By Ajong Mbapndah L
Dr Isatou Touray, Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment, has brought honor to the Gambia with the Jeanne .J.Kirkpatrick award presented by the Women in Democracy Network.
The Award was presented to Touray at a luncheon on March 2, 2017. Honored alongside Touray at the luncheon was Greta Van Susteran, a news anchor with the MSNBC network. Dr. Touray’s award comes in recognition of decades of advocacy for women’s rights, sexual and reproductive health, and a successful campaign to end female genital mutilation in Gambia.
“Women are just as capable as men of fully and equally participating in politics, the economy, and society,” Dr. Touray said in accepting her award.
“We have relentlessly fought against female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage, successfully changing people’s opinion on these issues and laying the groundwork for the legal ban on these practices in 2015 and 2016,” said Dr Touray in describing the work she has led others in doing to improve the rights of women in Gambia.
Touray, who last year made history by becoming the first woman to run for the office of President in the Gambia, spoke of the challenges of bringing change to Gambia after 22 years under an authoritarian regime.
“In this particular case, change meant restoring democracy, respect for the fundamental right of all Gambian citizens, and freedom of expression; bringing institutional and constitutional reforms, as well as bringing the country back to the community of Nations; and ending impunity, which for so long had been characteristic of the autocratic regime,” Touray said.
It is the same motivation that pushed me to support Adama Barrow and today he is the President of Gambia, Touray went on.
“I’m proud of what the men and women of the democratic opposition were able to achieve: restoring democracy to the Gambia, and opening doors for women to increase their participation in Gambian politics,” Dr. Touray said.
Dr. Touray, who was also the first official of the Barrow government to visit Washington, DC was treated to a reception at the Embassy of Gambia by Ambassador Omar Faye and the Embassy staff. Touray lauded the contribution of Ambassador to the democratic change with his early calls and principled stance in urging former President Yahya Jammeh to respect the verdict from the polls and the will of Gambians. Touray was impressed with the fact that the Gambian government owns the building hosting the Embassy.
In a chat at the Embassy, Dr. Touray said Gambia is living through very exciting times following the victory and installation of President Adama Barrow. We are conscious of the enormous challenges and expectations, she said, but expressed optimism that Gambians will not be disappointed. It is a new dawn for the Gambia, she said and called on all hands to be put on deck in writing the next chapter of the country’s history. She indicated youth employment issues will occupy a strong place on the agenda of her Ministry.
The award is not only for me but also for the people of Gambia, Dr. Touray said. She welcomed the renewed interest in prospects of partnership with the international development organizations, some of which she had contacts with during her Washington, DC, trip.
Gambians should be proud of the award of Dr. Touray, Ambassador Faye said in a chat after the reception. Dr. Touray has worked hard on gender related and democracy issues and the award can only be a good omen as the government of President Adama Barrow gets to work, Faye said. Ambassador Faye indicated that the country was open to investors willing to tap into the myriad of economic opportunities in the Gambia.
Named after the first woman appointed to serve as Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award was established in 2008. In addition to her membership of President Reagan’s cabinet and National Security Council, Dr Kirkpatrick was instrumental in the creation of the Women’s Democracy Network.
Prior recipients of the award include Tarja Kaarina Halonen, the first female President of Finland, and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest-ranking Republican woman in the United States Congress.