New award launched this year by T4 Education in collaboration with HP and Intel to be given to an outstanding individual who has demonstrated impact, leadership, and advocacy in the field of African education.
Gambia’s Musu Bakoto Sawo, National Coordinator of Think Young Women, has been named a Top 10 finalist for the new Africa Education Medal, launched this year by T4 Education in collaboration with HP and Intel. Sawo joins nine other outstanding individuals from across Africa including H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education.
The Africa Education Medal was founded to recognise the tireless work of those who are transforming education across the continent – to celebrate the stories of those who have lit the spark of change so others will be inspired to take up the torch.
Musu Bakoto Sawo is National Coordinator of Think Young Women, a female-led non-profit organisation that aims to inspire and empower young women in Gambia. As a former child bride and a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM), she has vowed to end the cycle of these harmful traditional practices in her generation. Her advocacy contributed to child marriages and FGM being banned in Gambia. Despite her family marrying her off at the age of 14, she rebelled and insisted she be allowed to complete her education, eventually graduating from the University of The Gambia, Faculty of Law where she now lectures. When her husband died when she was 21, she inherited nothing. Education was the only reason she was able to thrive and she wants the same for all of Gambia’s girls.
Sawo was recognised as The Daily Trust African of the Year 2020 and received the 2017 Vera Chirwa award by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, in recognition of her work in advancing women’s rights in Africa especially on FGM and other harmful traditional practices. She received the 2018 Commonwealth Points of Lights Award for The Gambia from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and she has been recognised as one of the 100 most influential young persons in West Africa by the Confederation of West African Youths in 2018.
At Think Young Women, Sawo works to promote informal education. She provides leadership for the organisation’s girls’ mentorship programme, which targets adolescent girls in junior secondary school in Gambia. The programme provides life skills education and also serves as a platform for education and engagement on feminism, leadership, communication, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and human rights in general.
She also engages in policy-level advocacy and policy development around human rights, and has remained a staunch voice for improving access to education, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised.
A passionate advocate for change, she has long fought for equitable access to education for girls. This has included interrogating and demanding a change in discriminatory policies that excluded school-going girls who became pregnant from re-enrolling into school to complete their education. This policy has now been revoked by the Ministry of Basic Education, and these girls have an opportunity to continue their education and access new opportunities.
Brad Pulford, Managing Director at HP Africa, said:
“Congratulations to Musu Bakoto Sawo on being named a Top 10 finalist for the Africa Education Medal. In honouring her tireless work to improve education, I hope many others will be inspired to follow her outstanding example as leaders in the field.
“HP has been committed to enabling better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025. Achieving this bold goal wouldn’t be possible without empowered education leaders and trailblazers who are at the forefront of the rapidly changing education environment. A quality education empowers not just individuals, but entire communities. It will skill the next generation to fulfil their full potential in a world being transformed by technology.”
The Top 10 finalists for the Africa Education Medal are:
- H.E. Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education
- Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, South Africa
- Basuti Bolo, Founder and CEO of GoToSpace, in Botswana
- Cyrille Nkontchou, Founder and Chairman of Enko Education, in Ivory Coast
- Felix Malombe, Executive Director of STEAM Labs Africa, in Kenya
- John Mugo, Executive Director of Zizi Afrique Foundation, in Kenya
- Folawe Omikunle, Chief Executive Officer of Teach For Nigeria
- Jide Martin, Founder and CEO of Comic Republic, in Nigeria
- Musu Bakoto Sawo, National Coordinator of Think Young Women, in Gambia
- Noella Coursaris Musunka, Founder and CEO of the Georges Malaika Foundation, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nominations for the Africa Education Medal opened in April 2022 for individuals working to improve pre-kindergarten, K-12, vocational and university education who are either educators, school administrators, civil society leaders, public servants, government officials, political leaders, technologists, or innovators.
The winner of the Africa Education Medal will be announced in September. Finalists will be assessed by a Jury comprising prominent individuals based on rigorous criteria.
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