My name is Ma Awa Barry, Ma as in Grandmother in My mother’s language (Mandinka), and Awa is the name of the first woman ˝Eve˝. My mum named me after her maternal ancestor. She was a great woman in the history of Guinea, and a river is named after her. This river serves as her memorial tomb, and it’s known among many villagers in Guinea. I am 24 years old Gambian residing in Tanji, and I am the face of My Gambia and co-creator of My Magazine.
How did I become a part of My Gambia? It is a very long story but to cut it short. One day, in the early morning of December 22, around 9 am. It’s a habit for me to check my messages on WhatsApp before I get up from bed. When I open WhatsApp, the first message on the top caught my attention. “Sis, this is really a job for you”, with a link attached to it. I became excited and clicked on it. It was directly leading me to the My Gambia website. I went through the job description, but after seeing some of the requirements, I gave up. I told my friend I would not get it. I am one without a high school certificate, not to mention a college degree; how can they give me such a demanding job. She asked me to try and that she believes that I am the best candidate. I was in Senegal for shootings and a short holiday. I contacted My Gambia on Christmas day. After enquiring about the application process, I was told to come for an interview. I travelled back from Senegal immediately and went the next morning. When I told my mum about my interview, she was also very excited but more anxious than me.
When I got the job, it was the happiest moment of my life. I went back home and gave my mum the good news; she was elated. I started chatting with my little diary when I got home about how I feel. I am a person that expresses myself better when I write. Getting a job was like winning a 10-million-dollar lottery. It meant a lot to me. It might just be a job for some, a way to earn money, and that’s it. But it meant more than that to me. I was lucky to find a job that is related to my interest in life. So, this felt like a step into the future I am building in my dreams.
What can one say when every day you are being paid to learn? This is how I describe my job. It’s like a school where I am learning every day. This makes me grateful, and I love everything about my job. It’s pretty busy and hectic, of course. But who said it was ever going to be easy to make a living? Life is only worthy when you can hold in your hand the money you earn from your sweat and hard labour. It gives you such a satisfying feeling. I truly love the busy days when there is no time to idle around or sit around gossiping. I’ll have to chat with my computer for 8 hours, or sometimes more. This gives me a break from every part of my life. I live in a quiet world where only I and the computer communicate. Even though I have colleagues in the office, I have only me and my keyboard when I am working. The thrilling moments of editing; this has helped me grow in every aspect. The great moments of getting to know someone new every day is amazing. I am learning every day. How can I not love it? I love everything about it.
The reason I love working hard is that I have big dreams. A woman I look up to said, “Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe. ˝My biggest dream is to be able to make all my mother’s dreams come true. I want to illuminate her world with lights as bright as the sun. I also want to support children who are less opportune in life, children on the streets with their parents. I will not give them money and tell them to be happy; I want to help them discover who they are meant to be and help them work towards it.
My hobbies are going to the gym, writing stories. I love writing heartbreaking and tragic stories. I love being on a movie set; I live in a different world when I am there. I just love being busy. I don’t like lazing around.
Asides from My Gambia, I am also an actress and a screenwriter. These I do in my free times for now. But acting is what I have always wished to make a life career.
When I was in nursery school, I would say I want to be a secretary when I grow up. A few years later, when I was 8, I watched the movie Karan Aur Arjun and saw this actor who changed my dream career. I started watching more of his films and practising his roles and lines. It came as a natural talent that I had. I underwent training in acting and public speaking at SPORTADEMIC for four years and later joined GMB Brains Theatre in middle school. I was a person with crowd phobia, and I needed the training to conquer this fear. I still have it, but it’s not as bad as before. I had no idea about video editing even after having a one-month training on it. I felt it’s a wide world that I can never conquer in one month. After joining My Gambia, I began learning from my boss. She is a very patient teacher who doesn’t make me feel like I am useless when I can’t understand. This gives me the drive to want to understand and to do a good job. I am still learning, and editing has helped me in improving my acting skills and writing. You might ask how? Hahaha. As for the computer, at a young age, I have had an obsession with computers. When watching movies, I love how people would be typing, and their fingers would be flying on the keyboards, especially women; it looked so cool. This was also the reason I wanted to be secretary so I can do the same.
My dad had a typewriter at home. I would always sneak into his room with a white paper which I bought for 25 bututs. Stick it in and start typing rubbish. I would try to type like those secretaries on TV. As time went on, I became fast with the keyboards. I understood where every letter was, and I began composing sentence very fast. Then one day, the typewriter fell while I was writing (hahaha). It became mine, but I had to pay the price though (hahaha). Two years after I dropped out of school, I got a chance to have computer training for six months which I had great scores in.
Before, I thought I was useless without education. Yes, it’s very important, but it doesn’t determine one’s success. It’s not many people’s choice to be uneducated besides education is not limited to the four walls of the school. It goes beyond sitting in class. When I talk to people, they would say I am matured, and I speak better than a university student. I didn’t complete high school, but I have learnt by myself through other means. Online tutorials, people and my environment and experience is also a great teacher.
Financial independence is very important to a person. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and makes you feel fulfilled. It also adds up to your confidence and doesn’t make you fear losing anyone’s good favour upon you because you can still support yourself in your abilities if you are financially independent, and you wouldn’t also fear what you invest in. It earns you respect in society, and it makes you fit to change your life and that of others.
The first thing I bought was ice cream for my colleagues at work and myself. I hoped that my experience at work would be as sweet and as cool as the ice cream. The rest went to mum to use and save some.
In the next three years, I want to be part of a My Gambia team with lots of employees where we are flying in a million tourist from all parts of the world and then I will be part of the core management team of My Gambia. How amazing that would be. Then I also hope to have my little film company which I manage in my free times. I want to be a woman with super many jobs.
I want to improve myself more. Challenge my limits and stimulate myself. I wish to conquer all my fears, burst my esteem more and become better to serve My Gambia. I believe that I am doing this for myself, so whatever I do, I want the best to come out of it.
I want Oprah Winfrey to be my role model, having a childhood experience slightly similar to her. But mine was not because of my colour; it was because of my looks. Today, who dares to discriminate Oprah still? She has changed the narratives that looks don’t define your greatness in the future. It is your drive and willingness to reach your goal in the future. I love her quote, which says, “Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you were meant to be, and to begin to honor that in the best way possible for yourself.