By Alagie Manneh
Four years after shocking the country with the story of her sexual harassment ordeal at the hands of former Dictator Yahya Jammeh attracting a huge display of solidarity that gave birth to the #MeToo movement in The Gambia, a former beauty queen Toufa Jallow is now seeking for its entrenchment.
“We are pleased that the conversation is getting a bit more broaden and had attention especially in 2019, but I think the conversation now should be about sustainability, sustaining those voices, and to think about how broadly #MeToo can affect the voices of young women all around the continent whose rapists are not presidents or who the media would not give voices to,” she said in an interview with France 24.
She added: “I think to expand #MeToo to more grassroots movements and to have young women and vulnerable communities empowered around the world is the only way to sustain the #MeToo conversation. If not, we are going to wait again for the next powerful moment, and for the next powerful person to abuse another young girl or another young woman in order for us to give any kind of attention to this conversation.”
Toufah, author of the book ‘Toufah: The woman who inspired an African #MeToo Movement’ could not elaborate on what major changes was brought about as a result of the #MeToo movement, however, she said that African women have been screaming stories of #MeToo for a long time.
When asked whether people believed her at the time, Toufah said: “That is a shared story and a common feeling and experience among a lot of women that find the courage somehow to speak of their experiences. The Gambia has a lot of cultural barriers, a lot of lack of will politically, especially. So, it was really a mixed bag, I could say. A lot of women came out to also tell their stories, a lot of young people for the first time spoke publicly about this outrageous crime that goes unpunished, and it was unprecedented. And then you had other people that wanted to maintain the status quo. And if we are going to acknowledge that the most powerful person to rule our nation is a rapist then how many more other people would we have to look at and how deeply we should talk about this situation. So, it was difficult.”
Toufah, who has been largely credited for inspiring Africa’s #MeToo campaign, launched a massive protest movement in The Gambia in 2019 in the wake of accusations that she was raped by Jammeh.