From awareness to action: Community Engagement To End FGM

Ending FGM requires a multi-faceted approach, at the heart of which lies community engagement for sustainable impact. Our team is in the Upper River Region for a week, leading intensive community sensitization on Female Genital Mutilation. The activity targets communities in all districts of URR, with an aim to raise awareness on the dangers of FGM and inspire a shift to voluntary abandonment of the practice.

For the past three days, we have enjoyed the warm reception and goodwill of the leaders and people of Sandu and Jimara districts.

Our conversations focus on socio-cultural complexities, health complications, religious perspectives and the legal provisions relating to FGM in The Gambia, and are led by trained professionals in each domain. We are actively listening to the views of the people in these communities and working with them to find ways of appreciating our beautiful cultures and traditions while leaving behind practices that can be detrimental to the well-being of girls and women.

Again, we renew our appreciation to UNFPA The Gambia for investing in youth and supporting this activity. We’re grateful for all the support we have received as we work to end FGM, one community at a time.

TYW-TGA Training of Out-Of-School Girls and Young Mothers in CRR

Since inception, we have supported and partnered with various organisations in and outside The Gambia, in our work to advance the cause of women, and ensure the respect and fulfillment of the rights of women and girls. These partnerships have strengthened the impact of our work, and helped us to reach often marginalised groups with much-needed interventions and information.

In collaboration with our sister organisation The Girls’ Agenda, and with funding from UNFPA The Gambia, we successfully completed a training on teenage pregnancy and other forms of gender-based violence, targeting out-of-school girls and young mothers in the Central River Region. Participants were drawn from all districts in the region, and included victims and survivors of GBV, in various forms.

Education is empowerment. Together, we can protect women and girls and end all forms of GBV.

4th #TYW4Girls Mentorship Programme – Week 3

Ready, Set, Soar!

It’s already Week 3 of the 4th session in our #TYW4Girls Mentorship Programme! This week, we discussed Gender-Based Violence, with a specific focus on Violence Against Women and Girls.

We’re working with a unique group of 80 girls from different backgrounds, and understand the realities of the society we live in, as far as gender is concerned. Guided by the mentors, the girls worked in groups to discuss GBV, its different forms, how to protect themselves, and where to go to seek help. We were pleasantly surprised by how much they already know, and inspired by their ever-growing desire to learn more.

Our exercises in trust-building last week came in handy as they worked together to determine safe spaces among their groups, in their homes and schools, and within their immediate communities. They explored the concepts of sex, gender and gender roles, and what roles they can play in breaking the cycle of inequalities that often place girls and women at a disadvantage.

As mentors, we are always happy to learn from the girls and their experiences, as this helps us to keep providing them with the support and services they need to thrive and serve their communities. Certainly creating a new generation of women leaders!

Special thanks to UNFPA The Gambia for supporting us on this journey, and to State of Mic for the fun photo session.

TYW Launches 4th Edition of Girls Mentorship Programme

The 4th session of our Girls’ Mentorship Programme has started, and we’re super excited! This cohort brings together 80 girls from Gambia Methodist Academy, Ndow’s Comprehensive, Kanifing East Upper Basic and Latrikunda Upper Basic Schools.

Today, we held the first session at L.K school, where the girls and our mentors had a chance to get to know one another, discover expectations and fears, as well as create guidelines for the next three months of our journey together.

We look forward to an amazing and inspiring time as we engage on issues relating to the lives of adolescent girls, while supporting them to discover their talents and use them to serve their communities and the country. We hope that the girls will make the best use of the safe space we have created to overcome their fears, beat the challenges, and thrive.

We continue to appreciate UNFPA The Gambia for their support, and for believing in our dream and mission to inspire and create a new generation of young women leaders. You can follow weekly updates from the programme online through the #TYW4Girls hashtag.

Our Girls Have Graduated!

Following three months of weekly training, bonding, inspiration and a beautiful sisterhood, our 40 brave girls have graduated from the third session of our Girls’ Mentorship Programme.

It’s been an incredible journey, and we couldn’t have been prouder of how far we have come with these amazing ladies from St. Theresa’s Upper Basic and Latrikunda Upper Basic Schools. Their performances at the graduation ceremony were a strong testimony of the journey we have shared with them, and we are excited to see what they do next.

We thank everyone who has supported us and the girls, as well as all partners who honored our invitation to celebrate our brave girls. Special mention to UNFPA The Gambia for believing in our vision to create a new generation of strong, bold, fearless and brave young women leaders. The stories from these girls speak for themselves.We are grateful!

Check out our Facebook album for more pictures.

 

TYW, TGA Engage Out-Of-School Girls and Young Mothers in CRR

Think Young Women, in partnership with The Girls’ Agenda are working with 20 out-of-school girls and young mothers on Gender-Based Violence, Teenage Pregnancy and FGM .

The training, funded by UNFPA The Gambia, is hosted in Janjanbureh, Central River Region and brings together participants from across the country. By the end of the activity, the participants will be equipped with better awareness and understanding of the selected topics, while enjoying a safe space to share their stories and provide support for one another, without fear of discrimination or other degrading behaviours. 

Momodou Mboge, UNFPA Deputy Resident Representative

The two organisations will support the selected participants to develop their personalities, build confidence, and encourage them to go back to school, where possible. With the right support, this often marginalised group can turn their fate around and contribute to their personal development and the country’s progress. 

International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM 2016

Today is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Building a solid and interactive bridge between Africa and the world to accelerate ending FGM by 2030”.

Globally, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM. The Gambia records the highest prevalence of FGM among girls aged 14 and younger. Many girls are still at risk of getting cut.

