FORWARD and BAFROW partnership
A three-year project implemented by FORWARD and the Foundation for Research on Women’s Health, Productivity and the Environment (BAFROW, the Gambia) was successfully completed in March 1999. This project was funded by the Department for International Development.
FGM is legal in Gambia where it is practiced by seven out of nine ethnic groups a rite of passage. 76% of women and girls in Gambia have undergone FGM. Marriage is also legal from the age of 12 and, though it is illegal to have sex with anyone under the age of 16, an exception is made for marriage. More than 1 in 3 girls is married before the age of 18.
The project was carried out in two districts of the Gambia, Banjul Kombo St Mary (an urban slum district) and the Lower River Division (a rural district) with the overall aim to reduce the incidence of FGM, increase health knowledge in the communities and to enhance gynaecological and sexual health services for women.
The project had four main components including the production of health education and advocacy material; community mobilisation and health promotion (including reproductive health and discussion of the harmful effects of FGM); restructuring puberty rites ceremonies and the promotion of gynaecological and sexual health counseling. The project also included training and alternative methods of income generation for excisors and training for professionals.
Health promotion materials
In the first year of the project women’s health promotion advocacy materials were produced, including T-shirts, posters and brochures. These were distributed throughout the participating villages. BAFROW also developed new health promotion materials. A handbook for professionals, a flip book for use by local community mobilisers and simple readers for use in schools and local communities were produced and distributed and are used by health workers and community mobilisers in their health sessions. These materials helped to change attitudes and raise awareness of the health issues surrounding FGM.
Emphasis has been placed upon training community mobilisers and ex-circumcisors to take on the task of health promotion and facilitation in their own communities. BAFROW in association with FORWARD has provided training to different professional groups including community mobilisers, circumcisors and their assistants and village heads to enable them to fulfill their role in the campaign to eradicate FGM. They have also been given training on business management and skills.
Health services and networks
A well-woman clinic was opened in Banjul, which provides gynecological and sexual health services. This is a crucial component of the programme. The ‘Association of Ex-circumcisors for a Better Life’ was formed by those who agreed to stop the practice. The organisationwas active in the campaign against FGM and managed the loan scheme which encourages excisors to set up small income generating projects which are more financially beneficial then the practice of FGM.