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HOUSE MANAGER - AMINATA'S STORY

I have sat here for ages wondering where to begin Aminata’s story, the house manager of AMF’s Accommodation and Training Hostel. I want to do her story justice.  Given the odds she has overcome, but particularly given that ‘something’ about her, doing her justice will be hard, impossible maybe. She’s at peace. The peace of someone who has made it over the finish line after years of training for a marathon.  Now with the steely determination of a winner, she is going to train others to run their race. Part fairy godmother, part RBG/ Malala/Oprah/ Michelle Obama... insert your hero.

Aminata grew up in one of Freetown’s many slums - slums described by the World Bank as a blight on humanity and widely regarded as the worst places in the world to live. At 31, Aminata has reached life expectancy for Freetown’s slum residents. But that will not be her fate.

She was a top student.  She had to fight hard to be allowed to go to school but with good grades, her father allowed it. Technically 2019 marks the first year of compulsory primary school here - one of the last countries in the world where education has not been compulsory. The rush to enrol overwhelmed schools bursting them beyond capacity. They had to close to new enrolments and it’s estimated 20% of students missed out. But for Aminata and her family, sending her to school was optional.

AMINATA AND AMINATA

To gloss over 7 years of the story- she had her baby, fought tooth and nail against her husband’s wishes to return to school (eventually the recalcitrant would be student was sent back to her family), left school top of her class and earned her place in a local university, where she studied home economics, again top student.

Now in her mid-twenties, Aminata saw a poster advertising one scholarship to study a masters degree in Beijing. She said she knew she had every qualification and would make a fine candidate. Got through to the final interviews, and then the last 2 candidates and was confident she had it in the bag. She knew the other candidate and was surprised he was even there.

When Aminata learnt she had not been selected,  she marched straight to the Ministry of Education, armed with her university results and demanded to see the Minister. ‘Do you have an appointment?’  ‘No, and I don’t need one, I have my results!’. ‘You need an appointment.’ ‘No I’ll wait till he’ll see me.’ And so Aminata took up her position outside the Minister of Education’s office. She sat for days...

Eventually, someone she knew- her old uni lecturer turned up to see the Minister, and he had an appointment. He had always been impressed by Amii so put in a good word for her and the Minister agreed to see her. Turns out he thought she had been the winning student (someone knew someone with the other candidate and he had been slipped in over her), so off to Beijing she went for 3 years.

While I was so surprised by the unlikeliness of her story, why should I be? Do I really think that any young women wouldn’t want to fight, to do anything possible to improve her situation? And now she wants to teach other young women from the poorest families in Sierra Leone new skills, to have confidence, to work hard, be independent and to contribute back to society. Together with Aberdeen Women’s Centre and The Aminata Maternal Foundation, Aminata is running the pilot programme in our Training and Accommodation Hostel, and from what we have seen she is achieving everything she has set out to do - no surprises there though.

I wanted to tell Aminata’s story to illustrate the talent that we see everywhere here, so that our team and supporters can have every confidence that the work we are all doing, as volunteers, as donors, as knitters or service providers are achieving something very real in Sierra Leone. There’s such a long way to go, but we have taken the first steps. AMF is making a difference to lives in this beautiful country.

Penny Gerstle,

Chair

AMINATA HOUSE MANAGER

 

Polygamy is common in Sierra Leone and Aminata’s father had many wives. When Amii was 15, her mother died and she had to take over the mothering role. School was out of the question. Now that she was a ‘mother’ she needed to be married. Feeding her would become someone else’s responsibility. A ‘suitable’ 40 something husband was found.

By 16 she was married, middle-aged by local standards, pregnant, malnourished and living in grinding poverty in the most disadvantaged place on earth, little education and no prospect of escape... except for her spark.

Contrast the Aminata in the photo above - the Aminata we met. At 31 she’s fluent in Mandarin, has 2 university degrees, including a Masters in Hospitality and Tourism from a Beijing University, she’s financially independent and unlike an estimated 65% of graduates here she has a well paying full-time job which she loves. How?

It’s a long story, but the bit I love, the bit most illustrative of her determination, is the story of her scholarship to Beijing, the only international scholarship on offer that year.

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READ MORE ABOUT WHAT WE'VE BEEN UP TO

Chrismas Appeal

December 13, 2020

Mabinty’s story is one of despair and hope. Mabinty was 16 years old and in Junior Secondary School when she was living with her sister and husband. She was brought to Freetown by her elder sister at the age of seven so that she could access education in the hope of a brighter future. One […]

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We’ve done it!