At Think Young Women, we remain committed to using the best approaches to reach practicing communities with empowering messages, and help to change their perceptions on FGM. Empowering them with information on the harmful effects of FGM places them in a position to make informed decisions to abandon the practice and protect girls and women.

We take this opportunity to thank our friends, partners and donors for the support given to us to reach young people with positive messages to inspire an end to FGM in a generation. We appreciate the assistance from UNFPA The Gambia and . Your contributions have been immeasurable.

We believe that when we come together and employ various means and approaches, we can end FGM. It starts with us.

3rd #TYW4Girls Mentorship Programme – Week 9

Did you miss our girls?

The #TYW4Girls Mentorship Programme has reached its 9th week, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to connect with these girls who bring so much of themselves to the class, while remaining eager to learn new things.

Today, we had a quick stock-taking session, asking the girls to share what the program has meant to them so far, and how they’ll make use of the knowledge and experiences gained in the three months. We were thankful to read through their thoughts, and encouraged by their zeal to pay it forward.

Our discussion topic today was Child Protection, looking at definitions and various types, and focusing on Child Labour and Child Sex Tourism. These are both pressing and timely issues as we usher in the new tourist season, and also see more children being forced into labour for various reasons. The girls, led by Sister Mariama Johm, discussed the various concepts and thought of the ways in which they can contribute to efforts to reduce the number of children facing these issues.

Our goal is to keep opening their minds up to the realities around them, guiding them to make the right decisions, and providing them with the information they need to protect themselves and thrive. This wouldn’t be possible without the support of UNFPA The Gambia, our great partners in the journey to fulfill our vision for girls and women in The Gambia.

Enjoy the pictures from Week 9.

3rd #TYW4Girls Mentorship Programme – Week 5

Today was all about love and sisterhood at our Girls’ Mentorship Programme. We’ve already been together for 5 weeks, and are building relationships that will go beyond this project. Time flies when you’re having a good time, and that’s exactly how we feel with the amazing girls we work with every Saturday at Latrikunda Upper Basic School. Today, we welcomed even more students and a new mentor! Welcome on board Ya Mallen Jagne!

The session today focused on leadership and decision-making, in line with our vision to inspire and create a new generation of young women leaders. Our discussions centered on the meaning of leadership, branching out to its different types, the qualities of a good leader, and solutions to bad leadership. It is without doubt that this is taking root in the minds of the girls, who were challenged through several means to question leadership models beginning with themselves and expanding into what they see around them.

We were happy to know that many of the girls hold leadership positions in their schools and are handling them well, despite the challenges. Some shared the conflicts they have with friends due to their insistence on the respect of school rules and regulations. Some shared experiences of being intimidated or threatened for fulfilling the duties as leaders, and because of factors like size and gender. They all understood that these are issues that come with the positions they hold, and this sharing session helped us to segue smoothly into the second part of our discussion, which focused on decision-making and problem-solving.

The girls were introduced to the ideal method of problem-solving and then split into four groups to work on different scenarios and devise solutions to them. They came up with creative and very thoughtful ways of dealing with these issues, which are possible situations they could face at this stage in their lives. Each group presented their results and the girls took turns to analyze these results and ask questions to better understand the reasoning behind these choices.

We also took time to celebrate our volunteer mentor Ngenarr-Yassin Jeng, TYW Communications Officer, who turns a new age today. The girls sang, read poems and danced for, and with Ngenarr and the other mentors. A great outpouring of love to end a great day. We can’t wait for Week 6!

Thanks to UNFPA The Gambia for making this experience possible for us and for the girls. Truly investing in teenage girls to harness the demographic dividend.

3rd #TYW4Girls Mentorship Programme – Week 4

It’s been four weeks of active engagement with the girls in our mentorship programme, and we are incredibly proud of the journey so far.

Today, we had even more girls joining the group, drawing closer to our target of 60 girls from 3 Upper Basic Schools in the Greater Banjul Area. The usual round of introductions were spiced up with interesting facts from the newcomers, opening up the space to recap on our activities from last week.

This week, our session focused on puberty and the conversation was led by our Sainabou Nyang and Aji Isatou Saho, both experienced peer health educators. The girls kicked off with group discussions to define puberty and identify the various changes that occur in the bodies of girls and boys who’ve reached the age of puberty. 

Group 1 discussing the changes that occur in boys during puberty.

The girls went further to list the similarities and differences in these changes for the two groups; their responses aligned with our objective to gauge their understanding of these issues and determine the course of our conversation. We were particularly impressed by the great knowledge they already had on the subject.

Group 2 discussing the changes that occur in girls during puberty.

In the four hours we spent together, we were able to discuss menstruation, hygiene, virginity and safe sex, providing guidance for these teenagers who have reached the age of experimentation and are, therefore, most in need of accurate information on their sexual and reproductive health. The girls shared experiences on their first menstruation cycles, expressing sentiments of surprise, confusion and excitement at various levels. This part of the conversation took a while as we discussed the best/most convenient brands of sanitary pads to use during menstruation. Our mentors shared their experiences and useful tips to make sure we all purchase the right products and provide the necessary care for our bodies.

Our discussions further strengthened our belief in the need to have these spaces for girls, where conversations can be had without risk of judgement or shame. The issues raised during each session have been crucial to building the knowledge and understanding of the girls on a range of social issues that affect them directly and indirectly.

Play and games to take a break from the serious sessions.

It’s been four weeks and we are very proud to see how much the girls have grown, how much maturity they bring to the conversations, and how they have chosen to stand by one another through the journey and beyond. That’s four weeks worth celebrating!