My mother could not afford to send me to university, but I am ambitious, very ambitious, which is how I became one of the first women in The Gambia to lead a construction company.
I did well in English and Maths at school and wanted to go to university. But my mum is a single parent. She is a small trader and had to take care of me and my younger sister, getting up at three in the morning to bake fish cakes, which she sold for only 1 dalasi each. So, there was only just about enough for daily needs.
But now I’m 22 and I build roads, along with a team of 125 young people.
There’s a lot of unemployment in The Gambia, particularly among young people of my age. Many leave the country to look for work because there aren’t enough jobs here.
After leaving school I signed up for training with the ILO’s Employment-Intensive Investment Programme, EIIP. We learnt about a technology called Do-nou. It involves preparing what’s called a ‘gunny bag’, which contains gravel. It is then compacted and used to rehabilitate inaccessible roads around communities, so that people can go where they want to.
I was among a group of 125 youths in my region who did the month-long training. We were happy with what we learned but it would mean nothing unless we used it. So, when the training was over, we decided to get together and each pay a contribution of 100 dalasis to create our own company.
Most of us come from poor backgrounds. We wanted to create jobs for ourselves, so that we can help our families. We decided to call our company CODEM, which means "Community Road Development and Maintenance".
I was chosen as the leader, so I am the Managing Director. It is not easy to lead this enterprise, especially since some of the employees are older than me.
But I am ready to do anything to make sure our company stays strong, and that we are known in every part of the world.
Every day our management team goes from one place to another looking for contracts and funds: the Government, the private sector, even on Facebook.
Our first contract was at Badala Park, where we had the ILO training. We rehabilitated the road there by applying the Do-nou technology. Now, we already have our third contract.
Sometimes people see me with the spade picking up sand and putting it in the wheelbarrow. Their expression seems to say, "a woman cannot do this." However, this is something that I know I can do. I, as a woman, also want to be part of the development of the country.
We have people with disabilities with us. We have returnee migrants among us. Half of us are women. Our company is here to provide jobs for young people. We are here to make sure that we are job providers and not job seekers.
Travelling to Japan for the 2019 Tokyo International Conference on African Development was the biggest achievement life could ever give me.
It is the most important part of my story that I tell people everywhere I go - that I was trained by ILO on a project funded by the Government of Japan and then had an opportunity to go to Japan to make a presentation, to explain how beneficial the training has been to Gambian youths.
I want this company to help many other youths in the community and in the country, and let them know that there is a place for them in The Gambia. They don’t need to go to other countries to develop themselves.
I also want women to stand up and encourage more females, or more people with disabilities in The Gambia. We are achieving this already.
I am very ambitious. I want everyone in my small community in Bakau to look at me and say, "This is my daughter."