The African Feminist Forum: Isatou Touray from The Gambia.

1 Sep

Isatou-Touray-1

Isatou Touray is an African feminist activist from the Gambia. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with her through The V-day movement and The One Billion Rising campaign, when we met an African women’s symposium, that was held in 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya. In September 2016, she announced her candidature for the Presidency of the Gambia, making her the first ever female candidate in history to run for this office. Madame Touray has been known for her decades-long efforts towards women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, including the end to female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Gambia.

According to her biography, she wrote:

I was born in Banjul where I received my education. I initially trained as a teacher, and was posted in various parts of the country, including the rural areas. I observed that women were working for over 18 hours and walking for long distances to collect firewood with their children on their back. As a home craft teacher, I worked with them on activities such as improving family health through improved nutritional education and on building skills for income generation. I realised that these women were also exploited and that their concerns were not taken into consideration in most development activities. I saw them being mobilised to attend workshops, and then have nothing reported back to them. They would come to me asking, “What came out of the promise made by the Ministry?”
From that point I committed myself to grassroots activism. I engage communities through awareness raising and training. I use information derived from the field to engage the state and call for accountability. I now belong to several networks, and the experiences I gain from these global initiatives are disseminated to empower communities, decision makers and legislators to advance the feminist agenda on development. I have also conducted doctoral research. I now work as Executive Director of the Gambian Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Girls (GAMCOTRAP), a women’s rights organisation that I co-founded in 1992 to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, and work to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation.
I call myself a feminist because I believe in the power and soul of women. I don’t have to act like a man or manifest macho tendencies to be accepted in certain contexts. I feel that my rights form part of the whole, and what I chose to be should not be the reason for discrimination. I have seen how women are subordinated in various cultures, traditions and religions. I have seen and experienced the inconsistencies of interpretations about issues affecting my life and how these come to be different for men. All these experiences have accumulated over the years and made me a feminist. If feminism is about liberation of women I have chosen to do only that. If feminism is about women’s self-determination and to regain my integrity, I have chosen to live it! I am a feminist activist  because I would like to see a transformation that gives both men and women equal opportunities to self-actualise. I want to be part of creating a world free of discrimination, a world that recognizes diversity to enable us to  live in peace and harmony with each other. Of late I have taken to writing about our experiences and documenting  our work for posterity and public consumption. We need to leave a legacy that is remembered in the future.

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