The Gambian Voices amongst the One Billion Rising to Say No to Violence Against Women
Most women and girls in Gambian society have been brought up to accept that being a woman is a weakness and femininity is for male pleasure. Women and girls are socialized to accept such myths and they are reinforced in the sayings amongst different ethnic languages. For instance in Mandinka, ‘Musuya mu nasoo leti’ meaning womanhood is about being vulnerable, lesser ability and limited capability and weakness. Some will force women to accept that womanhood is about suffering engraved in the social psyche that ‘musuya mu bataleti’ – ‘womanhood is about suffering’ has enforced the taboo of silence over sex, sexuality and reproductive health issues affecting women in particular.
On the contrary, male sexuality and reproductive concerns are discussed in the open without much of a stigma being sexually aggressive is considered a positive masculine trait. For instance, it is acceptable for a man to say “I have ‘keesanto’ - gonorrhoea and will not hesitate to express it even in everyday slang ‘I’ve been fired!’ Such is seen as a manifestation of machoism. If a man has multiple partners outside the realm of marriage it becomes an open and accepted secret yet the moralists will not condone the women in such relationships. Without justifying or judging people the basic argument is that female sexuality is always under the beam and control of the male psyche and lens.
The silence over girls being abused sexually in the home environment especially by ‘people of trust’ in the family circles continues to hunts many adults. They continue to be subjects of rape in and outside the marital home, sexual harassment in the workplace and are always accused of being the perpetrators, ‘looking for sex’.
Girls are vulnerable and are forced and coerced to have no say in what happens to their bodies from birth through their teenage life and even when they are adults in a relationship. They cannot decide not to be subjected to Female Genital Mutilation, forced into a marriage they do not give consent to, denied to inherit property and in most instances forced to be “inherited” in the case of the death of a husband. These are no longer accepted that is why GAMCOTRAP has joined organizations in Africa in the worldwide initiative to unite against violence against women. What makes the first Africa Summit held in August 2012 special is that African women, girls and men who care are joining the One Billion women and girls who have been subjected to different forms of abuse and sexual violence on the 14th February 2013 to subvert the silence over violence against women and girls throughout the world.
Women have used songs and dance to express their state of sorrow, despair and sadness. One Billion Rising says no to sadness, sorrow and despair, women, girls and men who have seen their mothers, sisters, daughters, niece suffer violence are going to demonstrate that they are survivors and stand against all forms of violence and abuse. They will demonstrate the power in their inner being to realize that in fact their abusers are weak, sick and pathetic that is why they hide behind the shield of a gun and other weapons such as abuse of power to be able to face women and girls from behind.
To kick start the One Billion Rising, the Africa Rising Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya concluded with a Declaration to bring to the attention of world leaders that as they contemplate on whether or not to take a decision, millions of African women and girls are no longer safe in their homes, on the streets, the road to the farm or rice field and on the way to school. In the backyard, older women are taking the opportunity to subject vulnerable baby girls to FGM because there is no law against the practice in the Gambia, the South African family is quietly condoning the sexual abuse and rape amongst the family members, the Congolese women and girls are used as weapons of war against the perceived enemy and many more atrocities against our citizens.
If you are a woman, girl or a man who cares to stop Violence Against Women, share your story, we are listening to why you are rising.
The Executive Director of GAMCOTRAP, Dr. Isatou Touray is rising because “I am Rising because many women are voiceless and have no platform to do so and on their behalf I am Rising to bring their agency to the public”
A divorcee is Rising because she has been divorced and the father of her children abandoned them. “All I want is for him to feed, clothe, educate and house his child; that is why I am Rising.”
“I am Rising because I was deceived when I was ten years old and told that I was privileged to be driven to Kombo; just to realized that I was going to be subjected to FGM and force to be silent over what happened to me for until the early 1990s when I found my voice to say no to FGM and all forms of Gender based violence, and I can’t stop speaking out against violence against women and girls.” Amie Bojang-Sissoho, Programme Coordinator- IEC, GAMCOTRAP.
“I am Rising because I have seen my father beat my mother and I do not want to be violent to my wife, the mother of my children” Male Activist.
“I am Rising because I am a Mutapola Voice and I do not condone friends and families who stigmatize our status as Positive Women.” A Woman Living Positively with HIV.
“I am Rising because I am denied the space to writing about Violence against Women and Girls in the local news” A journalist.
As an organization Rising against Violence Against Women, GAMCOTRAP will join the One Billion Rising to celebrate the power of women in saying No to FGM, Early Marriage and all forms of sexual violence with a musical Jamboree. We choose to dance because women have learned to change sorrow to joy as has been demonstrated over the years with the Dropping of the Knife Celebrations against Female Genital Mutilation. Now women and men are calling for a law to protect their daughters from the power of negative cultural practices and social coercion. Eve Endsler has organized, mobilized, and supported the activists and feminists of Africa to rise against all forms of violence and V-Day is responding to this global energy that transcends any form of patriarchal resistance. Let the men who care join this campaign to end violence and impunity against women in the world.
The ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on International Day of the Child has this to say:
“Girls are among the most vulnerable members of society they should not be made to serve as sex slaves and soldiers. They should not be subjected to rape and sexual violence, nor made to witness brutal sexual attacks. In accordance with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, I shall continue to include gender crimes and crimes against children in our charges and to bring the full cause of the law to bear on those most responsible for them.” (ICC Prosecutor on First International Day of the Girl, culled from FOROYAA, Monday 15 October, 2012)
Join the One Billion Rising against any form of violence on www.onebillionrising.org. Your voice is your power and critical to deal with impunity.