Bakary Seedy Damph (Buba) founded and runs Kids Come First Foundation, a community based advocacy group that offers support and empowers children irrespective of their backgrounds. The foundation addresses issues such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child Marriage and provides affected children and their families with psychological, financial and emotional support based on a fair assessment of their needs.
FGM is a violation of fundamental human rights. It is an act that has long term psychological effects and no health benefits. Bakary Seedy Damph comes from a practicing community where cutters perform this horrendous act on children every year. Besides FGM, child marriage and other child rights violations are perpetrated on children on a daily basis without any consideration towards the child and with little or no remedial action. Having worked for several years as a social worker and as a community development practitioner, Bakary started a campaign across the community with the support of Mr Momodou Darboe who is also Co-founder. The two of them established Kids Come First Foundation on the 10th April 2012.
At the beginning of the campaign, Bakary was criticized because he became involved with FGM, a women’s issue. Many associate FGM with women and question the involvement of men but Buba is glad to tell that attitudes are changing today and that many people have realized that FGM also affects men.
Kids come First is the only advocacy group in VAW, Wellingara. The population of Wellingara mainly comes from the following ethnic groups: Mandingoes, Fulas, Serrehules and Jolas. These groups practice FGM the most within The Gambia. There are also some Wolof who live among them. However, in contrast to the other groups, the Wolof have the lowest prevalence rates.
Kids Come First works with and for children in the following areas in order to fulfill its moral and social responsibilities.
Children Sponsorship Scheme: providing educational support to 15 children from Nursery to Lower Basic School. Kids Come First believes education and awareness creation are powerful means and tools to bring an end to FGM, child marriage and other harmful practices.
Smile for Hope: offering bi-annual support to pediatric patients at the country’s main hospital named Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital by providing clothes, toys and candies. It also offers voluntary blood donation and psychological support/therapy.
Development of a Resource Center: Kids Come First continues to work very hard to establish a resource center for children and students of to provide facilities to conduct research, academic studies and among others, to create storytelling sessions with children.
Youth Forum: organization ofannual residential youth camps in order to offer a forum for youth to discuss relevant issues. In December 2015, supported by 28 Too Many, it successfully hosted a ten-day residential youth forum dedicated to FGM for 30 young people. Among the young people were students, members of the Youth Platform for Change and community representatives representing different grass root organizations and Jacqueline Hoover, from 28 Too Many, presented information on the traditions of FGM as well as training on how to end FGM. This year the Youth Forum intends to bring together different youth organisations with traditional and/or religious leaders to talk about FGM as non-religious requirement.
Child Marriage: denies a staggering number of girls and an important number of boys the right to live healthy, fulfilling lives. Girls married off in childhood are exposed to greater health risks as well as risks of violence.
It needs to be stated that both FGM and child marriage are legally prohibited in The Gambia. However, they continue to be practiced in secret. Kids Come First needs to use the legislation to support its work to end FGM, but it is also necessary for people to voluntarily abandon these harmful practices and the organization believes this is possible by continuing its advocacy and by sharing information.
As Bakary firmly believes, “no violence against children and women is justifiable, and all violence against children and women is preventable’’.
You can follow Kids Come First on social media: Twitter:@kidscomefirst12, Facebook @Kids Come First Foundation, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
28 Too Many researches FGM and campaigns to end the practice in the 28 African countries where it is practised and across the global diaspora. You can support our work by donating to fund our research and keep up to date with our progress by liking our page on Facebook and following us on Twitter.