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Gambian Toufah Jallow tells of surviving rape by dictator

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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Toufah Jallow’s title resonates deeply in Gambia as one of many few ladies who has taken a public stand towards sexual assault within the small West African state.

She gained fame on the age of 18 when she gained a college scholarship in a nationwide expertise competitors for younger ladies. However in 2015 she fled Gambia, fearing for her life, after dictator Yahya Jammeh allegedly drugged and raped her, indignant that she had turned down his marriage proposal.

She lived quietly in Canada, nervous that Jammeh would persecute members of the family in Gambia. After Jammeh fell from energy she later discovered the energy to go public together with her story, regardless of Gambia’s tradition of silence over sexual assault, she instructed The Related Press.

The nation was riveted when she held a press convention to share her account through social media and in a human rights report in June 2019. She additionally testified months later to the Reality and Reconciliation Fee.

Now, Jallow is telling her story intimately in a newly launched memoir: “Toufah: The Girl Who Impressed an African #MeToo Motion.”

“In June 2015, Yahya Jammeh, then the president of The Gambia, raped me. He has by no means been charged. By no means convicted … He thought he would get away with it, tried to erase me. I believed I’d by no means communicate of it, that I’d stay invisible. We had been each flawed, as a result of I’m right here, shining just like the dawn of the melanated coast,” she writes. “I’m Toufah Jallow. That is my story.”

Within the guide, co-written with journalist Kim Pattaway, Jallow describes her journey from the daughter and granddaughter of girls who in their very own manner pushed towards the nation’s patriarchy to the night of her alleged rape and her tense escape and the ensuing traumas and challenges.

Jallow mentioned she needs to be a job mannequin for others who’ve skilled sexual assault and to assist them cope with it.

“I needed to make my life as relatable to younger women as attainable so (they see) that what I did is achievable (and) just isn’t seen as a miracle,” she mentioned. “It takes an unusual woman who grew up in a village someplace in The Gambia with a mom and with 20 siblings in a polygamous house.”

Coming from a humble background, Jallow was swept right into a high-profile position due to her scholarship, attending many public occasions with then-president Jammeh. After receiving presents from Jammeh, who was already married, and rejecting his proposal to grow to be one among his wives, Jallow was lured to the president’s personal quarters, the place she says he drugged and raped her.

Jammeh hasn’t reacted, however his get together has denied the whole lot.

Jallow didn’t inform a soul in Gambia, fearing the worst for herself and her household. She knew there have been lots of of people that had been arrested for daring to query Jammeh.

Terrified, Jallow fled Gambia. She hid her identification by sporting a niqab (head-to-toe veil) in order that state brokers wouldn’t acknowledge her. She went to Senegal and with the assistance of trusted allies made it to Canada the place she now lives.

For years, nobody in Gambia knew what had occurred to Jallow. She lived as a refugee in Canada, working odd jobs to help her courses.

“For the longest time … I’d at all times shove it apart,” she mentioned of her trauma. However seeing statistics for sexual assault with so few being held accountable bothered her. “I’ve by no means felt extra invisible,” she mentioned of that interval.

Talking about intercourse and sexuality, “it’s simply not carried out,” in Gambia, she mentioned. There may be not even a phrase for rape in her native Fula language, she defined to AP. As a substitute folks use phrases like “Anyone fell on me.”

Jammeh misplaced elections and fled the nation in 2017. Gambia then opened a Reality and Reconciliation Fee to analyze the stories of abuses and killings throughout his 22-year rule.

When Jallow got here ahead in 2019 about her assault, it unleashed a motion. Greater than 50,000 folks had been glued to social media when she first spoke. Ladies then marched holding banners saying “#IAmToufah” and there was an outpouring of others’ tales of rape.

Jallow talking out was a “wind of change” in Gambia, mentioned Marion Volkmann-Brandau, a ladies’s rights activist who helped information Jallow and led the human rights investigation into sexual assault in Gambia that noticed her come ahead.

“There was this second of help … ladies popping out usually about rape and having a narrative to share confirmed they weren’t invisible anymore,” she mentioned. “Gambians realized too how widespread the difficulty was.”

That hope, nonetheless, has sadly dwindled, Volkmann-Brandau mentioned, because the authorized system have to be reformed so as to take sexual assault severely.

However the groundwork has been laid and Jallow has began the Toufah Basis, set as much as assist help of survivors of sexual assault in Gambia. Her purpose is to have Gambia’s first totally functioning ladies’s shelter.

Her title is now used to debate rape in communities as soon as unable to speak about it.

She travels to Gambia usually, whereas finding out in Canada to be a counselor for girls and youngsters victims, and can be engaged on a documentary that follows survivors of sexual violence.

And if Jammeh returns to Gambia, Jallow says she’s going to fly there to confront him.

“I really feel like I’m too seen to be invisible anymore,” she mentioned. “I’ve confronted the worst concern … I’ve survived him bodily.”

https://www.yourbasin.com/news/gambian-toufah-jallow-tells-of-surviving-rape-by-dictator/ | Gambian Toufah Jallow tells of surviving rape by dictator

PaulLeBlanc

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