Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Gambian FGM Activist Shares Her FGM Ordeal

February 8, 2014
Fatou Baldeh of Darf Edinburgh fights against FGM in the UK.

Fatou Baldeh of Darf Edinburgh fights against FGM in the UK.

UK based Gambian Activist, Fatou Baldeh based in Scotland shares her FGM ordeal in an anti-FGM campaign video broadcasted by the Guardian Newspaper UK. Fatou Baldeh herself is an FGM survivor, who now works for the Dignity Alert and Research Forum (Darf) in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

Fatou was only seven years old, when she was mutilated in the Gambia. She explained: “some women held my legs, other women held my hands. I was blindfolded and I felt the sharp cut,  I felt everything.” The only “medication” she received was being told to sit in warm salty water. “I can never forget that. If you want to pass urine that’s the worst because you are sore and you’ve got no medication, not even a Band-Aid. It’s just an open wound […] It was the most horrible thing I can remember.”

Another 25 years old Gambian victim of FGM identified as Manika explained her ordeal of undergoing FGM. She explained: “I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen to me, but after I saw the blade I knew they would definitely hurt me, because that blade is not something to play with,” Manika had her genitals severed with a razor, without an anaesthetic, when she was only eight years old in Gambia. “It’s a pain you can’t even … it’s taking a knife and cutting someone’s flesh.” She explained to the Guardian newspaper.

Manika further explains that FGM has left her battling physical and psychological complications. She says she was “blocked up” when she was cut and, after coming to the UK to study, she had sex for the first time. It proved so difficult and painful that she had to be rushed to hospital to stop the bleeding that followed. She has suffered from recurrent infections, intermittent periods, and is terrified of being sexually active again.

“It makes me scared. Since then I feel like I don’t want to have sex. I have it in my mind that I’m still going to have that same pain,” she says.

“I will never forgive my parents for doing this to me. This is just like you are taking somebody’s life. It is just like you are taking a gun and shooting someone to death. That is how it feels for me.”

Fatou Baldeh’s organisation is battling to end the practice of FGM in the United Kingdom. FGM has been illegal in the UK since 1985, and since 2003 anyone taking a child out of the UK to be cut faces 14 years in prison. However, there has yet to be a single conviction. Two people were arrested in November accused of carrying out FGM on a five-week-old baby but, according to the Metropolitan police, there was “insufficient evidence to proceed”.

Hard facts about how many girls are being cut, where and by whom, are scarce because, according to campaigners, the issue has been neglected by successive governments scared of confronting so-called cultural practices.

After pressure from campaigners the government announced on Wednesday night that hospitals would now start gathering data on women they treat who have undergone FGM. Currently midwives and doctors receive no routine training on how to help affected mothers, who can suffer life-threatening consequences during childbirth.

report last year on FGM by a coalition of medical groups, trade unions and human rights organisations estimates that there are 66,000 victims of FGM in England and Wales and warns that more than 24,000 girls under 15 are at risk. More than 2,000 victims of FGM sought treatment in London hospitals alone in the past three years.

The doubling of Scotland’s African population since 2001 (from 22,049 to 46,742) and the rising cost of air travel have played a part in the increase in numbers in Scotland, says Anela Anwar, from the Glasgow-based charity Roshni.

“It’s becoming a lot more expensive to go home, so we have heard now that people are pooling together resources to bring a cutter over from abroad to mutilate their girls over here in a group. I think people will use whatever means they can if they are determined for this to happen.”

Sarah McCulloch, from the Agency for Culture and Change Management agrees: “[Families] are forming a sort of co-operative to raise the funding to pay for someone to come from overseas. The family will bring all the girls together and it is done. Those who are wealthy are using nurses or doctors or private clinics That is why London especially has been accused of being the FGM city of Europe because many people are coming from Europe on Eurostar and having their daughters [mutilated].”

The evidence is there, if the resources were made available to uncover it, says Fatou Baldeh. “People think it’s an outside issue, it’s not happening here. It is very common, but people don’t think it is,” she says. “It [is] difficult to get women to speak to you about their experience.”

Female genital mutilation involves cutting all or part of the outer labia, inner labia and clitoris. It is estimated to affect more than 140 million girls and women worldwide. In the worst cases girls are “sewn up”, leaving only a tiny hole through which to urinate and menstruate. Traditionally considered vital for preparing a girl for adulthood – in some parts of the world girls who have not been cut are seen as unsuitable for marriage – it has also been attacked as a means of controlling female sexuality and autonomy.

