‘It is what girls need’: the FGM activist hoping to be the Gambia’s president

1 year ago 167

Jaha Dukureh was a young parent of 3 with small campaigning acquisition erstwhile she started a question successful the Gambia to extremity pistillate genital mutilation, backed by the Guardian.

In the 7 years that followed she advised Barack Obama successful the US, wherever she was past living, helped person FGM banned successful her location country, was nominated for a Nobel bid prize and became a UN ambassador.

Now 31, she wants to defy expectations again, lasting for president successful the westbound African federation connected 4 December, contempt being a comparative chartless connected the governmental scene.

“I’ve ever known that I wanted to serve, but successful what capableness I wasn’t sure,” she says, via an intermittent net telephone from the Gambia. “I’m a precise passionate and affectional idiosyncratic [and] radical ever told maine if you’re a leader, radical can’t spot emotions. But the older I get, the much I realise that that’s what makes maine human, that’s however radical link with me.

“I americium facing a batch of ageism, and a batch of sexism,” she says. “But for me, the information that I adjacent situation to accidental that I privation to beryllium president successful the Gambia is connection capable – it is what girls request close now. It’s an reply to everyone that has ever questioned our quality to pb not lone successful Africa, but crossed the world.”

A newcomer to Gambian politics, Dukureh joined the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) in March. The enactment was portion of Coalition 2016 successful the 2016 statesmanlike election. Its candidate, Adama Barrow, defeated strongman Yahya Jammeh, who yet stepped down and near the country aft 22 years of regularisation successful 2016.

“The Barrow authorities has failed Gambia connected aggregate fronts,” says Dukureh. “We’ve had a authorities change, but present we request a strategy change.”

Dukureh argues that enactment for healthcare, acquisition and agriculture – alongside the hard-hit tourism manufacture – is desperately needed. “When you look astatine the migration crisis, it’s each due to the fact that of unemployment and poverty,” she says.

“Africa is not a mediocre continent. We are affluent successful resources and quality superior – it’s conscionable atrocious enactment holding america back. So erstwhile we speech astir strategy change, we are talking astir making those changes for each azygous idiosyncratic and not conscionable definite radical wrong the colonisation that get to payment portion everyone other suffers.”

Disquiet is increasing successful the Gambia, aft Barrow’s National People’s Party (NPP) announced an confederation with Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), founded by service officers who staged a coup successful 1994 and enactment him successful power.

Jammeh has said helium does not enactment the alliance, but activists proceed to fearfulness that the erstwhile person – accused of human rights violations and killings of governmental opponents during his 22-year reign – could instrumentality from Equatorial Guinea wherever helium has lived successful exile since 2017. The Barrow authorities has said the erstwhile president stole astatine slightest $50m (£37m) from the state portion successful bureau but helium has refused to cooperate with the ongoing Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) acceptable up by his successor.

Dukureh knows she faces an uphill conflict and lacks governmental allies, but says the negotiations betwixt parties opposing the NPP/ARPC alliance, which could make an absorption coalition, would beryllium an accidental for the Gambia.

“Women are the bulk of registered voters successful the Gambia and 72% of Gambia’s colonisation is nether the property of 35. That’s my demographic,” she says.

“My procreation has inherited a batch of load from past generations, and we person a motivation work to guarantee that our children don’t look the aforesaid world that we person faced increasing up and wherever we are close present successful our country’s history.”

She volition besides gully connected her own almighty backstory. An FGM survivor, she moved to the US aged 15 and was joined disconnected to a overmuch older man. She near the matrimony and enactment herself done assemblage earlier marrying again and having 3 children. She is simply a US citizen, but is consenting to renounce her citizenship having lived successful the Gambia since 2016.

She points to her achievements of being astatine the vanguard of the Gambia’s anti-FGM movement, saying the campaigning helped her find her voice. During Covid she acceptable up a programme providing nutrient and currency to much than 2,000 female-led households, done her NGO Safe Hands for Girls. “My enactment speaks for itself,” she says.

“I don’t bash thing I don’t judge in. The aforesaid radical who doubted that Gambia would walk a instrumentality against FGM are astir apt the aforesaid radical who are doubting that I tin go the adjacent president of this country.”

If she fails to go the statesmanlike campaigner for a caller absorption coalition, she volition backmost whoever is chosen arsenic person – and marque different bid successful 5 years’ time.