Gambian lawyer and women rights advocate, Musu Bakoto Sawo has received the prestigious Daily Trust African of the Year Award at a colourful ceremony held at the weekend in Banjul, capital of The Gambia.
Ms Sawo received the award, which came with it a cash prize of $10,000, from the chairman of the Board of Directors of Media Trust Limited, Kabiru Yusuf, who handed the cheque and award plaque to the awardee on behalf of the chairman of the Selection Board of the Daily Trust African of the Year Award, Festus Mogae.
Mr Mogae, a former President of Botswana had mandated Mr Yusuf to travel to Banjul and make the presentation on his behalf, owing to travel challenges across many parts of the world in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. In normal times, the award ceremonies are held in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, where the Daily Trust’s headquarters is located.
Announcing the decision to confer the 2020 Daily Trust African of the Year award on Ms Sawo, Mr Yusuf said the Gambian lawyer won the award as a result of her “consistent work to end violence against girls and women, including child marriage and female genital mutilation”.
He said Ms Sawo inspired hope and courage for millions of women and girls across Africa by using her experience in capacity building, research, networking and programme development to proffer human rights solutions that protect vulnerable women and girls against archaic practices that inhibit them from living purposeful lives. He said the winner undertakes her gender rights activism at the grassroots, national, regional and international organisations and platforms.
“The significance of Musu Sawo’s work cannot be overemphasised in this period of COVID-19 where women have been particularly impacted negatively, especially during the lockdown when a lot of husbands lost their jobs, resulting in, among other tendencies, domestic violence in the homes”, said Mr Yusuf.
He further explained that with Ms Sawo championing the rights of women in any part of Africa, which is largely a traditional society, she is deemed to be promoting a great cause and, therefore, worthy of the award.
In her response after receiving the award, the winner of the 2020 Daily Trust African of the Year Award said: “I am on a mission to see that women and girls in The Gambia and beyond live a meaningful life. The advancement of women’s rights should be a priority for any nation. I encourage women and girls to live their dreams. Do not allow anyone tell you otherwise. I dedicate this award to my late mother who did everything she could for her family but did not live to witness the success of her children”.
Ms Sawo is a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia, and also the National Coordinator for Think Young Women, a non-governmental organisation championing the rights of women and girls. She is a recipient of the 2017 Vero Chirwa Award (from the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa).
She was also recognized as one of the 100 most influential young persons in West Africa by the Confederation of West African Youths in 2018; and a recipient of ‘Inspiring Gambian Award 2018’ by the People’s Choice Award for Excellence in The Gambia.
In attendance at the award ceremony were the Resident Representative of the United Nation’s Development Programme (UNDP) in The Gambia, Aissata De, family members of Ms Sawo, the media, among others.
The award, instituted by Daily Trust, one of the Nigeria’s leading newspapers since 2008, normally goes to an ordinary African(s) who have made extra-ordinary contributions to humanity in any field from any part of the continent.