In November 2015 President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia announced his intention to outlaw the ancient practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and in December the government passed a bill criminalzing the act.
FGM is the practice of cutting and/or removing parts of a women's vagina for non-medical, often cultural, ethnic, or religious reasons. The small west African country of The Gambia has one of the highest prevalence rates of FGM with some communities cutting up to 97% of their young girls. The majority of Gambians are Sunni and there has been an ongoing debate in the country's media about the compatibility of FGM with Islam. The proponents of FGM are often conservative religious leaders and village elders who are challenged with an increasingly interconnected, Internet-savvy generation of young Gambians who are absorbing liberal ideas, either online or from the worldwide Gambian diaspora, and are questioning the legitimacy of the ancient practice.
Jaha Dukureh, 26, is the daughter of a prominent Gambian Imam and has been campaigning to end FGM since the birth of her first daughter. Her campaigning has been instrumental in keeping the issue in the spotlight, regularly meeting with affected communities, organising events for journalists covering the story, and lobbying government officials.
Louis Leeson is a reportage photojournalist with a background in documentary film. He studied at the London College of Communication from 2009 to 2012 where he received a First Class BA (Hons) in Photojournalism. Louis works in the UK and internationally for feature film, editorial, and humanitarian organisations. He shoots long-term investigative projects and has covered the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, FGM in The Gambia, and the refugee crisis engulfing Europe and the Middle East.
Louis’ work has been published in the Guardian, the Evening Standard, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, the Mirror, the International Business Times, Al-Jazeera, Vice News, Broadly, Huck, Nowness, Grazia, Marie Claire, Save the Children, War Child, and more. Louis is represented in the by the picture agency Eyevine.