THE 2006 ALTERNATIVE RITE OF PASSAGE CEREMONY
The village of Laminkoto in the Central River Region was the first community to embrace the concept of the Alternative Rite of Passage ceremony for girls, other communities followed suite. To data over 30 communities have embraced the alternative rites of passage.
2006 marked eight years since parents of these communities had their daughters registered at age 3 months to 3 years and reassured BAFROW that they were determined not to have their daughters cut. The communities remained true to their word, and to intensify the campaign in their region an Alternative Rite of Passage was organized at the request of the communities.
Prior to the ceremony, which was held in June 2006, a planning committee was formed to look at all the preparatory aspects of the ceremony. 150 girls from ages 7 to 17 years were chosen from 6 communities in the Central River Region to go through the rites of passage during which the girls were to be trained in seclusion for 15 days using the curriculum for the restructured rite of passage. The curriculum focused on three main areas: Health, Culture and religion. The content and sessions were designed to suit different age groups. The ex-circumcisers took turns to train the girls on the following issues:
- How to maintain personal and environmental hygiene
- How to cook and serve food under hygienic conditions
- FGMC as a harmful tradition practice due to its severe health complications
- The importance of healthy nutrition and its functions in the body
- Discouragement of food taboos
- The psychosocial and physical effects of early marriage and teenage pregnancy.
- Location and functions of vital body organs
- Mother and child health
- Issues of child rights and child abuse
- Sign language is also taught to accommodate those that are impaired in language and hearing.
- Traditional songs depicting women and girls empowerment
- Duties of a Muslim woman,
- Rights and Responsibilities of Muslim women and men.
- Religious requirements for religious ceremonies.
- Respect for elders
- Responsible womanhood.
- Gender stereotyping, gender biasing, and myths.
To mark the end of the event, a graduation ceremony was held and the girls were acknowledged as renowned initiates. Entertainment and social events that were organized during the period of the passage rite and at the end of the period involved the traditional masquerade, traditional dancing and singing.
On the day of the graduation, the initiates were all dressed in a similar traditional outfit. Parents had prepared traditional beads, hair and feet ornaments for their daughters. The ornaments were worn on the girls, as they sat elegantly in a pavilions carpeted with colorful homemade mats.
The graduation ceremony was attended by family members, friends and invitees from the surrounding communities. Such ceremonies are open to everyone. District chiefs and Village Heads also attended. Many speeches were delivered, and all of them expressed appreciation for the initiative and called for the adoption of the restructured initiation rites for girls by all communities. The celebrations continued with singing, dancing and dining, and exhibition of various types of traditional masquerades, and drumming.
THIS FGMC PREVENTIVE APPROACH WORKS WELL FOR MANY COMMUNITIES IN THE GAMBIA