Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Review: Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement

Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement by Toufah Jallow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Toufah Jallow won a scholarship contest in her country that was supposed to be her pathway to an education and a better life. The President/Dictator of The Gambia took an interest in her and when she rejected his advances, raped and humiliated her. As a teenager she fled the country, and in just a few years transformed herself into an activist for women's rights in her country and beyond.

She gets referred to as inspiring "West Africa's #metoo movement," but I think the truth is more startling because of the lack of conversation and understanding in The Gambia. Toufah explains how there are no words in three languages foe.the act. There were no support services for victims/survivors of sexual assault, and previous victims of the President/Dictator risked their lives and the lives and livelihoods of their families if they spoke up. The conservative community from which she came also had a pretty firm unspoken agreement that such topics are not discussed, and demonstrate in other ways (arranged marriage etc) that women do not have bodily autonomy.

In 2008, the UN started redefining rape as an act of war, and you can see that rhetoric here, but she also points out how courts are still demanding higher forms of proof when accusing someone of rape than of other war crimes (a section on the word "alleged" is quite powerful.)

I also didn't know of the political turmoil in The Gambia in the last five years, despite having read two novels set there during that time. Toufah's story probably could only have happened during this particular upheaval, although I believe she would have fought for women even if she couldn't have returned home.

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