2012 Mrs. Gakuba took the bold decision to raise the profile of GAMCOTRAP in-country on merit that the organisation has what it takes to be an Implementing Partner with UNFPA. This is because, as a sub-recipient of the UNFPA support through other institutions, the organization has proven its capability to plan, implement and report on activities with reliable results despite numerous challenges to reach out on gender and cultural issues which evokes sensitivity especially in eliminating FGM in one generation.

Her openness was manifested when she received GAMCOTRAP Executive Director and her team with humility and respect in her Dakar office. She commented “we engaged as sisters in a struggle to make a difference in the lives of women and children”. She gives credit to where it belongs and this she manifested when she identified GAMCOTRAP’s Cluster Approach as one of the strategies to addressing cultural norms such as FGM, Early marriage and violence against women.

The Rwandan born Gakuba’s attitude to work gave her recognition and respect in many other African countries where she rendered her services including Liberia, one of Africa’s prides in the call for women’s leadership. Her Excellency, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a letter of appreciation to Mrs Gakuba at the end of her tour of Office in August 2009 wrote “The support to Liberia is being felt at the very fabric of our Communities for which we are deeply grateful. Were we to catalogue all of your assistance, we would note that UNFPA played a significant role in our reconstruction during your incumbency.

Indeed, history repeated itself when the Gambia was lucky to get Mrs Rose Gakuba as the Country Representative based in Dakar, overseeing the Gambia. Her commitment to promote and improve the health and development of Gambian society is clearly evident not only with government projects but also within the Non-State actors of the Gambia. UNFPA partnership with GAMCOTRAP in 2012 in particular have benefitted from her leadership and vision in promoting the fight against harmful traditional practices such as FGM, Early marriage and violence against women. This has contributed significantly to the awareness of communities and Circumcisers in the Central River Region North to protect their girls from Female Genital Mutilation – FGM. This success has resulted to the 4th Dropping of the Knife in the Gambia in which 30 circumcisers and 336 Communities will celebrate the Dropping of the Knife in the Region in 2013.

Her engagement with the UN System has revealed her leadership quality which saw her through to overcome a lot of hurdles in serving the various units of the UN system. Mrs. Gakuba’s experience and management principles saw her rise to the position of Country Representative in different countries before her retirement in December 2012. Indeed, she has moved UNFPA Gambia office to another level of providing valuable services to the people which was appreciated at the farewell dinner to celebrate her good will prior to her departure. It was not an easy hurdle to overcome, but she has proven that once there is determination and the will, it is possible to effect positive change with the right institutions.

As GAMCOTRAP celebrates the 4th Dropping of the Knife in the Central River Region North, the Women’s rights activists cannot but remember the positive contributions of Mrs. Rose Gakuba. She believed and trusted the capacity and ability of GAMCOTRAP and supported its work to eliminate FGM in the Gambia. This has contributed to the acceleration of the abandonment of FGM in one generation. By giving GAMCOTRAP this opportunity, the organisation was able to reach out to the region with a culturally responsive approach resulting in 30 Circumcisers and 336 Communities under the leadership of their District Chiefs making public declaration on their position to protect girls from FGM. It is fitting to remember the many players who are often not on the frontline but who significantly facilitated for the realization of the results being celebrated. The UNFPA country office in the Gambia has been in partnership with GAMCOTRAP and through them this opportunity came.

Mrs. Gakuba, as you enjoy your retirement, GAMCOTRAP has one more event to add to your feathers by supporting our work in the eradication of FGM in the CRR North. Bravo for standing for the truth and giving support to those who deserve it. Indeed, with the support of your staff in the Gambia Office, UNFPA has taken leadership in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation in the Central River Region North.

GAMCOTRAP celebrates you!!

May you live to enjoy your successes.


