“I guess people have come to realise that there is more to Africa than starving people, raped women, war, child soldier,… whatever the reason, we need to remember that we cannot rely on others to develop the continent.”
Those were Rainatou sow’s words in an interview with Women 4Africa.
Indeed, she was right. That may have been the Africa many people knew, but not anymore.
Thanks to the dynamic men and women who have taken up the gauntlet to do the exceptional and expunge the several misconceptions ingrained in the minds of people about Africa.
Guinean Rainatou is one of such great Africans who have never lacked in ambition to project the true Africa to the world.
With an immense passion for women and girl child empowerment, Rainatou founded ‘Make Every Woman Count.’- an organization managed by a team of young women in Africa, America and Europe whose aim is to promote the rights of women and girls.
Born in the one-horse town of Fria, the young change maker felt the pain of young girls her age who were unable to get a formal education.
Moved by compassion, Rainatou who was only 12 years old at the time, set up an evening school in her neighbourhood, where she single handedly taught her class of ten girls basic reading and writing skills.
Her drops of tiny water eventually became an ocean in the hearts of those young girls. Rainatou’s sacrifice and commitment to them propelled them to push further in hope of a brighter future. Today, they are all graduates of different Universities. Amazing right?
Rainatou tells her story in an interview with Women 4Africa:
“While the rights of women were instilled in me at a very young age, my passion was inspired by 10 young girls I used to give evening classes in my neighbourhood whose parents couldn’t afford to send them to school. I remember going to school and seeing young girls not much younger than myself staying at home to work or help their families. I just could not understand why they were not able to go to school, and I just couldn’t accept it. I decided if they are not able to go to school, I would teach them. So, I set up evening classes to teach the children basic reading and writing skills. I am proud to say that all of these young women have now gone through full education including University. Their stories touched me enormously and motivated me to be member of the Guinean Children Parliament where I advocated for the rights of girls to education and also later on to do a Master of International so that I would be better prepared to assist women and girls. I would say this is when the passion to help others was birthed.”
The young activist took another leap in the right direction when she joined the Guinean Children Parliament as the Minister of Children and Women Affairs. She also worked with UNICEF at a very young age to promote children’s education with a focus on the girl child, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), HIV/AIDS through door to door and radio/TV awareness campaign. According to her, “it was an opportunity to make a difference.”
Her decision to establish her gender-based organization stemmed from her experience in September 2009 during the demonstration against the regime in Guinea. She witnessed the manner in which other women were constantly battered and abused sexually. A particular scene remains glued to her mind.
“In September 2009, while demonstrating against the regime in Guinea, women were raped and sexually abused in the capital – Conakry. This horrible event hunts my life every single day. There was a young woman who was at her 3rd year at the University among the victims, she was raped and sexually abused. When I saw a picture of her being dragged half naked by two soldiers, I couldn’t sleep for nights. At that point, I decided that I couldn’t keep going on with my life knowing what has just happened without taking actions. That young woman could have been me and her crime was just to ask for democracy and peace.”
Now, it’s clear why she is so passionate about what she does.
The declaration by the African Union that 2010-2020 would be the African Women’s Decade (AWD) was just Rainatou’s launching pad to establish her organization, Make Every Woman Count in December 2010.
“When the African Union announced that 2010-2020 would be the African Women’s Decade (AWD), I knew what I had to do. From the beginning of my career I wanted to do something that could have a positive impact on African women’s and girls’ lives, but did not have a specific idea on how to implement it. The creation of the AWD prompted me to take control of my passion and career and thereby contribute to this landmark event. Through Make Every Woman Count, my aim is to provide a spectrum of platforms and tools for African women, grassroots, activists, international organizations and women’s rights groups.
I feel that what has been missing from the African women’s movement is a space, a voice that comes directly from African women. Most International organizations focused on empowering and gaining the equal rights of women often neglect the voices of African women themselves. . I see a bright future of young African women who are more and more showing themselves to be leaders in their own equal rights movements and through MEWC I hope to help them to find strength in their voices while raising awareness of their issues and their work on the international stage.”
Rainatou gained a Master’s degree in International Law at l’Université Kofi Annan de Guinée and a Master’s degree in International Relations at London Metropolitan University.
As a multilingual who is fluent in French, English, Pulaar and Susu, the Guinean pacesetter has received numerous awards and accolades.
In 2012, she was awarded Inspirational Women of the Year by Women for Africa, in recognition of her work in promoting the African Women’s Decade. She was also named among the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa by Forbes Magazine.
In 2013, she was recognized by THE BUZZ in the Equality for all among the Eight Foreign Women’s Equality Activists To Know.
Rainatou has also been interviewed at the CNN’s African Voices show and was one of the participants in the BBC 100 Women show on 25 October 2013.
Motivated by her vision, Rainatou Sow believes that soon, all women will have a voice in governance and fully participate in public dialogue and decision making.
Her heartfelt counsel is one that every young person must hold close to their hearts:
“First of all, you need to know what you want and make clear plans for your future. If you know what you want and you have the passion and motivation to do it, nothing will stand in your way. More importantly, you have to believe in yourself and stand by your decisions. Life is full of challenges and you will never overcome these challenges if you doubt yourself. Always remember that nothing is impossible if you believe in it and put some work into it, you will succeed. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Rainatou has said it, how much do you believe? Never forget, NOTHING is impossible.
© 2014 – 2017, Lovelyn Okafor. All rights reserved.