Women Deliver Young Leader Oumie Sissokho to Host Camp for Girls Affected by FGM

Women Deliver Young Leader Oumie Sissokho is a co-founder of The Girls’Agenda, a community-based organization in Gambia that empowers girls and women in areas like reproductive health, human rights, and life skills that protect girls and women from abusive relationships and forced and early marriages.

In August 2015, The Girls’ Agenda is partnering with For My Sister to host a Summer Camp for 100 young women between the ages of 14 and 24. This intensive summer camp will focus on issues that affect the young women's well-being, progress, liberty, and freedom. The empowerment forum will focus on comprehensive sexuality education, leadership skill building, mentorship opportunities, and education on harmful traditional practices (with an emphasis on early marriage and female genital mutilation).

Women Deliver: Why are you opening this camp?

Oumie Sissokho: Like many countries around the world, Gambia is a deeply patriarchal society. Religious misinterpretation, cultural norms, and unequal economic, educational, and political opportunities have continuously and grossly deprived women and girls from the full enjoyment of their fundamental human rights, especially their sexual and reproductive health and sexual rights (SRHR).

FGM is one of the most common harmful cultural practices in The Gambia, continuing to be a serious violation of the bodily integrity and SRHR of girls and women in the country. According to the 2010 Multi-Indicator Country Survey, Gambia has one of the highest prevalent rates of FGM on the African continent - 76% of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 43 have already undergone the practice. The same report reveals that over 64% of the population supports the practice. The lack of a specific anti-FGM law further complicates its eradication, putting many more girls at risk.

There is no better time for youth-led movements in Gambia to demand respect and protection of girls’ and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. This summer camp will be a platform for young people to learn, discuss, and devise strategic intervention strategies to combat the issue.

Women Deliver: What are you hoping to achieve through this camp?

Oumie Sissokho: If Gambia is prepared to end FGM, young people must be important contributors and collaborators. It is important to raise their awareness about the factors responsible for the perpetuation of FGM, clarify misconceptions that support the practice, show them the evidences and consequences of the practice, and prepare them to become change agents through organizing, lobbying, and advocacy skills.

Children, who are the major population affected by FGM, have mostly been marginalized from campaigns and educational programs. There can be no meaningful sustainability of our interventions without letting children, especially girls, lead the discussion and advocacy efforts. Investing in these young people is an investment in the future. We hope this camp will empower the girls and enable them to use their voices to end FGM in our generation.

Women Deliver: How did you become involved in this issue and why is it important?

Oumie Sissokho: Living as a survivor of FGM has propelled my interest and commitment to work towards its eradication because it subjects the female body to pain and subordination just to satisfy patriarchal standards of women’s bodies. Having witnessed the pain, health complications, discrimination, and unnecessary death that FGM has caused to victims and survivors, I felt the serious need to get involved. I raise awareness about this issue through community trainings, behavior change communication strategies, peer education, and the media.

Advocating against FGM is an ethical responsibility for me. Culture is meant to be beautiful, enjoyable, and protective of the rights and dignity of people. FGM can never be justified based on religious or traditional values.

I will continue to demand change, change that will protect all girls from all forms of acts that affect their bodily integrity and rights.

To donate to Oumie's summer camp, please click here.

Entry Comments

  1. This is a great initiative and am sure educating girls,you have educated the whole world.

    • May 23
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    i want to be the part of this camp .

    • Jul 02
    • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Women and girls should be protected. This calls for action not only in Gambia but other African countries.In most Nigerian settlements,women pass through a lot of societal dehumanizing practices all in the name of tradition and culture.I commend your efforts in Gambia. Bravo

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