In 1999, Sierra Leone was in the midst of a brutal civil war where mindless violence, vicious amputation and the rape of young enslaved women were the everyday weapons of bloody conflict.
It was also where rebel soldiers snatched 18-year-old Aminata Conteh-Biger from her father’s arms, then held her captive for months.
After she was released, the UNHCR recognised that her captors still posed a serious threat to her safety. So, still in her teens, she was put on a plane and flown to Australia to start afresh as a refugee in a land she knew nothing about.
It is here that she has proudly built a life, while never allowing her trauma to define her. Yet it was a near-death experience she suffered during the birth of her child that turned her attention to the women of Sierra Leone – where they are 200 times more likely to die while having a baby than in Australia.
So she set up the Aminata Maternal Foundation, then returned to the land of her birth to help. In today’s episode, she shares her life story, which she has written a book about, entitled Rising Heart, which launches today.
Aminata is now an author, inspirational speaker, performer, mother and wife, and former refugee turned Founder and CEO of the Aminata Maternal Foundation.
Please buy the book and spread the word about her foundation. Here, I have the privilege of sharing her story.
In today’s episode, we talk about:
- Her happy childhood in Africa.
- The moment she dropped her father’s hand and was captured by rebels.
- How in her new book, Rising Heart, she talks about how shame is what isolates victims and prevents them speaking out.
- The day she was finally freed as part of a negotiated prisoner exchange where rebel-held child prisoners were released in return for food and medicine.
- Being reunited with her father.
- Coming to Australia as a refugee in 2000.
- How in 2012, a near-death experience while giving birth to her daughter Sarafina inspired her to embark on a new mission: to help provide support for maternal health in Sierra Leone, where mothers are 200 times more likely to die having a baby than in Australia.
- The Aminata Maternal Foundation.
For more information, go to aminatamaternalfoundation.org
To buy Rising Heart, click here