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Access to education is the most powerful driver in the renaissance of women in independent Gambia. Throughout its history Gambian women have played a significant role in national, social, and cultural development in both pre- and post-colonial The Gambia. These nine women from The Gambia stand out for their achievements.
Fatou Bensouda is a lawyer from The Gambia, and former Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the previous Gambian government. She is currently the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Born in Banjul (then called Bathurst), the capital city of The Gambia, Bensouda is the first Gambian woman to occupy an international position as high as this, thus making her a role model for many young women both at home and abroad. While in office as Justice Minister in The Gambia, Bensouda received commendation by human rights groups in Africa for her prosecution of abusers of women and children.
Ndong-Jatta is a renowned Gambian educator now working with UNESCO. Born in Banjul in 1956, she was once The Gambia’s Minister of Education during the former regime. The former technical high school principal was renowned for her firm disciplinarian nature, especially in ensuring quality education in The Gambia. As one of the longest-serving ministers under the former government, she advocates against certain government policies to ensure that no Gambian is left behind when it comes to education for all.
Isatou Ceesay is an environmentalist educating rural communities in The Gambia about positive recycling of plastic waste. Waste management is a topical issue in most developing countries including The Gambia, and Ceesay has been spearheading environmental campaigns for many years, to empower and teach grassroots women about practical waste management. Her environmentally-friendly projects attract many volunteers, and with the support of EU and the UNDP, Ceesay’s organization, Women Initiative The Gambia, is making a difference to the lives of many grassroots rural dwellers. Nicknamed ‘the Queen of Plastic Recyling’, she has and continued to make a positive impact when it to comes to turning waste into revenue for local communities. Collected plastic and organic waste are manufactured into briquettes, which prevents unnecessary deforestation caused by manufacturing traditional charcoal bricks and also reduces costs for families.
Sanneh-Bojang was a Gambian activist, politician and the first Gambian woman to be elected as a member of parliament during the first republic in 1982. She continued her active role in politics during the second regime. As a Mandinka, she was one of only a few women in such a high-powered role at the time. At a young age, Sanneh-Bojang engaged with local social organisations such as peer groups, groups comprising different people of same age. With numerous portfolios, which include anti-FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) activism and politics, she mentored a lot of women’s groups and individuals, even supporting them financially to help them achieve their goals. A one-time Minister of Health in The Gambia, she died in 2015.
Dukureh is a Gambian activist and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize nominee for her work helping to combat FGM. At just a week old, she herself survived the practice in The Gambia. At 15 years old, she was forced into marriage and sent to New York to be with her husband. As a UN Goodwill Ambassador against FGM and the leader of Safe Hands for Girls, an NGO supporting survivors in Africa, the young Gambian activist continues to speak out against this outdated traditional practice. She, along with other activists, was applauded for her role in the banning of FGM in The Gambia by the former president Yahya Jammeh in 2015. In 2018, Dukureh was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Norwegian politician Jette Christenssen, who met Dukureh during the launch of her film Jaha’s Promise in 2017.
A renowned Gambian educator and proprietress of one of the best schools in The Gambia, Ndow’s Comprehensive Secondary School, she received an education at St. Joseph’s Infant Primary and Secondary schools before landing a colonial scholarship that took her to Achimota College in Gold Coast (present day Ghana) where she graduated as professional teacher. She later studied at Portsmouth Training College in the UK where she did a course in headship in primary schools, and later Oxford University where she studied in administration. Mrs Ndow has over the years impacted the lives of many Gambians, some of whom are now manning different portfolios in the world.
Touray is the first Gambian woman in the country’s history to run for the Office of President against former president Yahya Jammeh during the 2016 presidential elections. Born in 1955 and raised in a working-class family in Banjul, she has been working tirelessly on the elimination of FGM in The Gambia, through her grassroots NGO called The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP). As a result of her activism, Touray has won much admiration from grassroots communities, who admire her greatly. A mother-of-four is a member of a number of feminist networks and has contributed tremendously towards the advancement of women’s development in Africa.
Saine Gaye is a Gambian, award-winning entrepreneur and Executive Director of Gaye Niorro Skills Academy, a vocational training institute that provides training for young people in various marketable skills. She has trained entrepreneurs worldwide on behavioural and economic growth. It was in 2005, after studying in the UK for 10 years and graduating with a degree in banking and finance, Saine Gaye moved back to The Gambia for a job in banking. She later decided to become an entrepreneur in order to achieve a work-life balance and to follow her passion as a hairstylist. Since the opening of Gaye Niorro Hair Plus in 2007, the centre has transformed the lives of many young women in the country through training.
Azizi is a Gambian entrepreneur and the Chief Executive Officer of Afriq Cars Motors, a one-stop transport solutions company in The Gambia. She is one of only a few young Gambian women working in a mostly male-dominated business. With a goal to be different from the competitors, Azizi stands out from crowd by delivering quality products, providing the best customer services and maintaining a conducive office environment for her clients and employees. Presently, Afriq Cars is rated number one in The Gambia, which took six years of consistent hard work from the entire team and excellent service delivery. As in many countries, to be a female thriving in a male-dominated sector takes great courage and commitment, and so many young Gambians are looking up to her as a shining example of what can be achieved through hard work.