Citation on Momodou Keita

Community Based Facilitation and Regional Coordinator of GAMCOTRAP

Dokeh, Niani District

on the occasion of the 4th Dropping of the Knife

He was one of the two men sitting with a group of women teaching them how to read and write in the local language. GAMCOTRAP was out to look for a possible local partner to launch its campaign to eradicate FGM in the CRRN. When we introduced ourselves and the work we do, his response was positive towards GAMCOTRAP and since then the relationship grew from strength to strength. He is full of humour but knows when to strike for business. He became part of GAMCOTRAP and benefitted from trainings we did for Community Based Facilitators where all of them were certificated to engage in the advocacy to end FGM in the region. His commitment and hard work earned him the position of Regional Coordinator of GAMCOTRAP and responsible for coordinating the activities of 39 Community Based Facilitators in the Central River Region North of the Gambia.

Momodou Keita is versatile and very had working. His ability to speak Mandinka, Fula, and Wollof makes him an asset to GAMCOTRAP and the whole of Niani District. Keita as he is widely called has worked with several organizations and a community organizer. His knowledge of the Central River Region North makes it possible for GAMCOTRAP to trek with him to different parts of the Region. On one of the trips to Ngunta Kunno, it was impossible for a first time traveller to comprehend that the route taken from Wassu actually led to settlements. When he was asked whether he was sure that was the road, he laughed and said “ I am from Niani and I know it is the only road”.

Momodou Keita’s dedication to work means he travels to monitor communities under his jurisdiction, and he is constantly communicating with GAMCOTRAP to ensure that he is passing the right information. He commands trust, confidence and respect amongst his people and gives reassurance that the people have taken ownership of this campaign to protect their girls from FGM. Indeed this event would not have happened without the support and guidance of Momodou Keita who sleeps in any village to move the agenda of eliminating FGM and making sure that participants come from all over to engage in the Training and Information Campaigns of GAMCOTRAP.

We thank you for the great sacrifices you have made for your region and its people to promote their health and well being, particularly that of the girl-child.


Citation on Aja Babung Sidibeh

at the 4th Dropping of the Knife Celebration in the Gambia

Janjanbureh, a historic town and administrative head of the Central River Region, is the home of a cultural protagonist and well known women’s leader, Aja Babung Sidibeh. Aja Babung is very influential and she is well respected not only in Janjanbureh but beyond its borders. She plays a lot of roles and has been given a lot of responsibilities; one of which is to serve as leader of the gender based violence committee in CRR. Her leadership expands beyond the historic Island of Janjanbureh to the national Level. Apart from her political leadership, Aja Babung served as National Women’s Councillor, an advisory body on issues affecting women to influence policies under the national Women’s Bureau promoting the socio- economic and political rights of Gambian women and girls. Having interacted with GAMCOTRAP through its intervention in the region to eliminate FGM, she has been honoured as surrogate mother to the organization.

In July 2012, it came to GAMCOTRAP’s attention that girls were circumcised in Janjanbureh and two of them were in serious condition. Further enquiries led us to the FGM protagonist (Ngansingba), Aja Babung Sidibeh who initiated and celebrated FGM in grand style. With genuine leadership in all aspect of life of her people, it was a social duty to continue the legacy her older generation left.

However, after discussing the issues of FGM with Aja Babung, little did we all know that it was a blessing in disguise for the protection of a future generation of girls. The power of knowledge had to shift the whole paradigm and Aja Babung took the bold decision to forego FGM and to protect future generation of girls from the aged old practice.

After a series of consultation with GAMCOTRAP staff, she was finally convinced to attend a training on FGM in Janjanbureh. By the end of the three days, Aja Babung could not hold back her tears of regret. GAMCOTRAP’s surrogate mother said “... I am committed to the cause and now join GAMCOTRAP to protect girls and women and there is no turning back... I have no prejudice against GAMCOTRAP” and she continued to attend subsequent trainings and openly advocated against the practice.

Thereon Aja Babung vowed to support the campaign and here we are today. She took the lead amongst the 30 Circumcisers of the Central River Region North in the 1st ever Public declaration in their region to demonstrate their commitment to uphold the knowledge gained not only through awareness creation, but has also through honest leadership to pave the way for change to save the lives of innocent little girls, who will forever be grateful for her decision.

Her leadership within her community and larger society is recognized and she is empowered to embrace the positive practices that are gendered to advance the rights and health of women and girl-children in The Gambia.

GAMCOTRAP salutes you and prayed for Allah to bless you with more years to live.

