A report from Gunjur as Gambia's President outlaws female genital mutilation - FGM
I am writing from Marlborough's link community of Gunjur in The Gambia where I and my two companions Trevor Kearley and Andrew Mallinson, were delighted to hear, the day after our arrival, that President Jammeh has outlawed the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).
This is a widespread practice - it is estimated that 76 per cent of girls in The Gambia are cut. It is also a deeply embedded social practice carried out by women on young girls and with the approval of the girls' mothers and grandmothers.
It has been practised for generations in many countries in Africa and Asia from before the arrival of Christianity and Islam.
Of course, it has terrible consequences both at the time of cutting of the clitoris and the labia resulting in bleeding and infection and then subsequently in childbirth when there is often delay in the delivery with consequent disability or mortality - not to mention the effects on the mother.
The Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG) has recently been working with the Gambian diaspora in the UK to try and discourage this practice amongst their families back at home.
We were privileged to have Dr Isatou Touray, the director of the leading organisation tackling this problem in The Gambia, GAMCOTRAP (the Gambian Committee on Traditional Practices) speaking on this subject and their campaign at MBG's annual general meeting in Marlborough Town Hall in July.
In The Gambia we have been speaking out on the subject and had a private meeting in August with the senior Imam in The Gambia and a resident of Gunjur, Alhagie Lamin Touray, who is the Chairman of the Supreme Islamic Council and Imam to the President. We made the point that this is not simply a health issue but also a human rights issue: "What right have we to cut girls at the age of eight and cause so many problems?"
The Imam agreed that the Holy Koran states that "Thou shalt not harm another human being."
We think that our quiet work behind the scenes and the work of other agencies in The Gambia has brought about this edict by the President.
Of course this is not the end of the matter and more will have to be done at a local level to persuade women to "Drop the knife!" - which is the slogan of Gamcotrap's national campaign.
You can read about the work of the UK's Department for International Development's Christine Kolbe on FGM in The Gambia in her DFID blogs.