Senegal: Amsatou Sow Sidibé

Nothing lasting can be built without peace.

— Amsatou Sow Sidibé

Amsatou Amsatou Sow Sidibé (52) has a doctorate in law and political science from the Université Paris II. She is a full professor and holds the Chair of Private Law at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Dakar; she also heads the university’s Institute for Human Rights and Peace. She is the president of Rafet, the African Network for the Promotion of Working Women, and has published numerous works and papers on human rights. Very early on, she produced programs on women’s rights on national radio as a direct form of awareness-raising among women.

Amsatou Sow Sidibé is a committed and tireless activist, fighting on all battlefields where human life and dignity are threatened. A volume would not suffice to list her academic accomplishments and her activities against violence and the exploitation of women, against poverty, injustice, and political lawlessness. Her impressive curriculum vitae reflects her intellectual prowess. But there are things which cannot be expressed in a curriculum vitae, yet reveal a person’s personality. Rafet, the African Network for the Promotion of Working Women, over which Amsatou Sow Sidibé presides, is one such thing. The highly symbolic meaning of this acronym – which designates a women’s organization – could not have escaped Amsatou Sow Sidibé. In Wolof (most widely-spoken language in Senegal), rafet means “beautiful." It also refers to any action, gesture, or word which shows moral nobility, greatness of soul, and control. In other words, the cardinal virtues without which peace cannot thrive. In the word “rafet” we see the graceful and proud figures of women who sacrifice themselves daily for the good of the societies they live in. Since the dawn of time, they have learned to hold their tongues and obey. And yet, in spite of their difficult status and the natural or man-made scourges they are subject to, they are so beautiful, so strong. That seems to be the message of Amsatou Sow Sidibé. “Life continues because we are upright. We have resisted so that our children may live, to maintain the structure of the family, to spread the good word, to educate, to heal. Now the time has come to marshal our physical, moral, cultural, and spiritual resources, for a better life without discrimination, in spite of the obstacles the world puts in the way of human dignity. Let us truly comprehend that we can change the world.”

Réseau Africain pour la Promotion de la Femme Travailleuse (Rafet)