Have you ever felt like there was more to you, but somehow the world around you seemed limited? How do you find the courage to unleash your passion?
Our #SEGoftheMonth understands. Her name is Fatmata Lamarana Bah. She is a 24-year-old final year Social Work student at the Fourahbay College, University of Sierra Leone. In a society where girls’ voices are suppressed and many girls are given out in marriage at a young age (without a choice), Fatmata has found courage to challenge the status quo and pursue her dreams.
This is Fatmata’s #StrongEnough story:
- Tell us about (describe) yourself.
My name is Fatmata Lamarana Bah born into an Islamic Fulani family at the East End of Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa. My empathic nature and the desire to help people around me with their daily social problems especially girls and women led me to studying Social work and currently working as an intern with Advocaid Sierra Leone, an INGO providing counseling and legal services to female prison inmates. I am the CEO and Founder of YAEDA.SL, Awareness coordinator of Social Work Sierra Leone, National Coordinate of Fulbe Progressive Union and President of Hijab sisters.
- What are your hobbies (things you enjoy doing)?
I enjoy networking with young people, travelling, science fiction movies.
- What activities are you involved with in your community?
Sensitization spanning a variety of issues eg teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, sanitation, no violence campaign, youth empowerment, organising workshops and or seminars, advocacy with girl child education and women’s empowerment.
- Who or what inspires you?
Of course God is through my Elder brother Ibrahim Wurie Bah. He has been my mentor, adviser and confidant. He believed in me even when I had doubt in myself and has since made me realise I was more capable than I ever thought. When I am scared he calms me down, when I feel lazy and want to give up he ignites my flames. He has gone through a lot but yet has kept pushing. He is my source of inspiration and motivation.
- Is there something you are passionate about? If yes, what is it?
For me serving humanity and leaving a legacy is what I’m passionate about. In Africa, women are considered to be weak and vulnerable and always fall behind the male folks who abuse these women seeing them as sex objects. I’m passionate about empowering women so that they can take back their pride.
- What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced? How did you get through it?
To have hailed from an Islamic Fulani family with a culture of marrying girls as early as possible has been my greatest challenge. As a result, I nearly dropped out of school to be married off. But luckily, my brother stood by me and ensured it never happened. Networking with boys/men outside of family was frowned at by my family and had my movements restricted. With time, I started my own organization consisting of an integrated membership. I got engaged with various youth groups embarking on big projects that my family was proud of. As such I was given back my freedom to associate and I became trusted.
- What is the biggest challenge that you see facing girls/young women in your community?
A pervasive patriarchal system where the male is expected to lead in any aspect of life and determine the living conditions of women/girls is the biggest challenge in my community. Due to this, there is absolute disbelief in female leadership which kills even the female self belief. Women/girls mostly draw back from taking up active leadership roles and totally surrender to male dominance which results mostly in abuse.
- What advice would you like to share with girls/young women in your community?
As a woman/lady you must cultivate self belief for without it you are even more vulnerable.
As a young woman you must be outgoing by engaging and aspiring for higher things in life irregardless of the status quo.
- Who is your favorite female leader/role model?
My role model is my mom (Mariama Juldeh Bah) even without formal education she was able to raise 6 children and actively supervise every aspect of our lives. She ensures assignments are done and that we study everyday. She is a strong believer in education and always goes the extra mile to attend to our needs especially educational needs. She has sacrificed her every comfort to put us through school and ensure we aspire for greater things.
- What do the words “Strong Enough” mean to you?
For me strong enough means to muster the courage and resilience to sail through life’s difficulties/challenges and succeed.
- Do you have a favorite quote/verse/song lyric?
“What more there is to life than to serve God and humanity.”
You rock Fatmata! Thank you for sharing your story with us. We are inspired by your courage and determination to push boundaries and reject the status quo. We encourage you to continue speaking out for girls and women. We support and celebrate you as our #SEGoftheMonth. Keep blazing the trail.
Stay connected with Fatmata’s work via her organization pages on Facebook: “yaeda/sl” and “Sisters in Islam.”
LET’S HEAR FROM YOU!!!
Do you have a question for Fatmata? How has her story inspired you? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.