On August 21, 2014, the Senegalese village of Tankon hosted delegates from The Gambia for a cross-border meeting. Tostan staff and local authorities met with Oumar Cissé, Governor of the region of Basse in The Gambia, to discuss the ongoing practice of female genital cutting (FGC) in communities located on the Senegalese-Gambian border and to harmonize policies and actions. Health professionals, government services, and partner organizations were also in attendance.
On this occasion, Khalidou Sy, the National Coordinator of Tostan Senegal, highlighted the need for “a synergy of grassroots stakeholders and a cross-border approach” in order to raise awareness about harmful practices, contribute to the promotion of women and children’s health, and promote “peaceful coexistence between the two brotherly countries.” Honorable Member of Gambian Parliament, Kassim Diallo appealed to religious and traditional leaders to get involved in this movement as much as they can, and to harmonize their policies related to this issue.
Health professionals who attended the meeting spoke at length about the harmful consequences of FGC on the health of women and girls. Babacar Sy from a teenage guidance center in Kolda, Senegal said he believes it is necessary to share the medical arguments against FGC with teenage girls and expectant mothers in order to avoid “FGC in the cradle:” when cutting is performed only a few weeks after birth.
After fruitful discussions, the meeting participants made several recommendations, which included revitalizing relations between the Community Management Committees (CMCs) of communities situated along the border, harmonizing the laws of both countries through an exchange between the Senegalese and Gambian parliamentarians, involving religious leaders, working with schools, multiplying teenage guidance centers, and sharing medical arguments. The Senegalese National Assembly passed a law prohibiting the practice of FGC in 1999. The Gambia on the other hand has no specific law prohibiting it; however, laws do exist that protect the rights of women and children.
To close the meeting, the Governor of the region of Basse expressed interest in an “extension of the Tostan Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in other parts of the Gambia to drive the necessary [social] changes.” He also said that he believes “the future is bright with the new generation that is aware” of the harmful effects of FGC.
These meetings are a good opportunity for administrative authorities, Tostan staff in national and regional coordination offices, and communities in different countries to come together and find agreed-upon solutions toward positive change. It also allows for a discussion around ways to promote collaboration amongst stakeholders and the harmonization of legislation in these countries.
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