18-year-old Maimuna Jawo was born in the Gambia. She went to Brazil, where she became a refugee in 2016 to live with her mother in Rio de Janeiro. Despite the Portuguese language barrier, Maimuna worked, studied, and even launched a small clothing brand. Thirteen universities in the United States and Canada have approved the request of the young, ambitious woman to further her dreams with the support of her mother. But Maimuna chose to study biotechnology at the University of Alberta in Canada.
Moving to Brazil
Mariama Bah, 34, is Maimuna’s mother. She endured hardship and suffering in her native Gambia, the country where she was born.
Mariama was forced to marry a man at the age of 13 and dropped out of school because of various difficulties coming along with the marriage. In 2014 she managed to escape and took refuge in Brazil.
Aware that her daughter would have the same fate through the culture in the society and community she left in The Gambia, Mariama brought Maimuna to Brazil.
Maimuna arrived in Brazil without being able to say anything in Portuguese. Still, she obtained a scholarship at the Bilingual Schools Ladies of Mercy (OLM) in the south of Rio.
“The adaptation was difficult. I didn’t learn Portuguese, and the school was a long way from where I lived. I’d wake up every day between 4:00 and 4:30 in the morning to be at school at 7:00. It wasn’t an easy experience, but I see it was very worthy,” said the young woman.
Approval at international universities
Despite so much difficulty, Maimuna did not give up, and today she celebrates her approval in 13 universities abroad. She dreams of studying biotechnology to help improve people’s lives.
“I’m from a family of farmers. Although there is fertile land in the Gambia, many foods are imported, such as fruits and vegetables. I believe that this situation contributes to the persistence of hunger and malnutrition in my country. With biotechnology, I want to learn how to increase food productivity, help diminish or change the lives of many people,” he says.
Fighting for education
With the excellent news of approval, Mariama and Maimuna seek to gather all possible resources for the young woman’s trip to Canada. So, in addition to the clothes sales of the brand Maimuna created, the two women seek sponsorship to pay the R$ 160,000 ($ 29675.25) needed for the program.
Confident to pursue her ambition, Maimuna says her mother is the greatest supporter of her dreams. “My mother is everything in this story. She did everything for me, and it’s the key point,” the young girl said.
As her daughter pursues her biotech university course, her mother Mariama says she would go for a new course on international relations, locked up for lack of resources. She, however, said that as soon as her daughter Maimuna begins studying, she will resume her studies.
“That’s why I left my country to study. This has always been my dream,” Mariama said.
After her daughter is in university, Mariama intends to pursue a political and academic career, fighting for education, the rights of immigrants and refugees, and against racism. “I feel like I’m one of the richest people to be Maimuna’s mother,” she said.