By Cherno Omar Bobb
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Friday rewarded a bicycle to each of the winners of Upper River Region schools drawing competition on Family Planning.
The competition held at Nasir Ahmadiyya Muslim Senior Secondary School in Basse, Upper River Region brought together 60 students drawn from Lower Basic, Upper Basic and Senior Secondary Schools. Three winners emerged from each category.
The students drew their ideas about family wellbeing and what types of families they imagine for themselves in the future (size of the family and relationships between them). The drawings were collected with the selected ones to be published in a book that will promote UNFPA.
Mamadou Bah, a student of Koba Kunda Lower Basic School emerged winner in the lower basic schools category. Abdourahman Jallow, a student of Nasir Ahmadiyya Muslim Junior and Senior Secondary School was declared winner in the junior category while Sainey Fatty, a student of St George’s Technical Junior and Secondary School won the senior category.
All 60 students that participated in the drawing competition received learning materials such as notebooks, backpacks and information material on gender-based violence.
The competition is part of the 12-day “I Am for Zero Campaign” which seeks to promote the realisation of UNFPA’s three transformative results: zero unmet need for family planning; zero preventable maternal death; and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices. The campaign aims at finishing the unfinished business in sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence specifically targeting women, men, adolescents and young people in hard-to-reach communities in Central River Region North, the Baddibus in the North Bank Region and the Wuli or Fatoto areas in the Upper River Region.
The campaign is being conducted in collaboration with SOS Mother and Child Clinic, Regional Health Teams in NBR, CRR and URR, Gambia Family Planning Association and the Network Against Gender-Based Violence, among others.
A multi-disease approach is being used as an entry point to promote sexual and reproductive health and address gender-based violence. The activities under the campaign in communities include cervical and breast cancer screening, HIV/AIDS counseling and testing, provision of family planning services and information, the Husbands’ Schools initiative which engages male heads of households to strengthen male involvement and school outreaches on menstrual health and hygiene management targeting adolescent girls, school authorities and boys in order to discourage social stigma around menstruation which perpetuate period shaming. Within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaigners also engaged communities through risk communication and community engagement discussions especially in dispelling myths, misconceptions and misinformation around the uptake of vaccines and encourage community residents to be vaccinated.
Winners of the family planning drawing competition thanked UNFPA for organising the competition as well as rewarding them with bicycles and learning materials.
Ms. Kaddijatou Sidibeh, a teacher at Nasir Ahmadiyyah Junior and Senior Secondary School said both winners and participants being rewarded will serve as a motivation for other students to do well in their respective schools in order to participate in the competition in years to come but also their participation in such an activity will broaden their understanding of family wellbeing and the role education plays in realising happy and healthy families and communities.
Ms. Sidibeh, a previous winner herself when she was in grade 9, added that students winning bicycles will ease their hardships of travelling long distance by foot to attend school. She described the activity as the best from UNFPA, saying if it was money winners will spend and finish it within days but the bicycles will last for years and even be passed to winners’ younger ones to also use.
Mr. Lamin M. B. Ceesay, Education Officer at the Regional Education Directorate 6 in Basse on behalf of his Regional Director thanked UNFPA for organising such an important competition for students and involving adolescent boys and girls is discussing issues that affect them and provides a platform to share their views and thoughts on such issues.
He pointed out that the competition will go a long way in contributing to quality education as well as broadening the mind set of students especially on sexual and reproductive health. He urged other institutions to initiate similar programmes in improving adolescents’ awareness and enhance quality education in the country.
UNFPA has been working in the Gambia for over four decades supporting the government and people of the Gambia to ensure healthy pregnancies, safe deliveries and the empowerment of young people to realise their fullest potentials. The ‘I am for Zero’ campaign is one initiative through which the agency is championing the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and eradication of gender-based violence by working with its government and CSO partners to reach those furthest behind by bringing information and services to their doorsteps.