Image from the film ‘Jaha’s Promise’

Our Fight to End FGM in The Gambia: Who is Listening?

6 min readApr 9, 2024


By Jaha Dukureh, a Gambian anti-female genital mutilation campaigner and the founder and executive director of Safe Hands for Girls.

Published in collaboration with Nala Feminist Collective.

In 2015, The Gambia made significant progress by enacting the Women’s Amendment Act, which prohibits female circumcision and imposes penalties on those who perform or promote the practice. This achievement came following three decades of advocacy. However, recent attempts to repeal this ban has not only threatened to undermine the progress made in protecting women and girls from FGM, but has raised serious questions on Gambia’s fragile transition to democracy.

As a survivor of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), born and raised in The Gambia, a Serahule and a proud Muslim, my journey has been one of pain, resilience, and unwavering determination, but also recognizing my roots and the challenges that comes from speaking up, especially if you are a woman and more especially if you are one from my own group. Today, as I reflect on the challenges that lie ahead, I am compelled to raise my voice in defense of the progress that has been made in protecting our daughters, our sisters, and our future generations. I am convinced that more than ever today, FGM must end with our generation. This has been my position and I have invested my own efforts to raise awareness by sharing my own experience and helping bring the issue to the public agenda.

I speak up for myself, for my generation, and the millions of girls that will hear our story and say this is enough. I will never do it to my daughter. Personally, that’s the ultimate victory. Today, if you look at our situation in The Gambia, it’s our own parents that are leading the frontline and demanding to keep a practice that our generation, the survivors, recommended for it to be banned. It happened to me and it’s the story of the thousands of girls in our country. Yet, our fathers refused to accept our pain and our lifelong challenges. Who will listen?

But we refuse to be silenced. We refuse to stand idly by as our daughters’ bodies are mutilated, their futures stolen, and their dreams shattered. That’s why, when the world celebrated women’s achievements and progress last month, we launched a petition to stop the repeal of the ban on FGM in The Gambia. We need all of you to help tell our parents, enough.

Again, I will never put my daughter through this. Our campaign has given voices to many young girls that continue to render service and unapologetically leading movements to help change social norms. It has never been our intention to be the lone voice in this movement but to ensure that our generation is united in ending this practice within.

But today, we also need to be honest with ourselves and look at the issue as it is. As much as I am emotionally invested in the campaign, I have always recognized my limitations, especially when I decided to bring my campaign home. If you have the chance to watch Jaha’s Promise, you will understand what I am trying to explain. I was returning home to join a decades-long campaign to end the harmful practice. As young people we develop a whole society approach eradicating the practice. This required us to organize but also to engage those that had different views. Through community engagement and outreach and collaborative partnership with government, one of the major recommendations from the First National Youth Forum in 2014 was to ban FGM.

From the outside, one might think that this conversation is about FGM itself. It has nothing to do with the harm I experienced, and the millions of girls that are at risk, rather in my own honest opinion, it’s merely a religious academic exercise on the part of our vulnerable religious leaders. I watch with keen interest, the National Dialogue On FGM organized by The Gambia Supreme Islamic Council, in partnership with the population commission and Alhazar University. Even within the religious community they are divided on the issue. And for me as I observed, divergence in opinion comes from the Pro camp focus on religious obligation without addressing the harm, while those opposing focus on the harm.

FGM is largely sensitive in The Gambia due to divergence in conceptual understanding of the term. For me, I do not understand what female circumcision is. What I experience is mutilation and life long pain. No one can deny my experience.

Since, I joined the thousand of voices across the globe to raise concern on the dangers that this age old harmful traditional practice has had on me, and is having on young women globally, today, as our own elected representatives are debating whether to end this harmful practice, raises so many questions I am reminded that the struggle is far from over. I have experienced first hand, the dangers of FGM and child marriage, and like me, millions of girls are at risk of going through this harmful practice.

FGM has largely been treated as a women’s issue — a sacred passage that women have to go through. Though our fathers gave consent to the practice, they do not understand nor experience what we go through. In The Gambia, like many parts of Africa, FGM remains a deeply entrenched tradition, affecting a significant portion of the population. According to the Foundation for Research on Women’s Health, Productivity and the Environment (BAFFROW), the estimated percentage of women who have undergone some form of FGM ranges from 60% — 90%. This practice cuts across ethnic, religious, and cultural boundaries, affecting communities across the country.

There are four main types of FGM practiced in The Gambia, ranging from clitoridectomy to the more severe infibulation. These practices are often performed without anesthesia and using crude instruments, leading to significant health risks and long-term consequences for the victims. The procedure is usually carried out on infants and girls between the ages of two to 14 years old by traditional practitioners known as circumcisers.

Despite efforts by organizations like the Gambia Committee against Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP) and the Foundation for Research on Women’s Health, Productivity and the Environment (BAFFROW) to raise awareness about the harmful effects of FGM, the practice persists due to deeply ingrained cultural beliefs and social pressures.

The proposed repeal is not just a legal issue; it is a moral imperative, a test of our humanity, and a reflection of our values as a society. It sends a dangerous message that the rights and dignity of girls are expendable, that their bodies are mere vessels for the preservation of harmful traditions.

But we know better. We know that FGM is a violation of human rights, a form of violence against women and girls, and a practice that should end with us. That’s why we are mobilizing, organizing, and uniting to raise the alarm for the rights of all girls to live free from fear and harm.

Our petition is more than just signatures on a page; it is a collective call to our parents to kindly listen to the voice of reason and understand the harm that we go through. As a survivor, I know first-hand the pain and trauma inflicted by FGM. But I also know the power of resilience, the strength of solidarity, and the hope that springs from the darkest of places. While our parents are not listening to us, we call on all of you.

Join me, join us, as we raise our voices, protect our girls, as we say no to the repeal of the ban on FGM in The Gambia. Together, let us protect our girls, end FGM, and build a world where every woman and girl is empowered to live a life of dignity, freedom, and equality. We owe it to our daughters, our sisters, and ourselves to mobilize our communities, and demand accountability from our leaders.

Join me in this fight. Sign our petition, raise awareness, and stand in solidarity with survivors of FGM. Together, we can end this harmful practice and ensure a brighter future for generations to come.

Jaha Dukureh
FGM Advocate and Survivor
Founder & CEO, Safe Hands for Girls The Gambia

#StopFGMRepealGambia #ProtectOurGirls #EndFGM




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