By Cherno Omar Bobb
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and partners on Saturday engaged the Chief of Fuladu East and alkalolu within the Basse constituency on sexual and reproductive health matters including family planning and cervical cancer as well as various forms of gender-based violence including harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.
Conversations on enhancing parental care through parent-to-child dialogue and the need for men being supportive of their spouses and family members among other issues were discussed at the gathering held in Koba Kunda. It was 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 the SOS Mother and Child Clinic, Regional Health Teams in NBR, CRR and URR, the Gambia Family Planning Association and the Network Against Gender-Based Violence, among others. The significant engagements being held under the campaign also demonstrate the significance of partnerships and collaboration in the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030.
Lamin Camara, Programme Analyst – Adolescents and Youth at the UNFPA Gambia Country Office said strong male involvement is required in ensuring no woman dies of preventable causes while giving life, achieving gender equality and also ensuring that women live in health and dignity. He added that it is also important to ensure women have access to family planning services, and are prevented from all forms of gender-based violence.
Also speaking during a community-outreach programme in Demba Kunda Kuta, Haddy Jonga, Programme Analyst – Communication at UNFPA said gender-based violence takes many forms including physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence. She cited wife battering, rape, child marriage and FGM as some very common forms of gender-based violence in Gambian communities.
According to her, all forms of violence have negative implications on the development of society and the advancement of the nation, however women and girls are the most affected.
The ‘I am for Zero’ under which these engagements are being carried out seeks to create community ownership of efforts to realise the three zeros and ensure that the health, development and participation of women, youth and adolescents are prioritised in national development endeavours, according to officials of the UN agency.
Coming at a time when the Gambia recently launched the findings of the 2019-20 Demographic and Health Survey which showed that the country has made progress in many health and development indicators, the campaign will cement the gains made in previous years while directing investments towards existing gaps.
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 perpetuates period shaming.
According to the programme, UNFPA is the agency working to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. Over the 12-day campaign period, the agency and its partners are providing information and services, engage communities and call opinion leaders to action for the promotion and realisation of gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and champion male involvement.