Wassu Foundation - International Forum on Gender-Based Violence and Harmful Traditional Practices in The Gambia and West Africa

Wassu Gambia Kafo and our member Wassu-UAB Foundation organized the V International Forum on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in The Gambia on February 7th and 8th, commemorating the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM.

These two research and knowledge transfer centres are part of The Transnational Observatory of Research Applied to New Strategies for Preventing FGM, located in The Gambia and Spain, guaranteeing a longitudinal perspective in time and circular in the transnational space of migrations. It proposes a pioneer and innovative methodology, with an anthropological perspective, based on a holistic, respectful, and sustainable model grounded on scientific evidence.

Following the Wassu methodology, generated in 1987, based on research applied to knowledge transfer, the conference invited professionals and students from all fields - health, legal, political, and educational - with special attention to religious and community leaders, women, men, and the youth from the affected communities.

5 editions changing lives

This has been the fifth edition of the International Forum organized by the NGO in The Gambia after last year’s missed due to the sanitary emergency caused by the COVID pandemic. It broadened its scope by establishing the general context of rights violations and gender violence as its main topic. In addition, the Forum widened its local focus to a regional scale, putting in common the shared experiences of many West African countries.

The Forum culminated with the sharing of the Bijilo declaration, a document to unite efforts among the participants of the act and promote the abandonment of FGM, Child Marriage, and other forms of Gender Violence.

Work remains to be done

Since the celebration of the first Forum, Wassu has accomplished several achievements: providing scientific evidence through clinical studies about the consequences of FGM in women and girls’ health that promoted the promulgation of a Fatwa in favour of the prevention of the practice (2011) and the proclamation of a law that prohibits its realization in The Gambia (2015); the introduction of FGM/C in the academic curriculum in all Health Sciences Studies in The Gambia; the design and implementation of the National Training Program for health professionals; training for judges, magistrates and lawmakers; and also exporting its

methodology to Kenya, Tanzania, and Senegal. However, new challenges have arisen, and the old ones are still deeply rooted. Therefore, work remains to be done.

Work on changing the perception of FGM/C within the communities

The main work continues to be found in the field, in direct work with the members of the affected communities to change their perception of the practice. The figures point to an even more pressing change in the mindset of Gambian women. If in 2010 28.2% of women took a position against the practice, in 2020 this figure had increased to 46% (MICS, 2010) (DHS, 2020).

According to the Wassu-UAB Foundation, raising awareness among women is fundamental in promoting the abandonment of the practice due to the role they play in its perpetuation as custodians of tradition. Intending to make them agents of change, the Foundation is raising funds to finance awareness actions on the prevention of FGM/C aimed at 120 Gambian leaders. Crowdfunding proposes to implement actions where women can rethink their perception of the practice with respect, with the knowledge provided by scientific evidence, and from the exchange of personal experience and dialogue. You can collaborate by making your donation here.

For more information: fundacion.wassu@uab.cat / wassukafo@gmail.com