#16Days: Isatou Jeng talks girls' rights in The Gambia

To mark 16 Days of Activism, we're shining a spotlight on inspiration activists from around the world. In our first installment we talk to Isatou Jeng, a founding member and Project Officer at The Girls Agenda, a community based organization in Brikama, Gambia, which works to further women and girls’ human rights and fights against female genital mutilation and child marriage.

Isatou Jeng 16 days
How did you get involved in activism?

I am a born activist and born feminist. In the sense that I have been doing this work, especially in regards to women’s rights all my life

Since I was young I have been there to promote the rights of less privileged, so The African Girl Summit is very exciting for me. It’s a passion for me. I have been doing this all my life and it’s in my veins and any time I am into it I feel like I am doing something for humanity.

What kind of work are you involved in?

My organisation, The Girls Agenda, is engaged in women’s rights promotion, girl’s rights and this includes raising awareness. Reaching out to communities, reaching out to schools, meeting girls, women and other community members like men and boys and raising their critical consciousness about Gender based violence and the life of women and girls – including FGM and child marriage.

What sort of challenges do you face as a youth activist?

In The Gambia it is not easy to be an activist, especially a women’s human rights activist. Talking about human rights in general in The Gambia is taboo because we have a system and have communities that do not believe in human rights, or who see human rights in a very layman point of view. So as a human rights activist you are seen as an outsider or a ‘western puppet’, thinking that it is the west that is giving you money to advocate against the very culture that people have been living with for quite a long time.

We have to protect the next generation of leaders, we have to raise our voice respectfully for others as well as empower them to speak for themselves.

There's something about young people in The Gambia, we are very passionate about women’s issues, girls rights issues. So despite all the challenges and obstacles, we are saying ‘we are not going back’. We have to protect the next generation of leaders, we have to raise our voice respectfully for others as well as empower them to speak for themselves. So despite the challenges, we continue to engage

How can we support women and girls to realise their rights?

By raising their critical awareness women and girls are now speaking for themselves, women and girls are now saying no to FGM. Women and Girls are now saying no to child marriage and other issues affecting them, when before this wasn’t the case. With the right information they are empowered to make the right decisions about their life and the lives of their daughters and familie

See the rest of our 16 Days activist spotlights here!

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