It takes extraordinary courage and vision to induce social change in a single lifetime, and Jallow has done just that.

The New York Times.

Toufah Jallow was just nineteen years old, looking forward to a university education, when she entered a presidential competition in 2015 created to support the country’s young women. She won, and caught the attention of Gambia’s dictator, Yahya Jammeh, who, after presenting himself with fatherly generosity, asked for her hand in marriage. When Toufah declined, he drugged and raped her.

Justifiably terrified, she kept what had happened to her a secret, even from her parents, and fled to Senegal, eventually settling in Canada. In 2019, after Jammeh was deposed, Toufah returned home to testify against him, making a stand for herself and for women on the African continent and everywhere. She continues to advocate for survivors of sexual violence today. Her book, Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #MeToo Movement, is published by Penguin in Canada and Steerforth Press in the United States.

Speaking Topics

Toufah has a powerful message to share. The language she speaks in her native Gambia does not even have a word for rape, and yet, she organized the first protest march in Gambia seeking justice for survivors. She asserts that to fight against gendered violence and reduce the power of rape culture, women must proclaim loudly their right to safety, and, as a society, we need to do better to bring justice to victims. This message is especially important on university campuses, where rape culture, regrettably, still prevails among student populations.

Toufah’s message is also inspirational. With her tenacity and enduring resistance, she has stared down a notorious dictator whose power vastly outweighed hers. She bravely testified against him at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and at the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission in the Gambia, where she was the only witness to reveal her identity. And yet, as a young, lonely refugee in a foreign country, dealing with trauma, she resembled so many others, and her story gives a human face to the refugee crisis that has affected so many people. Her activism has now catapulted her into the ranks of the top young activists in the world. Audiences will find in Toufah a young woman with extraordinary resilience, who is determined to make change during her lifetime.

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