Day 11/16 of Activism Against Gender Violence: Engaging The ‘People In Uniform’?

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GAMCOTRAP is a leading women’s rights organization based in Gambia. While promoting women’s human rights, it continuously engages communities and institutions to address gender-based violence.  GAMCOTRAP is committed to the promotion and protection of women and girls’ political, social, sexual, and reproductive health, and educational rights.

Engaging with Security

Since 2008, GAMCOTRAP has worked to address the institutionalization of gender-based violence through engagement with the security establishment. Our organization has connected with security officers from a range of units and regions of the Gambia so as to raise their consciousness regarding gender-based violence, and the crucial role of security forces in challenging this social menace.

Through its training and sensitization programs, GAMCOTRAP has established that people in uniform are socio-culturally influenced, just like any other individual in society. It is through raising their consciousness that these officers come to realize how their backgrounds influence their professional outlook when it comes to women and girls and sexuality issues.

To date, our organization has engaged 470 security officers as part of this program, including police officers, members of the military police, army officers, immigration officers, fire and ambulance service officers, national intelligence workers, and prison and child protection employees. Officers also engage in interface activities to widen their horizon on socio-cultural issues vis-a-vis legal rights and the protection of women and girls. We focus in particular on sexual violence and abuse, wherever it takes place, be it the home, at work, or in the street.

There is no justification for sexually abusing women and girls. They have the right to protection, particularly from the primary duty bearers in law enforcement, the security officers.

Working with rural communities

As part of our goal to protect women and girls from any form of violence, and especially those related to traditional and sexual practices affecting women’s sexuality, GAMCOTRAP plans to work with rural communities as part of the 16 days of activism against gender violence.

We will specifically target 250 women of reproductive age who represent villages in five clusters in the central river region. Further, we will target 500 village heads, Kabilo leaders, and opinion leaders in order to engage in a culturally relevant manner, and stop female genital mutilation in the region. Through the support of UNFPA, GAMCOTRAP will engage during the 1 6 days of activism, with the grassroots to tackle this issue. We hope that the five district chiefs of the central river region north of the Gambia will work in future with their people to reach a consensus on eliminating female genital mutilation in their districts.

Taking our fight to the media

In a bid to reach a wider population, GAMCOTRAP is addressing FGM, and other forms of gender based violence through the media.  In the absence of access to a national broadcaster (radio and television) we have designed specific radio programmes to bring the voices of change to the wider public. Through the support of Save the Children International and UN Women, we are working with five radio stations in urban and semi urban areas. In addition, GAMCOTRAP will engage four community radio stations so as to reach the rural population during the 16 days of activism, with the support of UNFPA.  

Working for Women’s Human Rights

Our organization is also raising the profile of gender-based violence through our work in the regional and international stage. Both the European Union and the United Nations system in the Gambia invited the executive director of GAMCOTRAP to share and disseminate its work during a round table discussion this past November 27th.

We express appreciation to the government through the district authorities in supporting the fight to end FGM. It should be noted that the Gambia is a party to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), relevant regional protocols, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is thereby obligated to ensure the recognition, promotion and protection of women and children’s human rights and to continue to uphold the principles of universality, non-discrimination and substantive equality of all women and girls.

We as a women’s human rights organization, together with other stakeholders, will continue to monitor and demand the full accountability of the National Assembly to fulfil its obligations to women. This must be done without in any way undermining its obligations under international human rights laws in upholding universal principles of human rights, as well as that of the Constitution of the Gambia.  

In sum, it is of pivotal importance to uphold these principles because according to a World Health Organization study conducted in 2005, it is estimated that “at least one in every three women globally will be beaten, raped, or otherwise abused during her lifetime.  Violence kills and disables as many women between those ages of 15 and 44 as cancer, and its toll on women’s health surpasses that if traffic accidents and malaria combined”

Every effort to prevent any form of gender based violence means that you have taken a protective measure to protect a woman or girl, who could be your own daughter, mother, sister, wife, niece or neighbour.  Together, we can end violence against women – whether you are in uniform, or at home in the larger society.  GAMCOTRAP celebrates all those who care enough to create an enabling environment to protect women and girls from violence.

Isatou Touray, served as Deputy Director General of The Management Development Institute (MDI), and Coordinated the Gender and Development Department. She is now the Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, and a Women’s Rights Activist working on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation in Africa and the Diaspora. Istatou is also a dedicated board member of Women Living Under Muslim Laws.