As worldwide events unfold simultaneously for the commemoration of 16 Days of Activism on Gender Based Violence (GBV), we in the Gambia were not left out. The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women. This 16-days period with the observance of other significant dates including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, this marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
With this year’s theme, ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s challenge Militarism and end Violence against Women’, the commemoration of the 16 Days Activism calls for actions leading to the elimination all forms of violence against women and girls through awareness raising, strengthening work on gender based violence and establishing clear links between local and international efforts in ending violence in the world.
In the Gambia, though in low key celebrations, organizations working on gender and gender based violence also participated in the commemoration. One of such organizations is the Network on Gender Based Violence (NGBV). With particular focused on early and force marriage, AAITG (Action Aid In The Gambia) Supported NGBV to conduct community sensitization outreach targeting community authorities, leaders, students, teachers, women leaders and youth. The activity attracted about 55 participants from Jarra East District, Lower River Region (LRR) and had a day’s sensitization workshop in Bureng. Among the debated, and discussed GBV are: Early and force marriages, Female Genital Mutilation, Rape, Domestic violence, Force Sex, Stalking, and Battering
Early and force marriages are among major problems that girls face in Gambia especially in rural areas. This is associated to problems like use of force, deceit, bribery, influence, false pretence, consumerism, poverty, fear of teenage pregnancy, impersonation. The problem is compounded by patriarchal culture/tradition that made women/girls voiceless and are place at lower rug of the social ladder. It is important to note that the community outreach programs like this sensitization are essential because most violence that women and girl face within communities goes unreported. Family names and prestige supersede best interest of the girls. Besides, the culture of silence has been an entrench tradition that worsen/compound the problem.
From the deliberations, the participants were made to understand that no violence should be justifiable and such acts of degradation can be prevented. If morally, participants cannot prevent the discussed GBV, the laws made mandated every stakeholder to be vigilant and report such. References of domestic legal frameworks that protect women and girls on GBV were the Children’s ACT 2005, Women’s ACT 2010 and The Criminal Code.
As the participants discussed through the problems, recommendations were made on how best to eliminate GBV from their communities, which included the following:
- That parents should take more proactive responsibilities in protecting their children
- Let parents get close to their children and engage in dialogue
- Let parents be the best friends of their children
- Let us all be primary duty bearers
- More sensitization and capacity enhancement on the concept of children's rights and gender
- Take both moral and legal actions against GBV especially those perpetrated against women and children
- Conduct step down activities such as community outreach sensitization, workshops to reach more stakeholders/duty bearers.
- Provide copies of Women's ACT 2010 and Children's Act 2005 to various communities (alkali's and chiefs)
With these powerful and comprehensive frameworks, one would expect that the Gambia is almost at the crossroad in ending GBV, but far from reach. More work needs to be done, if the goal of zero violence environment is to be achieved where women/girls are seen and regarded as equal partners in Development.