In 2015 nineteen-year-old Toufah Jallow dreamt of winning a prestigious scholarship from a presidential competition (similar to a pageant) that drew competitors throughout The Gambia. Growing up in her father’s polygamous household with her mother, his second wife, Toufah knew that the scholarship–and the promise of attending any university of her choice anywhere in the world–could be life changing.
When Toufah wins with her focus on touring a play about how to eradicate poverty in the country, she expects it to be the beginning of everything she dreamt of.
Instead Toufah is drugged and raped by Yahya Jammeh–the so-called president and dictator of The Gambia behind the competition.
Terrified that speaking out will put her family in danger, Toufah knows she can’t stay in her home or even her country. She needs to escape before she can share her story.
After a harrowing escape to Senegal, Toufah connects with international humanitarian organizations that help her get to Canada. After years of acclimating to a new culture and climate while processing her trauma, Jammeh is deposed and eighteen months in July 2019 Toufah becomes the first woman in The Gambia to publicly accuse Jammeh of rape.
Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement (2021) by Toufah Jallow with Kim Pittaway is the story of Toufah’s testimony and how it sparked marches, protests, and with #IAmToufah led Toufah down a path of advocacy for sexual violence survivors around the world.
If you have any inclination toward audiobooks I highly recommend checking out the audiobook of this memoir which Toufah reads herself.
Although Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement includes hard material, it is all handled with care and intention. Toufah’s time in Canada particularly adds much needed levity to this timely story. Toufah: The Woman Who Inspired an African #Metoo Movement is a timely story that situates the #MeToo movement in an international context and demonstrates the lasting impact of standing up and speaking out.
Possible Pairings: Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke, Everything I Never Dreamed: My Life Surviving and Standing Up to Domestic Violence by Ruth M. Glenn, You Too?: 25 Voices Share Their #MeToo Stories edited by Janet Gurtler, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Ignited a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey, Know My Name by Chanel Miller