Gambians activists have on Thursday held a peaceful procession to express solidarity with former beauty queen, Fatou Jallow, who claimed she was raped by former President Yahya Jammeh.
Jallow came public with her story for the first time on Gambian soil on June 28 2019 at a press conference organized with several activists and human rights organizations.
Jallow was a Gambian beauty queen who won Jammeh’s sponsored beauty pageant in 2014 call the Miss July 22 Beauty Pageant.
The competition was to avail her an opportunity to access a scholarship for further studies but instead, she said the former President Jammeh used his proximity to her within those moments to rape her.
“I am intimidated to certain level but I am proud as well. When I was coming out with my story, I did not anticipate this level of public show of support,” Jallow told journalists at a march organized by activist to support her movement.
Since Toufah came public with her story, country’s justice minister Abubacarr Tambadou has issued a statement urging girls with similar stories to come out and speak.
The country’s Truth Commission investigating the human rights violations of the former president is expected to look into sexual violence perpetrated at women under the former ruler who now lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea. Jallow told journalists the Commission has already reached out and she will testify.
Rape is rarely openly discussed in Gambia but Jallow’s story opened a floodgates in the country and emboldened dozens of girls to come out with their own stories.
A top officer at country’s foreign affairs ministry Melville Roberts have also been named by several girls to have reportedly rape them. Roberts was immediately suspended and the attorney general Tambadou opened a criminal inquiry into rape allegations against him.
“I am glad Gambian women have embraced it (campaign against sexual violence)… This is a step further to make women feel comfortable to talk about their experiences of sexual harassment,” added Jallow.
Meanwhile, Gambia’s prominent human rights activists have also joined the movement now call “#I am Toufah”. Madi Jobarteh, prominent Gambian activists told Anadolu Agency Toufah has started a revolution which is changing “a very significant reality in our society”
“For Toufah to come out, that is so significant and that is what has led to this march because we feel these women need support,” said Jobarteh.
Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party denied the rape allegations against their leader a “smear campaign”.