Lala Ansu Touray is undoubtedly one of The Gambia's most inspiring young women. A student at the University of The Gambia, she recently joined the United Democratic Party (UDP).
In this interview, Lala tells us more about herself, what motivated her to enter politics, her first meeting with UDP leader Ousainou Darboe and more:
What's On-Gambia: Tell us briefly about yourself?
Lala: I am Lala Touray, an activist and youth leader whose work focuses on protecting the rights of women and girls and promoting the active and meaningful participation and representation of women, especially young women, in national politics.
I was born in Lamin Village, Kombo North and raised in Farato.
I currently serve as the country coordinator at the Gender Center for Empowering Development, an organisation operating in different West African countries to influence policies, conduct capacity building training for young female politicians and works closely with political parties to influence party policies on female representation in politics.
Is it true that Imam Baba Leigh is your granddad?
Yes, he is. He is equally my best friend in the family and one of my biggest supporters.
What motivated you to join politics?
Travel the length of this country and you’ll see hunger and poverty in it’s worst form, families that cannot afford basic life necessities, children who have been deprived their right to quality accessible education. The living standards of our people have been lowered so badly and we have been denied access to economic opportunities by the same people we vote into office to serve in our interests.
Almost every sector in this country is a mess. Almost no efforts to commercialize agriculture and instead of creating opportunities to support farmers to mechanize and produce more products, they take their products (groundnuts) and do not pay them on time.
The low-quality of both our education and healthcare systems is sickening. The poor educational structures, underpayment of teachers, inadequate education materials and classrooms even in the highest learning institution is utterly disheartening.
Every other day, we have to do social media fundraisers to cover medical expenses of sick children, pregnant women are carried on motorcycles and donkey carts to go deliver their babies in poorly equipped health centres in rural Gambia.
Gambians continue to suffer at the hands of our leaders as they continuously loot and mismanage our taxes and loans they take on our behalf. Our people continue to live in extreme poverty, unable to explore their potentials, unable to register financial growth, denied access to basic rights to health, education, access to water and electricity and the list goes on and on.
I have seen first hand how the system continues to exploit and disempower The Gambian people and I want change. I want change to happen for my people and my country and I believe in my potential to contribute to the change I yearn for in my country. The need to do better for country and for people is what motivated me to join politics.
Can you share with us what attracted you to the United Democratic Party (UDP)?
The party’s fundamental values and the policies of the party which aim to strengthen good governance and consolidate democracy, boost the country’s economic growth, put in place good education and healthcare systems, promote the affairs of youth and women and improve other sectors such as our foreign policy and external relations, tourism and infrastructural development. Most importantly, the party’s stance to transform and build strong institutions which will promote accountability and transparency in how the state operates are the reasons I joined the party.
The party, without any doubt, with such progressive policies and a good number of men and women who are committed to selfless service, aims to vibrantly transform The Gambia for all Gambians.
Did you always believe that UDP was the party for you?
Honestly, no. If anyone told me about three years ago that I would join the party, I would’ve laughed it off because it never was in my plans. But circumstances change, we are at a very critical point in our country where political neutrality cannot be an option for people like me who have dedicated our lives to bring change, progressive and positive change in our country.
Who are your role models in the party?
Aunty Maryam Secka, Rohey Malick Lowe, my sister and friend Ya Kumba Jaiteh, Aunty Nogoi and all other women in the party who made immense sacrifices to stand up and fight for the motherland.
I admire and look up to Amadou Scattered Janneh, late Solo Sandeng, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, Bubacarr Sidiq Jammeh and the list goes on.
What's your response to those who say you are too young for politics?
Age should never be a reason to stop people from getting involved in national politics. Young people should be able to actively participate in politics, young people should be able to have a say in key decision-making processes, young people should be able to add their voices and take the lead. This is the narrative we want to see in our national politics; young people taking up the lead in changing the status quo.
Shamma Al Mazrim was my age, 22, when she was appointed Minister of Youth in UAE. Why not The Gambia? Why not Gambian young people? I have a lot I plan to do for my people and I won’t let my age get in the way of it.
Do you agree that Gambian politics has become very hostile?
It has. Gambian politics has recently been so toxic especially on social media. We need to find a way to accommodate each other’s differences, promote respect and tolerance in our political engagements. We have to understand that we all have a common goal, which is a better Gambia but we should understand this can never be achieved if we keep directing all our focus and energy on each other and not the system we need to dismantle and build back up again.
How can this change?
I believe this change should start with us, the young people just joining politics.
Would you abandon UDP if your friend Essa Faal establishes his own party?
Essa Faal is a great leader, a selfless leader and humanitarian. I have worked and travelled this country with him when we did a nationwide food donation drive and I know how much of a good person and great leader he is. I have so much admiration for him and everything he stands for. However, when I decided to join the UDP, I equally made a decision that my political career is going to be guided by consistency and principles. And I have no plans of taking a path of inconsistency by going from one party to another. I will stick with my party come rain come shine.
Can you describe your first encounter with your party leader, Ousainou Darboe?
Inspiring, very inspiring. It was so inspiring that every word he said to me has since stuck with me. We met in 2018 on a platform he represented the state as vice president and I represented the Gambian young people. He reached out to me after my speech and we had a conversation and that conversation changed my perception of who he is. I wish people would get to know him more as I did. He is truly an inspiration.
Why should voters support the UDP?
Because the party is here to right the wrongs of the past and the present because the party is made up of people who are committed to serving in the best interest of all Gambians.
If the Gambian people truly want change, if the masses truly want a better Gambia, the party to vote for is the United Democratic Party. We are here to consolidate democracy and human rights in a democratic dispensation, promote the freedoms and rights of all citizens, create transformative and economic opportunities for all, and create a strong foundation for the building of a new Gambia; a better Gambia.