Gambian pan-Africanist coaches youth, women leaders

Gambian pan-Africanist coaches youth, women leaders

Written by John Musinguzi

Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, 73, a Gambian pan-Africanist, recently spent three days of a congested programme of coaching, dialogue and conversations with young leaders of youth and women.

The three days, June 6 to 8, 2023, were dedicated to celebrating women, young leaders, pan-Africanism, community consciousness and Julius Nyerere’s legacy of servant leadership.

The mother of eight children who worked with the United Nations for many years and later joined national politics also used her personal experiences to motivate women, leaders and the African people in general to never lose hope, but get out of stupefying comfort zones and recover their dignified spaces.

Fatoumata was in Uganda as a guest of the Julius Nyerere Leadership Centre (JNLC), a presidential initiative centre of excellence for leadership, governance and pan-Africanism, in partnership with ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and Makerere University’s School of Women and Gender Studies.

JNLC is co-hosted and co-managed by Makerere University and Uganda Management Institute. Fatoumata’s programme started on June 6, 2023 with a media blitz roundtable at Sheraton Kampala hotel.

The occasion also served as a one-on-one engagement between Fatoumata and young male and female leaders on the topic of transformative leadership. She urged the media to take responsibility of portraying a positive image of women and the African people in all areas.

She shunned the high-flying title of “Her Excellency” and advised everyone to see her as an equal in a level conversation.

“The purpose of my visit was to come and celebrate our father, H.E Julius Nyerere who had a vision not only for Tanzania but for Africa which is African unity…Please see me as a mother and a pan-African activist and mentor of youth and women, not as a former Vice President…We all have a responsibility to share our knowledge, our experiences and journeys, and sustain cross-generational dialogues,” she said.

She appealed to the young leaders to strive to be competent in whatever they do, always consult others, continuously improve oneself, uplift others and put faith at the centre of everything. “

The individual in a leadership position cannot be all and everything; that’s why I am always learning, and I can testify that learning never ceases.”


There was a cross-generational fireside (ekyooto) conversation between Fatoumata and female university leaders at Nsambya gardens on June 7. The lead discussant was Kenyan First Daughter Charlene Chelangat Ruto alongside many discussants and panelists.

The fireside conversation aimed to help participants find answers to questions of how: young women in leadership can seize the moment; to go beyond stereotypes and discriminatory gender norms to discover paths to success; to nurture and elevate voices of female youth as transformative leaders; and to use new forms of ICT to enhance young women’s leadership potential.

The invite-only function was heavily attended by male and female leaders of many universities in Uganda.


Fatoumata gave a presidential lecture on the topic, ‘Women, pan- Africanism and community’ on June 8 at Yusuf Lule CTF auditorium, Makerere University.

This was the second series of its nature organized by JNLC, the first one having been delivered by President Yoweri Museveni in June 2018 when he also inaugurated the Centre, as its patron and brains behind its establishment. Dr Nansozi Muwanga, the executive director of JNLC, said a second lecture was being planned for 2020 but Covid-19 pandemic caused a long-term interference.

Fatoumata called upon the African youth to shun laziness, and seek deeper knowledge by reading widely especially about the history of pan- Africanism, and women struggles and dignity before colonialism.

“Even before the whites came and during colonialism, some women led popular struggles. The problem today is the lack of knowledge about our history because of the school curricula and the media we consume. We must put up our own counter narratives,” she argued.

She argued that there is no need to go back to reinvent the wheel for a new ideology; pan-Africanism is sufficient and still relevant. She said pan-Africanism is beyond merely identifying as Africans, and entails virtues of humility, hard work, solidarity and putting humanity at the centre of development, among others.

She advised against violent and destructive modes of engagement that have ended up taking the lives of our youths with no tangible benefits.


Aged 73 now, Fatoumata is a simple woman with an inspiring life story. Having married at an age of 16 and producing a child every year, she decided to go back to school with her fourth child on her back in classroom and read at night while carrying the child.

The end result? She eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree and later worked many years with the United Nations. She left the comfortable job at UNDP to organize a peaceful movement comprising seven political parties and three civil society organisations; the movement saved her country from a creeping political crisis, and she eventually held political posts.

She held various responsibilities in government, including being secretary of state for Health and Social Welfare, minister of Women Affairs and vice president. She has received several awards including the African Women of Excellence Award and the African Women in Leadership Award.

She is now focused on activism for effective unity of the African people and realization of transformative leadership with women in big numbers. She says she can’t go back to a political appointment; she can only accept a position that comes through bottom-up mobilization and election.

“I am highly accessible, through my granddaughter Ejatou Barry. I am 24/7 for Africa until Allah calls me home.”

Culled From The Observer.

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