“My grandparents raised the seven of us. I am the oldest one, so I always help out with my siblings as much as I can, especially my sisters so they don’t have to look to men to support them. My grandfather was a journalist so I’ve always enjoyed listening to people. I was looking for a scholarship in communications and a university in Bamako offered me one. I cried on my way there not knowing what to expect.
I got off the train and looked around and wondered what was going to become of me in a country where I had no family, friends or support of any kind. I found a house with four other female students, and I paid for the advance for us all. They gave us the key, and we then soon realized we had no water or electricity. We went to complain to the agency and they told us the guy we gave the money to didn’t even work there! Desperate and homeless, I had to call my grandpa at 5 am and tell him what had happened. I couldn’t even afford textbooks. I was always saving and sending my family money so my mum could get proper treatment for her cancer. I never asked anyone for anything. As a young woman in a foreign country, I struggled, but I managed to survive.
I felt welcomed in Mali and the people I got along with best were locals, but I didn’t make a lot of friends because I was so focused on doing well in school. I couldn’t let my family down; they were all counting on me. I had to fight hard to finish my studies. After I graduated, I applied for civil services. I cried for days when I found out they were sending me to Agadez. I told my employer that I was young and willing to learn so he advised me to send out my CV. I’ve always wanted to work in the humanitarian field so I was happy when I heard I had been recruited as an IOM community mobilizers and then within the protection unit. I like working with migrants - every day I learn something new from them.
Nowadays, you can see more women in positions of power in Niger. Women have become more emancipated and are looking for things other than marriage. People are different – not all women have the same goals or ambitions, and we need to respect that. In my senior year of highschool, there was a man who wanted to marry me, but my grandfather fortunately refused. He said I needed to finish my studies, maybe to even do a PHD, that learning never ends. He always used to say: “A man can cheat on you, a diploma never will.”"
Photo Credit: Monica Chiriac