November 26, 2020

And just like that, we’re finished! Over two weeks, hundreds of us have walked thousands of kilometres as we came together a community to walk side by side with mums and babies living in poverty in Sierra Leone. My heart is full thinking of Jakia who inspired this event. It is amazing to think that […]

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You’ve set the pace

November 2, 2020

We can’t believe how much support we’ve already received for our #AMFWalkingChallenge2020. So many people have been willing to help us fundraise for the much needed maternal health support during the COVID-19 crisis in Sierra Leone. I am so touched by everyone’s words of kindness and open hearts to a cause that is so close […]

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Aminata on BBC World Service

October 13, 2020

“A mother and a child dying, that never made sense to me. How can women still continue  to struggle for something that is preventable? No mother or their baby should die in childbirth just because of poverty” – Aminata Conteh-Biger In an in-depth interview with BBC Outlook, Aminata talks about her childhood in Sierra Leone, […]

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‘Rising Heart’ and raising spirits in the Women’s Weekly

August 14, 2020

Have you seen the September issue of Women’s Weekly yet? This month features a six-page special on the life & journey of Aminata. She talks about her life during the war in Sierra Leone, her settlement in Australia as a refugee, and what inspired her to start the Aminata Maternal Foundation. Having our Founder in […]

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Available to order

July 28, 2020

29 sleeps to go until my memoir, Rising Heart, will be released & in your hands! I feel so excited and humbled to share my story with you. Order now You know that my story is a message of hope and resilience despite experiencing extreme trauma. My dream is for every mother in Sierra Leone to […]

Read More

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It's amazing what we can accomplish when we deepen connections among extraordinary women.

Just one week to go until International Women's Day - and @thegracetales 24 hour global summit to celebrate, over at @allbright 💕👭 With this stellar lineup of game-changing women, we'll be hosting important discussions on the issues facing women in their careers and beyond today. From mental health, to gender inequality, inclusion & belonging and much, much more, don't miss (drumroll please) @georgieabay with @tamepunk @samanthaand_ @fearnecotton @alexia.inge @aminata_conteh_biger @nimkoali @marieforleo @koabeck @annakristinajones @kenyahunt @anneshoket @cocodemeruk @debbiewosskow @anniejwilliams @dranitaheiss @irenettya 😍😍😍 To register, hit the link in @thegracetales' bio. And sign up for free using the code ABWELCOME 💫

#repost @thegracetales
#iwd2021 #collaboration #leavenoonebehind #fbelevate #womensupportingwomen #generationequality
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Sierra Leone is one of the most dangerous places to give birth. The country has been ranked third lowest in terms of the Mothers' Index, which assesses mothers and children's well-being.

The shortage of midwives is the most significant cause of high maternal mortality. That's why the AMF's Midwife Training Program is investing in up-skilling new graduates and in expanding our safe delivery program.

Please find out more by visiting our website.
https://aminatamaternalfoundation.org/mission/our-projects/midwife-training/

#healthheroes #March8th #EndGBV #maternalhealth #LeaveNoOneBehind #sdgs
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#repost • @thegracetales Ready to super charge your career? And be inspired by incredible women? @allbright Australia has officially landed and we couldn't be happier. And as the new Head of AllBright Australia, I couldn't be more excited for what's ahead, kicking off with International Women's Day, where we have a number of incredible Australian speakers coming up as part of AllBright's first-ever 24-Hour Global Step Forward Summit, where we will be speaking to 18 inspirational women from all corners of the globe. Stay tuned for conversations with the extraordinary @aminata_conteh_biger, @anniejwilliams (pictured here) and @dranitaheiss along with the phenomenal Australian of The Year 2021 Grace Tame @tamepunk. Like we said, there's a lot to be excited about 💫⭐  📸 @julieadamsphotographer ...

Our CEO @aminata_conteh_biger will be on the panel for the @businesschicks #IWD2021 event, alongside @teelareid and Jane Caro.

This year's theme, #ChooseToChallenge is very timely.

The @aminatafoundation chooses to challenge injustice and inequality every day and we hope you do too #businesschicks #womensupportingwomen #maternalhealth #mothershealth #leavenoonebehind
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Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This year UNESCO celebrates women that are at the heart of Covid response.

Let's praise our nurses, midwives and doctors who work tirelessly to ensure that even the most vulnerable women can access a safe birth.

#womeninscience #maternalhealth #covid19 #sierraleone #mothersandbabies @unwomen #healthheroes #unesco
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