Citation on Ebrima Jobarteh

at the 4th Dropping of the Knife Celebration in the Gambia

Ebrima Jobarteh is a producer at Brikamaba Community radio and relentless in his striving to gather information in every corner of the Central River Region, more so in his efforts to ensure that he covers every activity GAMCOTRAP does since 2009. It does not matter how far or near community activities are held, he will be there and on time. Jobarteh is determined and dedicated to use community radio in supporting the campaign to eliminate FGM in the Central River Region. He goes at length to not only cover opening ceremonies of activities but spends his time to follow through sessions to the end in order to gather the opinion of participants and get experts interviewed. He goes further to conduct interviews in the local languages to ensure that people listening to his shows get facts about FGM and the work of GAMCOTRAP in the region.

His engagement with radio availed him the opportunity to cover GAMCOTRAP activities in the Central River Region. His calm and calculating personality is an asset in working with the larger public. He promotes traditional Mandinka culture through songs and discussions on radio, but he is bold enough to engage his audience on development issues such as Female Genital Mutilation. He comes from a practising ethnic group where men are not expected to talk about FGM- perceived as “women’s issues”. But that was until men got to know the harmful effects the practice has on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls.

As a father and a broadcaster, Jobarteh was exposed to the works of GAMCOTRAP and he learnt about not only FGM but also how women and girls are disadvantaged in the name of promoting culture and tradition. He learnt that in the process of promoting culture, one has to scrutinize it and learn what is best from cultures as well as the disadvantages created through cultural hegemonies, including gender biased practices that violate the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. The knowledge gained has enriched his commentaries during broadcast and he entertains debates on the issues of FGM. He commands respect in his work and he is well recognized throughout the region. This is proven when GAMCOTRAP does pre-tests in a new community about source of information on FGM. There are always responses “from Brikamaba Community Radio, Jobarteh introduces it on his programmes”.

The critical role of the radio manifested in the public response to the programmes aired on the community radios as well as expression of interest and even putting in the effort, time and money to call and share their opinions on the programmes. This is the context of the wider community outreach activities GAMCOTRAP is conducting in the Central River Region North and how these are linked to the Radio programmes GAMCOTRAP undertook in the region.

Ebrima Jobarteh we want to express GAMCOTRAP’s appreciation of your love, dedication and commitment to protect girls from FGM and other harmful practices that violate the rights of women and girls. You have given women and girls a voice in their society through your work in the Community Radio. We know that your management team equally believes in the work you do and that is why they have given you all the support to fulfil your duty to the community.

Thank you Jobarteh for positively contributing to the debate on FGM and the campaign to make Central River Region an FGM free Region and we hope to continue in the years to come as GAMCOTRAP reaches out to Niaminas. Bravo, GAMCOTRAP salutes you!

 

 

Citation on Professor Sylvia Chant

at the 4th Dropping of the Knife Celebration in the Gambia


When she passes by while riding her bike, the first thing that comes to mind is, Oh! She is one of those tourists who is familiar with the Gambia and can no longer be bothered to hire a tourist taxi. The last thing that an ordinary passer-by would think of this great woman is how knowledgeable she is about the Gambia, which is almost her second home.

In 2004, Professor Chant’s research interest in the Gambia and particularly her interest in gender and poverty brought her close to the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray, who is an expert on Gender and Development and reaching out to communities to fight against FGM and to effect positive change. Sharing the common interest in addressing social issues through a “gender lens”, with a particular focus on how women are situated in the poverty discourse, Sylvia has authored over a dozen books and has carried out advisory and consultancy work with several international organisations. Her latest assignment is with Professor Cathy Mcllwaine in preparation of the UN-HABITAT’s State of Women in Cities 2012/13: Gender and Prosperity Cities.

Her expertise and exploration of gender in geographical development earned her the distinction of being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2011.

Sylvia continues to follow the work of GAMCOTRAP and the Gambia in general to gain deeper knowledge and understanding of the multiple factors that influence the lives of women in our country. Her interest in the work of GAMCOTRAP gave her the opportunity to attend the 3rd Dropping of the Knife Celebration in Soma, Lower River Region in 2011 and shared her photographic and filmic contributions using new technology on YouTube.

This is no other person but Professor of Development Geography at the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK where she is also Director of the MSC in Urbanisation and Development.