In countries such as Sudan, Somalia and Egypt up to 98% of females have been mutilated, but the practice happens in 28 countries in Africa and some countries in Asia and the Middle East.

The consequences can be devastating: girls can bleed to death or pick up infections, and in the longer term can suffer from recurrent bladder infections, cysts, infertility, childbirth complications, mental trauma and lack of sexual desire.

Gambian Activist Elected Euronet-FGM President

February 2, 2014

By Sarata Jabbi-Dibba Just Back From Berlin


Nenneh Bojang

Neneh Bojang reaping the fruits of her labour!

Gambian gender activist has been elected the President of European Network for Female Genital Mutilation (EuroNet-FGM).

At a recent congress in Berlin, Germany, EuroNet-FGM delegates conferred presidency on a formidable Gambian activist. Neneh Bojang was chosen thanks to her resilience, bravery and outspokenness in the fight against gender inequality and mistreatment of women and girls.

The congress also elected into office Ms. Khady Koita, Dr. Tobe Levin and Mrs Heidi Besas as Vice President, Secretary General and Treasurer, respectively. Also on board EuroNet-FGM leadership are Assistant Treasurer Sarah McCulloch and Honorary President Fana Habteab.

Neneh’s election came as a big surprise to her. She thanked her colleagues for conferring leadership mantle on her, which according to her, was a demonstration of trust and confidence they have in her.

Neneh said the growing impetus to address FGM at national, regional and international levels have resulted to significant improvements in the fight against the age-old culture. This led to the banning of FGM by the United Nations General Assembly. She credited EuroNet-FGM and its partners for being key players in this drive. The Norway-based Gambian activist reiterated the importance of enhancing efforts at all levels as a better way to effectively address important issues.

She said EuroNet-FGM will continue to lobby and network with key partner organizations in Europe. Such a partnership is crucial in the eradication of FGM and other harmful traditional practices. It will also lead to the empowerment and wellbeing of women and minority groups. “Women deserve to feel well,” she said.

During the last decades, Europe, has received thousands of immigrants and refugees of African origin that practice female genital mutilation (FGM). Consequently, several NGOs, governments and health professionals of different nationalities were incited to find ways of preventing FGM.

Neneh also prioritizes ending violence against women and girls, which has gained unprecedented political momentum in recent years.

Between 100 and 140 million girls and women in the world have undergone FGM, according to the World Health Organization.

“Trends in areas such as increased medicalization or lowering of the average age at which girls are cut are also discouraging. We are struggling against some of the most intransigent of social forces – adverse cultural norms, practices and traditions, as well as patriarchal attitudes deeply rooted in gender discrimination. We have therefore an important task of consolidating the commitments and most successful initiatives undertaken in the framework of the National Action Plans for the elimination of female genital mutilation established and developed in the EU countries in the past years, with the ultimate goal of the complete eradication of the practice of FGM in the near future”, she emphasized.

The Coordinator and the newly elected Secretary General also address the congress. Tobe Levin expressed her gratitude to everyone for making their way to the congress. “I want to thank you all for coming to Berlin on the strength of your believes in EuroNet-FGM’s impressive past and future triumphs in efforts to end FGM.”

EuroNet-FGM was formed in 2002 mainly to improve the health of female immigrants in Europe and to fight against harmful traditional practices affecting the health of women and children, particularly FGM and early marriages in Europe.


French Authorities Should Clear The Air

January 20, 2014
French minister

French Foreign Minister: Laurent Fabius

Insiders alerted Kibaaro News that President Jammeh attended a summit in Ivory Coast a week ago and made a short secret trip to Paris before returning to Banjul. It is reported that even some close aides of Mr. Jammeh were not put in the picture.

Is President Jammeh really visiting France for medical reasons? Is he ill with brain tumour? What are the symptoms of brain tumour? How long does he has to live? What will be the implication if President Jammeh suddenly dies? Will the Gambia plunge into a bitter leadership battle within the APRC? Will the ranks of the oppositions widen and power hungry hibernating Gambian rise up?

The above questions are just few among the many ifs, should the situation continue unexplained. We are noticing fierce attacks on the personality of key opposition leaders and some are speculating that, it all has to do with preparation in the post-Jammeh power struggle. This is a serious situation that demands answers.

