Kids Come First Foundation’s activism to end FGM

17 January 2017

Bakary Seedy Damph (Buba) founded and runs Kids Come First Foundation.

It is a community based advocacy group that offers support and empowers children irrespective of their backgrounds. The foundation addresses issues like FGM and child marriage. It provides affected children and their families with psychological, financial and emotional support based on a fair assessment of their needs.

Bakery Seedy Damph is especially dedicated to advocacy. He shares with, interacts and involves young people and addresses issues that concern them most. He created a platform to give children and youth the opportunity to freely talk about their own welfare and give them a place where their voices can be heard. This has led to the establishment of the Youth Platform for Change administered by the children and youth themselves in coordination with the foundation.

FGM is a violation of fundamental human rights. It is an act that has long term psychological effects and no health benefits. Bakary Seedy Damph comes from a practicing community where cutters perform this horrendous act on children every year. Besides FGM, child marriage and other child rights violations are perpetrated on children on a daily basis without any consideration towards the child and with little or no remedial action. Having worked for several years as a social worker and as a community development practitioner, Bakary started a campaign across the community with the support of Mr Momodou Darboe who is also Co-founder. The two of them established Kids Come First Foundation on the 10th April 2012.

At the beginning of the campaign, Bakary was criticized because he became involved with FGM, which is a women’s issue. Many associate FGM with women and question the involvement of men. He is glad to tell that attitudes are changing today and that many people have realized that FGM also affects men.

Kids come First is the only advocacy group in VAW, Wellingara. It is the fastest growing community in the greater Banjul area with a population of about 20,000. Various social and economic backgrounds are represented as most of the inhabitants are low income earners depending mostly on petty trade and junior level employments. Wellingara has a cosmopolitan nature and several languages are spoken. Most inhabitants are multilingual and can communicate more than one language.

The population of Wellingara mainly comes from the following ethnic groups: Mandingoes, Fulas, Serrehules and Jolas. These groups practice FGM the most within The Gambia. There are also some Wolof who live among them. However, in contrast to the other groups, the Wolof have the lowest prevalence rates.

Kids Come First works with and for children in the following areas in order to fulfill its moral and social responsibilities.

First, the Children Sponsorship Scheme provides educational support to 15 children from Nursery to Lower Basic School. Kids Come First believes education and awareness creation are powerful means and tools to bring an end to FGM, child marriage and other harmful practices.

Second, Smile for Hope offers bi-annual support to pediatric patients at the country’s main hospital named Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital. Kids Come First offers support by providing clothes, toys and candies. It also offers voluntary blood donation and psychological support/therapy. This is very important as it is proven to be as effective, if not more so, than a normal medical treatment.

Third, the Development of a Resource Center. Kids Come First continues to work very hard to establish a resource center for children and students of all sorts. It desires to provide facilities to conduct research, academic studies and among others to create storytelling sessions with children.

Fourth, the Youth Forum organizes annual residential youth camps in order to offer a forum for youth to discuss relevant issues. Last year in December 2015, it successfully hosted a ten-day residential youth forum dedicated to FGM for 30 young people. Among the young people were students, members of the Youth Platform for Change and community representatives representing different grass root organizations. The Youth Forum was held with the support of 28TooMany. This year the Youth Forum intends to bring together different youth organisations with traditional and/or religious leaders to talk about FGM as non-religious requirement.

Fifth, Child Marriage denies a staggering number of girls and an important number of boys the right to live healthy, fulfilling lives. Girls married off in childhood are exposed to greater health risks as well as risks of violence.

Without immediate intensive and sustained action from all parts of society, hundreds of millions more girls worldwide and in The Gambia in particular will suffer profound, permanent, and utterly un-necessary harm. For this reasons, Kids Come First would like to organize four training sessions for children and women (mothers) under the age of 18 years and inform them of negative consequences and implications of child marriage to the growth and development of children.

It needs to be stated that both FGM and child marriage are legally prohibited in The Gambia. However, they continue to be practiced in secret. To some extend this constitutes an impediment to the abandonment of FGM. No doubt Kids Come First needs to use the legislation to its advantage, but it desires for people to voluntarily abandon these harmful practices. It believes this is possible by continuing its advocacy and by sharing information.

Bakary is convinced and he believes firmly that “No violence against children and women is justifiable, and all violence against children and women is preventable’’.

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