Professor Chant continues to show interest in GAMCOTRAP over the years and has co-authored with Dr. Isatou Touray a chapter on gender in the Gambia in the edited volume: State and Society in The Gambia Since Independence in 2013, as well as publishing an extended GAMCOTRAP working paper on the same theme, which be accessed at GAMCOTRAP website at:

(http://www.gamcotrap.gm/content/images/stories/documents/Chant_Touray.pdf). She also chaired the London School of Economics Africa Talks/Gender Institute Public Lecture held in March 2013 in which Dr. Touray presented a paper on “The Politics of FGM: The Influence of External and Locally-Led Initiatives in the Gambia”.

GAMCOTRAP congratulates you.


Citation on Abdou Rahman Sallah

at the 4th Dropping of the Knife Celebration in the Gambia

Over three decades ago, it was a taboo to discuss Female Genital Mutilation in Janjanbureh. Little was it known that a journalist was born amongst the Fulla community who would be recognized for reporting on the issues of FGM. He has grown to be not only a journalist but an activist journalist for that matter. Indeed the desire to impact knowledge through his writing started as a student, when he was a member of his school Press club at Armitage and reported during school assembly. He was amongst those who had privilege as boarding students to report on activities about the historic town of Janjanbureh. Upon Completion of his high school education at Armitage Senior Secondary School in 1999, he taught in several schools in the Central River Region North as a native before picking up a full time job as Court scribe in 2001.

Thirty-three year old Abdou Rahman Sallah is a Provincial Correspondent for The Point Newspaper since 2006, and before that he reported for several local newspapers and the National Radio - Radio Gambia. Sallah has also served as a reporter at the office of the Commissioner in Janjanbureh.

When GAMCOTRAP started work in the Central River Region North in 2008, Sallah was one of the first reporters who took up the FGM debate to the local newspapers as Provincial Correspondence and he did justice to the issue. Some of his best published stories on FGM are “GAMCOTRAP scales up campaign to eradicate FGM in CRR” published on Monday June 13 2011, and a more recent publication on the ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign on violence against women on Friday, February 15th 2013 captioned “GAMCOTRAP holds one billion rising campaign” .

Despite the challenges, Sallah is proud to witness that “people have now realized the truth about FGM and are now ready to stand by the truth in the interest of their families”.

Abdou Rahman Sallah obtained a number of professional certificates in the journalism field and social activism thus his engagement with women and mobilizing them into groups. He helped these groups to seek support to sensitize them on health issues in general and reproductive rights in particular. In his comments to GAMCOTRAP, he said “coming to this region is a great thing for me because I will now open the discussions on FGM and early marriage which is a common practice in the region”.

Congratulations Abdou Rahman Sallah.


Citation on Carol Blell

at the 4th Dropping of the Knife Celebration in the Gambia

Carol G Blell is a Gambian of Lebanese ancestry. She studied Psychology and graduated in 1997 from the Lebanese University in Tripoli, Lebanon. She volunteered for two years working with kids with mental disabilities and attention disorders. Later on, she developed an interest in Women’s issues and undertook a Diploma Programme in Gender and Development at the Management Development Institute, The Gambia, in 2011. Her Diploma thesis focused on The Impact of Female Genital Mutilation in The Gambia: Kanifing Municipality. Carol continues to have a keen interest in gender issues, particularly topics concerning Violence Against Women. In a bid to pursue her thesis on a topic so dear to GAMCOTRAP, she explored all the opportunities availed to her to write on Female Genital Mutilation. However, reaching out to Dr. Isatou Touray on the dissertation topic was not enough, as they discussed she felt a sense of support that should be given to GAMCOTRAP.

One day she took GAMCOTRAP by surprise and brought in bundles of bed sheets for the organization. She offered to provide ‘Bahama’ grass for the office headquarters and continues to give support. Well every little help makes a difference. The gesture behind the good deeds would always be remembered. Today GAMCOTRAP wants to return the good deed maybe not equal in material terms but deep down in our hearts, we say thank you Carol Blell, for being part of the vision to promote and protect the reproductive health and rights of women and girl-children.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 19 April 2013 17:06