International Women’s Day (IWD) Special: Mama Fatima says the Job doesn’t Matter, It’s What you do with it that counts

United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)
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Although life so far has not turned out the way she had hoped for, 60-year-old Fatima Ibrahim Ori doesn’t let that stop her from living it to the fullest. That spirit of hers means that we cannot think of anyone more suitable to highlight as this year’s International Women’s Day approaches.

Mama Fatima, as she is fondly known, is a cleaner at one of the UNMISS bases in Juba, called UN House. Her work helps ensure the smooth running of the peacekeeping mission’s strategic communications team.

“When I was young, I planned to study and become a doctor. I had this in mind when I was still living with my parents. But my career choices changed with time, as life took a different path,” says Fatima.

“When I was five years old, I left my parents’ home at Kangapo II, in Kajo-Keji County, and went to live with my aunt in Khartoum. I grew up and studied there till I got married in 1983.”

At that time, she was happy and carefree because her aunt paid for her school fees, but fate, it would prove, had other things in store for Fatima. Her benefactor died suddenly, when Fatima was just 17, leaving her to fend for herself.

Her solution was as innovative as it was unorthodox: she started brewing and selling alcohol to cover her school fees and other costs of living. With hard work and diligence, she managed to complete her secondary education.

Mama Fatima attributes her drive and motivation to her generous relative in the Sudanese capital. 

“She was a good and hard-working woman. She guided me through my life. My aunty was such an inspiring woman, she shaped my journey in ways I could never have imagined. I appreciate all the lessons and advice she shared with me.”  

Fatima tried as hard as she possibly could, but advancing beyond secondary school proved impossible. Instead, she accepted a marriage proposal at the age of 18.

“Life was so difficult when my aunty died, and I was still trying to study. So, I got married after completing my secondary education, and was blessed with three girls and a boy.” 

Mama Fatima used the knowledge she acquired at school to support and empower her children. She motivated them to study hard, and to understand that education is one key to success. 

Unfortunately, life tested Mama Fatima again when her husband died, leaving her with teenaged children still in school.

“After my husband died, I realized I had to do all sorts of odd jobs to support my children to complete school and provide for them.”

As it was difficult to find a job that matched her skills, with most such employment opportunities in sectors dominated by men, Fatima took any job she could get. 

“I worked tirelessly, in different places, to raise money for school fees, to buy food for my children, pay their medical bills, and cover other basic needs.”

For years, Mama Fatima worked in Khartoum, teaching at Comboni Kindergarten, and later at Hope Orphanage Home. Her efforts paid off, with all her children able to graduate from university.

Her eldest daughter has a bachelor’s degree and is a medical doctor in Uganda. Her second daughter is an accomplished lawyer, her third a pharmacist. Her youngest son is an accountant.

Mama Fatima is immensely proud of them, and a contented grandmother with no less than eleven grandchildren. She doesn’t have to worry about providing for anyone, but work she does anyway. Why? Because she can, and because she enjoys it.

“Any job, no matter what it is, serves a higher purpose. The most important thing is to remain focused on your life goals, no matter what the situation presents,” she says.

“I encourage all young girls to complete their education, at least if they want to be successful. I also urge my colleagues to work hard and not to dismiss any kind of job that comes their way, as long as it enables them to support themselves, their children and their wider family.” 

Mama Fatima leads by example. If she has been able to overcome tragedy and hardship to create a satisfying life for herself and her family, others can, too. At least if they show persistence, always come to work with a broad smile, and share a warm word with anyone they meet. Just like Mama Fatima.

In fact, she puts it best herself: “It doesn’t matter what job you do; it’s what you do with that job that matters.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Source: Apo-Opa

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