By Ebrima Saidykhan
Ebrima Saidykhan, anti-FGM campaigner, organised a program which engaged female cutters, youth, and women in the North Bank Region of The Gambia. Audios were recorded in the local languages by a female cutter and other prominent people which were aired at prime times for many days. The program further provided a detailed discussion on the dangers of FGM on children, the harmful nature of the practice, and the implication of the laws.
From the implementation approach, we are convinced and can conclude that the project is successful because the people who are directly affected were involved in the discussion. The impact will always continue to grow since the female youth involved in the program are ready to commit themselves to continue with the struggle since it is destroying their children’s health.
The female cutter with the team was recorded on spot announcements and a one-hour discussion on female genital mutilation which was later replayed at the two radios. They highlighted the reason for being “ngansinbas” which according to them they were trained by their parents and it has become their source of income for a living.
The difficulties they face during and after the process like difficulties in urine after three days of cutting, the sealing they do immediately after cutting always cause a serious problem to the woman. The first time they give themselves to their husbands, they want to be reopened and this is always more painful and harmful than the cutting itself because the cutters find it difficult to reopen them which is why they involve the health workers.
Through the discussion, they have the beliefs that some marriages didn’t last long because of either sealing or other means of tightening the vagina. In Mandinka tradition, every mother is always proud when the husband found her wife as a virgin during their first meet. If it is not possible that night it brings suspicions in the relationship and always the blame will go to the man by saying is not man enough to penetrate the wife.
We have had some challenges during the implementation, and these include, getting the female cutter to accept their voice to be heard over the radio on this very issue due to social stigma and discrimination among others.
Strong messages that came out of the media project
- The female cutter voice to say she has dropped the knife and highlighted the difficulties she had during and after cutting children
- The law Banning FGM still exists with all its powers and it’s here to stay.
- All loving and chairing mothers should stand together to fight to stop the act
Additionally, the panel with female youth leaders on the radio with a live phone-in program also gave more weight to our celebration by bringing young mothers together to discuss the problems they normally face in their married caused by female genital mutilation.
By urging their female young mothers to all be alert to and be ready to be community police to report anyone who is found doing such an act.
Unexpected Wins; Challenges
One thing that stands out for me in the entire implementation of this project was the level of commitment and energy from the panelist and female cutter their confidence in facing the microphone to deliver a strong message like this without thinking of the insult they might receive during and after the discussions. Having them fully committed to fighting means a lot and can also mean that our continued engagement is gaining momentum and people are getting more aware of the harms associated with the practice.
The program helps me to scout out very good panelists for this program and we both committed to continuing the engagement even after the project. This to me, is very important for the sustainability of the project.
This activity strengthened my relationship with some of the cutters around the region which can serve as a gateway to have access to others for future programs.
What would I do differently next time?
Visit and discuss with community women that cannot make it to the radio, which will, in turn, be aired on the radio.