I never expected so soon, as a young Gambian who looks to President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama as the cutest power couple ever that I will see a presidential candidate in my native Gambia be introduced by his wife, not to mention a husband introducing his wife as a presidential candidate.
With all the hope I had for my country, I did not see that coming.
Dr. Isatou Touray keeps defying stereotypes in ways that give young people like me a reason to believe and keep hope alive.
More than three decades ago, she started a campaign inspired by her husband to end harmful traditional practices, particularly female genital mutilation. Touray faced the toughest challenged from traditional elders and powerful religious elites who branded her as an unreligious and stubborn lady who has been brainwashed by Western education.
How glad many Gambian girls are today that she kept on being stubborn. Today The Gambia has passed a legislation banning the practice.
It is going against such conventional thoughts that had marginalized women in our country’s politics that brought Dr. Isatou Touray to not just run for president but become the mother of the nation – that strong mother who is also a father – in a family compound called Gambia Kunda.
It was President Obama’s final campaign day in Iowa and his wife, Michelle took the stage. Michelle envisioned the kind of person she wants to lead America – a president with a steady character, with deep compassion and strong convictions.
The more Michelle thought about a president with these values, the more she knew she was talking about Barack Obama, the man that became America’s first Black president.
But what gets people the most is seeing how they support each other.
When I saw Dr. Malang Touray taking to the stage, before he could say anything, my eyes were full of tears. The emotions were overwhelming and hope reignited in me. For once, I thought just may be my generation will not inherit a battered nation.
I know we needed someone with deep family values to unite our divided nation, someone we can trust and a president who would uphold the hopes and dreams of all Gambians.
Then Dr. Isatou Touray’s husband started speaking.
“As a woman that has been my wife for the last 38 years and the mother of our 4 children, she has been a caring mother to our children because Isatou cares for the things she values. She values her family and her work. Her love and care for children and universal and that is why she went to care about the girl child and a goal she has been willing to devote all her energy to achieve,” Mr. Touray said.
I saw love in a man who was so proud to introduce his wife as someone who he wants to lead a nation including him. Such a rare occurrence in the world and it is happening in a country where the people are one of the most oppressed. I could tell all those who gave up on love hoped again as roses blossomed once more.
I knew Dr. Isatou Touray was a strong woman. Like her husband puts it: she is like a bag of tea in water – the hotter it gets, the stronger it becomes.
This is absolutely true of a woman who has stood up against traditional and religious misconceptions that have affected many young women staying true to her values and fighting to the end.
But I couldn’t hold back my tears anymore as her husband calls her a symbol of change and affectionately hugs her. Now we will petition for a kiss and to tell us about their first date, possibly first kiss. How lovely that would be. If they ever go on dates those days without having “Baba” waiting at the gate with “karawass.” But Dr. Isatou Touray is that lady that turn things around against all odds you know.
At that moment, I envisioned the kind of leader Michelle was talking about – a president with a steady character, with deep compassion and strong convictions – the type of leader The Gambia needs.
The more I thought of it too, the more I knew it was Dr. Isatou Touray who has yet again defied stereotypes with her husband’s introducing her and endorsing her candidacy to become the first female president of The Republic of The Gambia.
Of course, there will be challenges from religious and traditional leaders who are still with the arcade believe that a woman should not lead a nation, especially one they already regard “unreligious stubborn and brainwashed by Western education.” But for Touray, that was before.
In The Gambia, there is a common saying that behind every successful man, there is a strong woman but Dr. Isatou Touray’s presidential bid has changed that. Behind this successful woman, there is indeed a strongman and his name is Dr. Malang Touray. What a great Valentine’s Day it would be with them as the first couple.
I have always wanted to have a daughter. It will be a dream come true to have one. Now I know she does not have to be in America to have opportunities that she work so hard for. With a Dr. Isatou Touray win, I know she with my three little sisters and many other young girls have a chance.