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Fatou “Toufah” Jallow is a former Gambian beauty queen, feminist and author. In 2019, she accused Gambian dictator and former president, Yayha Jammeh of raping her after she emerged the winner of his national pageant competition in 2014. Fatou’s accusation inspired a #metoo wave in The Gambia as many accusations against prominent men in the country surfaced, following her accusation. She has since become an activist for women’s rights, inspiring young women all over the world to tell their stories.
Fatou Jallow was born in The Gambia on April 19, 1996, to Alpha Jallow and Awa Saho. Her family belongs to the Fulbe ethnic group. She attended Nusrat Secondary School, then proceeded to Gambia College in Birkama for a teacher training course.
In December of 2014, when she was 18 years old, she emerged winner of the annual Miss July 22nd Beauty and Scholarship Pageant, making her the first student of Gambia College to ever win this competition. She was awarded a scholarship to any school of her choice anywhere in the world.
In June 2019, Fatou Jallow told Human Rights Watch and TRIAL that Yayha Jammeh had raped her. According to this report, she was invited several times to visit the president after winning the competition and he’d raped her repeatedly. Before the incident, he had publicly announced that he wanted to marry her but she refused. According to her statement, she received cash gifts from him, totalling about 250,000 Dalasi. After the incident, Fatou fled The Gambia and went to Dakar, Senegal through the aid of human rights organizations. In 2015, she received asylum in Canada and has lived in Toronto since there
The hashtag called #IAmToufah was created by Gambian women to show solidarity to her when she shared her story and also to share theirs. Ms Jallow also went on to organize the first women’s march against rape in the Gambia and created the Toufah Foundation which advocates for accountability and offers psycho-social support to sexual abuse survivors. As part of some of its activities, she has spent time mentoring high school girls when she is in the Gambia and also works with artists to send messages through poetry and songs. She continues to lobby for legislative changes to policies that affect women’s access to justice, whilst presenting at the International Criminal Court in the Hague to represent the frustration of victims of sexual violence in prosecuting these crimes.
Ms Jallow’s story has been featured in the New York Times, the BBC; the Guardian, and many others. Her book, Toufah: The Pageant, The President and the Woman Who Inspired an African #MeToo Movement with award-winning journalist and Editor Kim Pittaway, was acquired by Knopf Random Canada Publishing Group on an exclusive submission and is scheduled to be published in the United States in October 2021. In June 2021, she was featured on the We’re Not Crazy, You Are podcast.
Listen to Toufah Jallow talk about the journey to finding her voice and what silence culture really means to Gambian women on our podcast, “We’re Not Crazy, You Are”