Empowering young girls to speak out against FGM in The Gambia

Yeswecan for Children Foundation (YCF) have been holding awareness campaigns and training sessions in rural communities in The Gambia. These sessions allowed for girls and women to speak freely about FGM and to learn more about the negative impacts of FGM.

In December 2015, in what was seen as a rare step for the now-exiled former president, Yahya Jammeh, female genital mutilation (FGM) was banned. This achievement was in large part due to the tireless efforts of NGOs, community-based organisations and activists working within The Gambia to outlaw FGM. Even with this significant step towards ending FGM, the practice still continues all over the country. Basse, a rural region in the East, has the highest prevalence rate of 97%. The region with the lowest prevalence is Banjul, a coastal area and the most urbanised, which stands at 47.4%.

The Girl Generation, through the End FGM Grants Grassroots Fund, has accelerated efforts to end FGM in The Gambia by working with grassroots organisations across the country. One such organisation is Yeswecan for Children Foundation (YCF). YCF is committed to advocating for the rights, protection and welfare of children, girls and women. Working in the Kombo East District, West Coast Region, YCF has been conducting sensitisation programmes through community mobilisation and collaboration, and by engaging the youth in the end FGM campaign.

In April 2017, YCF organised a mass end FGM campaign at the Kafuta Community Centre in Kombo East, to create awareness among community members on the need to protect girls from FGM and how it violates their human rights. YCF set out to empower more women, men and young people within practicing communities to reject the practice and to speak out against FGM.

In May 2017, YCF organised an FGM awareness workshop at Faraba Bantag Upper Basic School where girls were taught about the negative effects of FGM and the laws against the practice. Nana Taal, a facilitator from Nova Scotia-Gambia Association, pointed out that:

“Most of the end-FGM messages were delivered in English yet when children go back home, they communicate in vernacular. There is need to have the messages translated to the language that people use at home so that it becomes easier for them to share with other community members.”

Many of the women and girls that attended the awareness campaign and workshop admitted that prior to these sessions, they did not know anything about the negative effects of FGM. After learning how FGM adversely affects the health of girls, and realising that FGM is illegal, many were willing to start speaking out against the practice and to share the information they had learnt with other community members. Those who attended the campaign and workshop were especially excited about the group discussions that gave them an opportunity to share their stories and views on FGM.

YCF’s activities has shown that taking time to share with rural communities the adverse effects of FGM is an important first step towards ending the practice. To maximise the impact of the end EGM campaign, organisations should try to conduct sessions in regional dialects to make it easier for all members the community to participate, open up and start talking about a topic that was previously never discussed in public.

The Girl Generation’s End FGM Grassroots Fund supports local grassroots organisations in some of the countries most affected by FGM. We believe that their local connections, insight and influence mean they are best placed to spark the social changes required for FGM to end. Find out more about what the fund has been able to achieve.