GAMBIA: Open Clinic Day Calls for Zero-Tolerance Against Gender Violence

Monday, December 6, 2010
Western Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

It has been heard at a so-called open clinic day for antenatal mothers that gender-based violence constitutes a human rights violation, which should have no place in the way men relate to women at this day and age.

Participants in a series of recent events marking 16 days of activism organised by a local syndicate against violence on women and girls with support from Action Aid International the Gambia have called for members of society to join in the “war” against the spectre of violence meted out on women on a routine basis, pointing out that women alone cannot end the outrage.

The program, which was coordinated by The Gambia Family Planning Association and graced by stakeholders including Worldview, The Gambia, The Gambia Red Cross Society and Trust Agency for Rural Development TARUD delved into a number of issues affecting the lives of girls and women especially violence and reproductive health.

Dubbed 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, the effort was part of an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership in 1991. Participants chose November 25 and December 10 as International Day against Violence against Women, and International Human Rights Day respectively, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a human rights violation and should therefore engaged human rights concerns everywhere.

Mutarr Jammeh, the GFPA programme manager underscored the role of his association to the protection of sexual and reproductive health and the rights of women and girls.

“Therefore the observance of the day is aimed at enlightening the public on the effects of gender-based violence on women and girl, reproductive health” Jammeh indicated. He added that soliciting the support and collaboration of all stakeholders in the crusade against such human rights concerns was also necessary if society as a whole would be seen to be involved actively in ending what is to date one of the most serious situation adversely affecting the lives of many women and girls. He challenged society to put an end to “this scourge” by discarding the culture of silence that prevents openness and honesty on the issue. Mr. Jammeh however, commended Worldview The Gambia, for devising the strategies and coordinating the activities of the campaign, and Action Aid International The Gambia for providing the resources to facilitate it.

On her part, Adelaide Sosseh, the director of Worldview The Gambia argued that laying bare the taboos surrounding gender-based violence could help in the long, drawn-out process of negating the negative implications that go with the health situation of women and girls. According to Mrs. Sosseh, the objective of the group is to empower women and girls at all levels so that they will be fully equipped to combat the scourge this is gender-based violence and survive to tell the tale. She said by creating the space for public dialogue on violence against women, the stage will be set to shift popular consciousness towards a near-utopian gender equality which will leave no room for violence and address women's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. She revealed that over the years a lot of government effort has gone into protecting and empowering women and girls with a view to enhancing their contribution to the socio economic development and the national decision making process. Mrs. Sosseh also recommended the application of legal aid services to robustly support the most vulnerable segments of the society who incidentally are women and girls. She was also quick to emphasise that the relationship between men and women should not be one of antagonism and conflict but rather one of mutual understanding informed by honest and open dialogues in household family units, interest group settings and other places where men and women interact on a daily basis.

“Collectively, the realization of set visions would help to attain a situation in which women will live free from the fear of violence…a life in which the rights of women and girls and other vulnerable groups are respected, protected and enhanced” Mrs Sosseh asserted.

Harr Sowe, the senior nursing officer at the GFPA hailed the efforts of stakeholders for targeting patients for this campaign against gender-based violence. She encouraged women “to end the culture of silence and report perpetrators to the relevant authorities in a bid to put a stop to the practice of abusing women and girls at work places, schools, farms and other public places”.

She also called on men to employ dialogue as a tool with which to address family issues which otherwise remain shrouded in taboos and stereotypes.

The day also featured puppet shows by Trust Agency for Rural Development, TARUD as a mean of disseminating information on the importance of education for girls and women.