By Fatou Dahaba
Women’s Bureau with funding from UNICEF has recently concluded a three (3) day training for media personnels from the Network of Gender Journalist for Women and Cultural Advancement (NoGJWCA) on Female Genital Mutilation/cutting, Child/Force Marriage, Women’s Right.
The training that brings together journalist from both print and electronic is part of Women’s Bureau’s efforts to engage reporters on FGM/C, child marriage among others through media campaign.
At the opening ceremony Neneh Touray from Women’s Bereau said gender base violence continues to affect communities and individuals and has a great impact in national development.
She continued as she addressed this issue , saying it needs a holistic approach and everyone’s participation . She said reporting on gender violence is critical especially when it involves minors, there are rules and regulations that needs to be followed together with ethics.
Not all cases can disclosed the identity of GBV victims openly, especially if it involves a minor’. She added that ethics is key in journalism and reports on gender related issues must be clear base on facts and evidence no matter who is involve.
In this regard she urged the participants to asked as much questions as they can in other to clear their doubts and have first hand information on issues related to FGM/C.
The expectation of the organizers is for journalists to prioritize the knowledge gain to share and educate the masses on their various platforms.
Some of the topics discuss during the training are child right, gender and gender base violence, ethical journalism, harmful cultural practice, FGM types and complications, anatomy and physiology of male and female organ among others.
Research shows that child marriage prevalence among women is the high percentage and effects 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were at age 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017).
26% of girls in The Gambia are married before the age of 18 and 8% are married before their 15th birthday.
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are somehow inferior to men and boys.
The Gambia has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
However, there is no minimum age of marriage under Islamic Sharia law, which is the dominant tradition governing family law in The Gambia.
According to the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) of 2013, published by the Gambia Bureau of Statistics and ICF International (ICF), a consulting services company reveal that 75 percent of Gambian women aged 15 to 49 have undergone FGM.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports in January 2018 that the percentage of females aged 15 to 49 who have undergone FGM went from 78.3 percent in 2005-2006 to 76.3 percent in 2010, and then to 74.9 percent in 2013, while that of girls ages 15 to 19 went from 79.9 percent in 2005-2006 to 77.1 percent in 2010, and then to 76.3 percent in 2013  (UN Jan. 2018, 106).
Women’s Bureau is responsible for giving policy guidance and proposals to the Gambia Government on issues affecting women.
In combatting this harmful cultural practice , the Women’s Bureau deem it necessary to engage the media as a powerful tool to help disseminate information on the effects of the cultural practice to the wider audience and the penalties involve if found wanting by the law.
Pateh Baldeh President of NoGJWCA said the importance of the three days capacity building training cannot be over emphasis. He said is not easy to report on children and women matter especially cases related to victims and survivors of GBV, child or force marriage, journalist should be equip and have basic knowledge on such issues.
Baldeh asserted that there is barrier between culture and religion when it comes to gender and the need to protect the identity of children on any issue related to them.
He challenge the participants to utilize and make best use of the knowledge practice what is expected from them.