British Queen recognises Gambian volunteer with Commonwealth Point of Light award

Monday, April 16, 2018

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has Friday April 13, recognised Musu Bakoto Sawo, of Gambia as the 52nd Commonwealth Point of Light in honour of her exceptional voluntary service of promoting women’s empowerment and fighting to end Female Genital Mutilation.

 In the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London on 19-20 April, Her Majesty The Queen - as Head of the Commonwealth - is thanking inspirational volunteers across the 53 Commonwealth nations for the difference they are making in their communities and beyond.

 By sharing these stories of service, the Heads of Government meeting will celebrate inspirational acts of volunteering across the Commonwealth and help inspire others to make their own contribution to tackling some of the greatest social challenges of our time.

 Musu Bakoto Sawo lends her expertise as a law lecturer to organisations advocating against FGM. In The Gambia, more than 75% of women and girls in the country have undergone FGM and Musu was also subjected to the practice as a young child. In 2015 she began tackling this issue by volunteering as the Programme Manager for ‘Girl Generation’, the largest global collective working to end FGM. Musu provides advocacy and support to the initiative’s 700 members which are based across the ten countries in Africa most affected by the issue. She is also the National Coordinator for ‘Think Young Women’, a non-profit organisation which promotes women’s rights. Musu draws on her experience of being married at the age of 14 to discuss child marriage.  Last year she was awarded the ‘Vera Chirwa Human Rights’ award for making an outstanding contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights in Africa.

Each Commonwealth Point of Light will receive a personalised certificate signed by Her Majesty The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth. The award for Musu Bakoto Sawo was presented on 13 April 2018 at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Cape Point, The Gambia by the High Commissioner, Sharon Wardle.

Musu Bakoto Sawo said:

“I am very humbled and delighted to have been selected as a recipient of this award. When I started this journey, even as a child, my mission was to influence change in my community and the world. This remains my focus, especially for girls and women in The Gambia. This award encourages me to keep pushing hard to ensure sustainable results in respecting and fulfilling the rights of women and girls. I wake up every morning looking forward to changing someone’s life for the better. I remain committed to ending the cycle of female genital mutilation and child marriage in my lifetime. I know this is possible because I have already started it. Grateful to the teams I work with at Think Young Women and The Girl Generation for the support and I look forward to more innovative transformations for girls and women. Thank you for this award.”

Sharon Wardle, British High Commissioner to The Gambia said: “Musu’s dedication is an inspiration and truly deserving of this recognition. She is emblematic of a Gambian sisterhood that is resolute in the fight for women and girls empowerment.  Together with the continued support of role models in the Government including Vice-President Fatoumata Tambajang and Minister of Trade, Dr Isatou Touray, this is a fight that Gambian women can and will win.”

 The Commonwealth is a diverse community of 53 nations that work together to promote prosperity, democracy and peace. The Heads of Government meeting will bring together leaders from all the 53 Member countries to reaffirm common values, address shared global challenges and agree how to work to create a better future for all citizens, especially young people. Voluntary service is a vital part of this agenda, which is why Her Majesty The Queen has chosen to recognise outstanding volunteers across the Commonwealth in this special way.