By Ephraims Sheyin/Abuja
Gambian lawyer and women rights advocate, Musu Bakoto Sawo, has won the prestigious Daily Trust African of the Year Award for 2020, according to a statement by Nura Mamman Daura, its Acting Chief Executive Officer.
The statement issued in Abuja, on Sunday, said Sawo received the award, which came with a cash prize of $10,000, at a colourful ceremony held in Banjul, capital of The Gambia, at the weekend.
Mr Kabir Yusuf, Chairman, Board of Directors of Media Trust Limited, 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, former Botswana president Festus Mogae.
Mogae had mandated Yusuf to represent him in Banjul and make the presentation on his behalf, owing to travel challenges, across many parts of the world, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In normal times, the award ceremonies were usually held in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, where the Daily Trust’s headquarters is located.
In a citation on the awardee, Yusuf said the Gambian lawyer and activist 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 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.
‘’The winner undertakes her gender rights’ activism at the grassroots, national, regional and international organisations and platforms’’, Yusuf said.
Yusuf added: “The significance of Sawo’s work cannot be over emphasised 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”.
He further explained that with Sawo championing the rights of women in many parts of Africa, which is largely a traditional society, she was deemed to be promoting a great cause and, therefore, worthy of the award.
In her response, Sawo 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 long to witness the success of her children”.
Sawo, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of The Gambia, is also the National Coordinator for Think Young Women, a non-governmental organisation championing the rights of women and girls.
She was the recipient of the 2017 Vero Chirwa Award, from the Centre for Human Rights, at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, in addition to being recognized as one of the 100 most influential young persons in West Africa by the Confederation of West African Youths in 2018.
In attendance at the award ceremony, were the Resident Representative of the United Nation’s Development Programme (UNDP) in The Gambia, Mrs. Aissata De, family members of Sawo, the media, among others.
Instituted by Daily Trust, one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers since 2008, the award normally goes to an ordinary African(s) who had made extra-ordinary contributions to humanity, in any field and from any part of the continent.
Denis Mukwege, a Congolese medical doctor, was the inaugural winner of the African of the Year award in 2008.
In 2018, a decade after the Daily Trust recognition, Dr. Mukwege won the Noble Peace Prize for his wonderful work of treating women, who had been abused and raped in his war-torn country.
Award winners are selected by a Pan-African committee chaired by former Botswana President, Dr Festus Mogae, alongside five members drawn from North Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa and West Africa