By Ismail Abdulaziz
Musu Sawo, a Gambian change maker and women rights advocate, has emerged winner of the 2020 Daily Trust African of the Year award.
A statement by Nura Daura, acting Chief Executive Officer of Daily Trust, said a seven-member award selection committee, announced 30-year-old Sawo as the winner.
The committee, led by the former President of Botswana, Dr Festus Mogae, said the award was for her commitment to ending violence against girls and women including child marriage and female genital mutilation.
Married at the age of 14 and widowed at 21 with no inheritance, Musu, who had also gone through female genital mutilation as a child, is also engaged in addressing the injustices women face daily across Africa.
“I say to the girls: come out and be the change that you can be because your children may be victims,” Sawo said while explaining her motivation.
Sawo, who is an Internationally Human Right Law lecturer at the University of The Gambia, started advocating for girls’ rights at age nine, including against child marriage, which she fell hostage to five years later.
National Coordinator for Think Young Women, she is a recipient of the 2017 Vera Chirwa Award from the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. South Africa and recognized as one of the 100 most influential young persons in West Africa by the Confederation of West African Youths in 2018.
She also received the ‘Inspiring Gambian Award 2018’ by the People’s Choice Award for Excellence in The Gambia.
Sawo’s selection by the Daily Trust was that in this period of COVID-19, women have been particularly impacted negatively, especially during the lockdown when a lot of husbands lost their jobs, resulting in domestic violence in the homes.
“So, with Musu’s championing the rights of women in Africa, which is largely a traditional society, she is deemed to be promoting a great cause, and therefore found worthy of selection for the award.
“Musu Bakoto deserves the award for her continuous work to end violence against girls and women, including child marriage and female genital mutilation”.
The African of the Year Award project was instituted in 2008 by Daily Trust to recognize and reward Africans who have made extra-ordinary contributions to human development in any part of the continent, and in any sphere of human endeavour.
Congolese medical doctor, Denis Mukwege, was the first winner in 2008 and 11 years after the recognition, he won the Noble Peace Prize for his work of treating abused and raped women in his war-torn country.
The award comes with a cash prize of 10,000 U.S. dollars.
The presentation of the this year’s award will be done sometime in March in Banjul, The Gambia.