Gambians are now getting worryingly concern as to what is truly the reason of the frequent trips to France. Since the Gambian foreign affairs Ministers will not provide any details of Jammeh’s trips, we can resort to raising the issues with French foreign affairs Ministers, Laurent Fabius. It is strange for a President of a sovereign country to be flying to and from a European country without any diplomatic announces or media attention.

The secret French trips is explain as serious medical consultation with brain tumour experts. Whatever the reasons for Jammeh’s trips, Gambians demand an explanation. If President Jammeh is truly sick, why is he so secretive about it? The Gambian Secretary General and Presidential affairs Minister should come clean about the health status of President Jammeh. This will help prepare Gambian of any eventuality, should he demise unexpectedly. The country is divided and in a state of confusion. The authorities should have the interest of Gambians at heart instead of the President only. Laurent Fabius should explain why our President visiting his country without French media reporting it. Are we that insignificant to warrant any official announcement of our President’s visits, or are his visits private? We need answers, our tax payers money is depleted.


January 9, 2014

Tostan national coordinator Ansou Kambaye with Sarahuleh women

By Sarata Jabbi

At least 38 Sarahuleh communities in Upper River Region (URR) have publicly declared to abandon female genital mutilation (FGM) at Sotuma Sere village. The communities also agreed to shy away from early and force marriage.  

This development came after the communities were involved in a series of sensitization programs organized by Tostan. The programs were meant to educate and empower girls and women in the communities.

Tolsan uses community based facilitator to implement its three year programme which allows every participant adopts a person in the community while community direct beneficiaries adopt neighboring communities. Tostan’s strategy, which makes easy spread of information possible, leads to the transmission of social norms.

Tolsan is an international NGO founded in Senegal in 1991 by an American citizen Molly Melching. The organization branched to the Gambia in 2006 when it launched a joint project [Community Led Development Project] involving UNICEF and the Gambia government. Under the auspices of the Women’s Bureau, the project started in 2007 with 40 Mandinka and Fula speaking communities in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

“Tostan has a three year holistic programme that empowers community beneficiaries through adult literacy,” said Mr. Ansou Kambaye, the National Coordinator of Tostan. “In the first year we taught democracy, human rights and problem solving process while we taught health and hygiene in the second year. We focused on reading, writing and calculation, among others, during the final year.” The trainings enabled beneficiaries to learn about issues affecting the lives of women and girls, resulting to the abandonment of harmful practices such as FGM, EARLY AND FORCE MARRIAGE.

Mr. Kambaye said Tostan uses influential people in its social mobilization activities.  The organization was able to help communities lead their own development initiatives thereby making norm change a possibility.

Other Speakers include women councilor, health officers, Basse Area council, social mobilization team member, Chief of Jimara, Women’s Bureau representative and the Governor of URR.

Speaker after speakers acknowledged the efforts and impacts of Tostan Community Empowerment programme on the people of URR especially the Sarahulehs. They also reaffirmed their readiness to support Tostan programmes so they could be sustained and expanded to elsewhere in the Gambia. Tostan programme has immensely contributed to improve the health of women and girls.


What is Gambian President Doing In Paris Again?

December 23, 2013

 Questions have been raised about why Gambian President is returning to the French capital Paris. President Jammeh was in Paris a fortnight ago.

Unlike his previous visit, which was unannounced, the Gambia Radio and Television Services broadcast the departure of President from Yundum international airport today to the French capital. But the state broadcaster fell short of providing details on the reasons for the trip.

News from the grapevine said Gambian leader is flying to Paris for medical treatment.

Earlier today, Kibaaro News got msm messages from a group of France-based Gambians supplying the address and reasons for President Jammeh’s visit. The message attributes Jammeh’s visit to medical treatment.

The message also states details of a plan demonstration and the dress code for December 23 planned protest.

Below is a message from a Gambian group in France planning a protest:


MONDAY 23 december 2013

74 Boulevard de Port-Royal 75005
RER B from chatelet Station!

75008 PARIS


Jammeh landed this Sunday 22 December 2013 at at Orly Airport…




Dresse Code: Black BLACK, For the victims of his criminal Regime

President Jammeh Sneaks Into France

December 5, 2013

Yahya JammehGambian President is due in France on Thursday, December 5th. State House sources told Kibaaro News that President Yahya Yahya Jammeh is expected to land in Paris at 11:45 A.M.

