In Conversation with Aminata Conteh-Biger
Posted on March 14 2023
Written by Georgie Abay.
Aminata Conteh-Biger dances with life, meaning she celebrates each day. It’s a little like how we want the children who wear Printebebe to feel – like life is for living and every moment matters. “I laugh, I eat, I love, I cry, but more than anything, I dance with life,” says Aminata. “Like my mama says, whether you dance or not, the music still continues.” There’s so much you will learn from Aminata – true resilience, gratitude, and courage. As an author, speaker and founder of the Aminata Maternal Foundation, she’s endlessly inspiring.
Her story? It’s all beautifully documented in her debut memoir, Rising Heart, and will make you laugh, cry, and more than anything, leave you in awe at the strength of one woman. In 1999, Sierra Leone was in the midst of a brutal civil war. It was also where rebel soldiers snatched 18-year-old Aminata from her father’s arms, then held her captive for months. After she was released, she was put on a plane and flown to Australia to start afresh as a refugee in a land she knew nothing about.
She has proudly built a life in Australia, while never allowing her trauma to define her. Instead, her trauma has ultimately been the making of her. It was a near-death experience she suffered during the birth of her daughter that turned her attention to the women of Sierra Leone – one of the most dangerous places on earth to give birth, where women are 200 times more likely to die while having a baby than in Australia (1 in 17 women die during childbirth in Sierra Leone while in Australia it is 1 in 8,700 women). She set up the Aminata Maternal Foundation, on a mission to change these numbers and support the women and children of Sierra Leone. Here, we speak to Aminata about why life should be celebrated every single day, her motherhood journey and gratitude.
What does being a woman mean to you?
As a woman, I don’t have the luxury to think about what being a woman means; I just live it. Personally, I feel like there is a pressure for us to think about womanhood or sisterhood only on a day like International Women’s Day. I see that as not being progressive to the change we want to see happen.
What does true connection with people mean to you and how do you seek it in your daily life?
For me, true connection with people is being present and treating people the way you like to be treated – always with respect.
As a mother of two, what has been the greatest chapter of your motherhood journey?
I believe the greatest chapter is the unexpected love that you receive being a mother, and also is the idea that whatever we have planned, the outcome is completely different, and I have learned to embrace the unknown of what motherhood should be.
What has been the hardest part of motherhood for you?
It didn’t come with a menu or recipe. But sincerely, the hardest part is when you sometimes feel like you’re doing it alone, but you are not really alone.
What is your mission with the Aminata Maternal Foundation?
My mission with the foundation is to end infant maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. Motherhood should mark the beginning, not an end. If motherhood was to mark an end, where would we all be today? Maternal health is not a disease, and we should not treat it as such. Sadly, I believe that women do not acknowledge this as their problem.
Can you tell me about the women you work with and the change you’re making in their life?
The women that we work with are simply remarkable. They are full of pride, strength, and I truly believe, in my opinion, they are the true definition of resilience. More importantly, they are some of the most capable women on the planet. I think it’s just right to say that we are making changes together.
You wrote a memoir entitled Rising Heart. How did it feel sharing your story and whole truth?
As much as it’s my personal story, I am deeply and sadly aware that it is the story of millions of girls in Sierra Leone and around the world. Telling the truth of my story is a gift to them.
Finally, to future generations of women, what is your advice?
I don’t give advice, but I do set an intention on how I live my life. Meaning, I only have now so I live it fully which means in my world, I laugh, I eat, I love, I cry, but more than anything, I dance with life. Like my mama says, whether you dance or not, the music still continues.