Tackling FGM and child rights issues in the Gambia

This interview with Ebrima Jaiteh, an A World at School Global Youth Ambassador from the Gambia originally appeared on the Children’s Corner section of Forayaa Newspaper. He talks about his dedication to child rights, as well as female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual exploitation, and the detention of children.

Children’s Corner: Could you kindly give a little personal background to our esteemed readers?

Jaiteh: My name is Ebrima Jaiteh. A young Gambian, A World at School Global Youth Ambassador, child’s rights and women’s rights’ activist.

You have dedicated your life to child rights. Kindly give us the motivation behind such a great personal commitment.

It always shocks my heart whenever I see little children suffering from global inequality. This has prompted me so much that it has made me to have a keen interest in the participation of global affairs, moreso issues affecting children.

The battle to create a better and secure life for all children throughout the world is, however, still far from won. The lives of millions of children are still blighted by poverty, war, insecurity, ill-health and lack of access to education.

I love children and I so much have passion for their wellbeing. And I believe that giving a child his/her right does not mean that you are doing a favour to him/her but instead you are doing something that is incumbent upon every being. The rights of a child as any other human being should be protected and promoted.

And, besides, I am also moved by the idea of A World At School Global Youth Ambassadors creating access to basic primary education to children which I am very passionate about.

This has also inspired, motivated and moved me to apply for A World At School Global Youth Ambassador programme so as to help get every child into school and learning; because a nation cannot make any meaningful development in the absence of education which we got from our teachers; because, the most respected leaders in the world who were children of yesterday are all being toughened at school by teachers either directly or indirectly.

Therefore, I’m asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his/her talents.

Though not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or equal motivation, they should have the equal right to develop their talents, their ability and their motivation, to make something of themselves. And together let us build the global alliance to realise that goal, secure the knowledge that in serving the best interests of children, we serve the best interests of all humanity.

Moving on to another key dimension, what are some of the challenges that children face in your community and its surrounding?

First of all, children lack proper guidance and counselling, children don’t have special chats with their parents, some parents have no interest in the child’s education (no school visits), children don’t know about child rights and protection, lack of proper immunisation, lack of exclusive breast feeding, suffering from malaria, diarrhoea, cholera, fever, childhood diseases and death just to list a few.

We shall not survive as nations and as communities, and our children will not have a future unless we rise to meet those crucial challenges we face.

We have to eliminate the scourge of poverty; eradicate illness and diseases; reduce the widening gap between the developed and developing world; stop conflict and war; prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and educate our citizens.

According to research, child labour continues to persist in the Gambia. How will you advocate for it to be eradicated?

I’ll advocate for social awareness of child labour – that is, to say, to provoke the consciousness of the people on social protection policies. Being sensitive to children’s needs can make a real difference in the fight to eradicate child labour, because social protection measures also play a significant role in ending child labour.

FGM continues to be the most sensitive abuse topic in our society and it is a serious human right abuse in the Gambia. How will you advocate for its eradication

I’ll take the bottom-top approach to sensitise the people in the hinterland (province­s) about the dangers involved in carrying out the mutilation and how detrimental it could be on a girl child.

And if possible, I would have even much love to target young people and couples, in particular, and provide information holding non mutilated girls and women in high esteem, providing the necessity support to enable them resist pressures to expose their daughters to FGM.

Generally, young people are in the vanguard in creating new social norms but, at the same time, there is a need for sensitivity when working with young women who have already undergone FGM.

Trafficking, sexual exploitation and detention of children continue to be serious human rights abuses in the Gambia. As an activist how will you advocate for their eradication?

I would have loved to advocate for there to be a concrete protection plan of action for the prevention of commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in the travel and tourism sector.

  1. To establish an ethical policy regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children
  2. To train the personnel in the country of origin and travel destinations
  3. To introduce a clause in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of commercial sexual exploitation of children
  4. To provide information to travellers by means of catalogues, brochures, in-ï¬ight ï¬lms, ticket-slips, home pages, etc
  5. To provide information to local “key persons” at the destinations
  6. To report annually

If these criteria are adopted or strongly maintained in the tourism industry, then I have no doubt in my mind that sexual exploitation and detention will completely be eradicated.

On my final question, what intentions or plans are on your list with regards to your work as an advocate?

My intentions or plans are to advocate for gender-based violence on women as to how it affects our children and also to advocate and help the 58 million of children out there who are out of school to have access to basic primary education and get into school and learning. Because I believe that for the 58 million children out there to have access to basic primary education is one of the fundamental gifts that you could ever give them.