Mr. Jammeh’s unannounced visit is prompted by his deteriorating health condition, State House sources confirmed. President Jammeh is accompanied by Secretary General Momodou Sabally. Shortly before his scheduled travel, Mr. Jammeh added the port-folio of Head of Civil Service to Mr. Sabally’s title.

President Jammeh is expected to attend a meeting involving French authorities. He is also billed to meet officials of the European Union as they make decision on whether to give the Gambia grant of ten million Euros.

Gambian leader’s supporters in France who have got wind of the unannounced trip have been mired in worry. They have been mobilized to accord tumultuous welcome to Mr. Jammeh. President Jammeh’s opponents are also planning to shame him for “turning our country into unimaginable dictatorship, resulting to gross violations of human rights.”

News from the grapevine said Mr. Jammeh wanted to sneak into France to avoid a replica of the New York debacle in September, when right-conscious Gambian activists barricaded his hotel.

Before leaving for Paris, Gambian leader was reported to have been disturbed with the message he had received from a Hausa marabous from Nigeria that his leadership is mired in “serious darkness.” He was reportedly advised to sacrifice four minor children from different tribes, perhaps, to safe a disintegrating empire from collapsing.


Respect Privacy of Children Living with HIV/AIDS

December 1, 2013

Jammeh is wrong to parade 8-year-old kids on TV


By Ousman JC Darboe Human Right/HIV and AIDS Activist


ousmanWorld AIDS Day on 1 December brings together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS and demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic. The day is an opportunity for public and private partners to spread awareness about the status of the global pandemic and encourage progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support.

Human rights are fundamental to addressing the HIV and AIDS epidemic. On the one hand human rights violations fuel the epidemic by increasing people’s vulnerability to infection. On the other, human rights violations often follow infection and people living with HIV and AIDS can be subjected to various forms of discrimination and ill-treatment, including harassment, arbitrary arrest and torture.

Discriminatory policies and practices can also result in people being denied access to the information, support and services necessary to make informed decisions and to reduce their vulnerability and risk of infection.

Everywhere in the world, HIV-positive people are still subject to serious forms of stigma and discrimination. They risk losing their jobs, being ostracized from their communities and being denied equal access to goods and services necessary to realize their human rights, and even the protection of the law. The vast majority of people living with HIV have inadequate access to care and treatment.

All people, including people living with HIV, have a right to the highest attainable standard of health. I believes that respecting, protecting and fulfilling the full range of human rights of all individuals is indispensable to reducing the rates of HIV infection, expanding access to care and treatment and mitigating the impact of the epidemic, including acts of discrimination and violence.

World leaders have made new promises – bold, tangible and realistic. Promises have been made to put 15 million people living with HIV on antiretroviral treatment. There is also the global plan of action for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The new global strategy – Zero Deaths, Zero new infections and Zero discriminations – are all very important promises and commitments.

These promises now must be delivered in every country, every community and to every person in need.  Fortunately, leaders are standing up to say that an AIDS-free generation is possible and that no child should be born with HIV and that no mother should die of AIDS.

In the Gambia over 22,000 people, including children are living with HIV and AIDS.  I am significantly, justifiably and vehemently concerned, agonized and distressed based on the fact that the Gambia still wallows over an HIV response Program without a single functional Viral Load Machine, dysfunctional CD4 machine [a machine that allows clinicians to know when to start HIV patients on life-saving therapy] at some health centers.  The vast majority of people living with HIV have inadequate access to care and treatment.

President Jammeh claimed in January 2007 to have discovered herbal cure for HIV/AIDS, and launched a programme to treat people living with HIV/AIDS for several months after which they are discharged from his programme. The claim triggered widespread condemnation from the international community, with health experts concerned it would slow the already low uptake of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, the only medically proven therapy for HIV infection.

The ingredients of the President’s herbal mixture have been kept secret. People who were originally on anti-retroviral then switched to the President’s herbal treatment have since returned to ARVs.

The President’s treatment has improved the uptake of anti-retroviral by reducing the social stigma of HIV-positive status and by making people realize traditional treatments do not always work.

Most serious concern is the breach of privacy and confidentiality by the President Yahya Jammeh who paraded an 8-year-old child  living with HIV and AIDS on Gambia Radio and Television Services. This has caused lots of stigma and discrimination on the child. We urge the president to stop the violation of human right and to respect the right to privacy and confidentiality of a child living with HIV and AIDS.