“I hope that my campaign serves as a source of inspiration and courage to other women in the Gambia, especially young girls, to realize that they have the right and inherent capacity to be leaders and to seek office” Dr Isatou Touray
When she made up her mind to contest for presidency, Dr Isatou Touray, an unapologetic Gambian feminist and gender activist, knew she is not just positively contributing to the evolution of the political life of her country but that she has come to redefine the political landscape for good.
“My campaign is demystifying Gambian politics and challenging preconceived notions about leadership,” Dr Touray told Council on Foreign Relations’ The Five Questions Series forum.
Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher and The Five Questions Series is a forum for scholars, government officials, civil society leaders, and foreign policy practitioners to provide timely analysis of new developments related to the advancement of women and girls worldwide.
“Importantly, I hope that my campaign serves as a source of inspiration and courage to other women in the Gambia, especially young girls, to realize that they have the right and inherent capacity to be leaders and to seek office,” she added.
She said literacy rates in the Gambia have traditionally been very low, and “this has hit women the hardest”.
Dr Touray also revealed that only 31 percent of women in the country can read and write.
“This low level of education has affected other socio-economic and political indicators as well. For example, though women comprise over 50 percent of the population, there are currently only two elected women in the National Assembly, and representation in local councils remains equally low,” she argued.
But lack of education is not the only issue affecting women, according to Dr Touray, cultures also are.
“This unacceptable level of political representation is largely due to the patriarchal nature of our society. It is also influenced by the Gambia’s conservative socio-cultural beliefs, as well as misconceived Islamic ideas. Since culture and religion hold tremendous sway over the lives of our people, women have been unduly marginalized for decades,” she said.
“Thus, to now have a woman like myself—who is well-educated and outspoken—to muster the courage and determination to seek the Gambia’s highest office is revolutionary.”