Gambian changemaker: Musu Bakoto Sawo wins 2020 Daily Trust African of the Year award

EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA:- A renowned Gambian changemaker and tireless women rights advocate, Musu Bakoto Sawo has won the 2020 Daily Trust African of the Year award.

Musu, a 30-year-old lawyer, won the 2020 award for her continuous commitment to ending violence against girls and women including child marriage and female genital mutilation, the award committee said in a statement.

She emerged the winner after rigorous virtual selection meetings conducted by a seven-member award selection committee led by the former President of Botswana, His Excellency, Dr. Festus Mogae.

According to the selection committee, she was married at the age of 14 and widowed at 21 with no inheritance, and had also gone through female genital mutilation as a child.

“Musu still strove to earn quality education that has catapulted her to her current position as a university lecturer, who is also striving to address the injustices that women face daily across Africa.

“She uses her experience in capacity building, research, networking, programme development to engage with human rights mechanisms and grassroots, national, regional and international organisations and platforms.”

Explaining her motivation, Musu said: “I say to the girls: come out and be the change that you can be because your children may be victims.”

Musu started advocating for girls’ rights at age of 9, including against child marriage, which she fell hostage to 5 years later. She lectures in international human rights law at the University of The Gambia.

As the National Coordinator for Think Young Women, she is a recipient of the 2017 Vera Chirwa Award (from the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria South Africa; recognized as one of the 100 most influential young persons in West Africa by the Confederation of West African Youths in 2018; and a recipient of ‘Inspiring Gambian Award 2018’ by the People’s Choice Award for Excellence in The Gambia.

A key consideration for Musu Bakoto Sawo’s selection was that in this period of COVID-19, women have been particularly impacted negatively, especially during the lockdown when a lot of husbands lost their jobs, resulting in, among other tendencies, domestic violence in the homes.

“So, with Musu championing the rights of women in any part of Africa, which is largely a traditional society, she is deemed to be promoting a great cause, and therefore found worthy of selection for the award,” the committee said.

The Chairman of the selection committee, His Excellency Mogae said “Musu Bakoto deserves the award for her continuous work to end violence against girls and women, including child marriage and female genital mutilation”.

The African of the Year Award project was instituted in 2008 by Daily Trust, one of Nigeria’s leading independent newspapers, in line with its commitment to African unity and sustainable development, to recognize and reward annually, an exemplary African who has made extra-ordinary contributions to human development in any part of the continent, and in any sphere of human endeavour.

The award comes with a cash prize of $10,000 and the presentation of the award will be done sometime in March, this year, in Banjul, The Gambia.

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