By: Awa Conteh
Join us in this week’s Women in STEM episode as we spotlight the remarkable journey of Maimuna Jabbie, a true pioneer in Climate Science and STEM advocacy.
In an era where the impacts of climate change are felt globally, Maimuna stands out for her groundbreaking contributions to understanding and combating these challenges through the lens of STEM. Through her unwavering commitment, Maimuna has become a driving force behind the push for sustainable solutions to climate challenges while actively promoting STEM education. We explore the barriers she has broken, the milestones she has achieved, and the ongoing legacy she is creating to inspire the next generation of women in STEM. This episode promises an engaging narrative of resilience, innovation, and the power of one woman’s vision to make a meaningful difference.
Hailing from Serrekunda, Maimuna is a young woman dedicated to spreading kindness, nurturing local social relationships, and being a bookworm. Currently holding the esteemed positions of Co-Lead Director of the Great Green Wall and Coordinator of Greenup Gambia, she plays a pivotal role in these climate change organizations committed to combating deforestation and driving community-led climate action in The Gambia and the Sahel region.
Beyond her impactful roles in environmental initiatives, she is also the co-creator of the Hightech TV Show, a beacon of digital literacy awareness that emerged during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by her receipt of the prestigious Heroes Green Award, acknowledging her outstanding contributions. Furthermore, she proudly carries the title of an all-time STEM developer, showcasing her enduring commitment to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Her narrative is one of passion, dedication, and a profound desire to make a lasting positive impact on the world around her.
Maimuna was always interested in STEM and could even dubbed as a geek in her early years. She topped her class in primary and secondary schools, and her natural trajectory was to pursue science, a path encouraged by her academic excellence. However, Beyond external influences, her persistent curiosity and passion for experiments proved to be the real forces for her entry into the STEM fields. Although science may seem intimidating to some, she has always found a genuine interest in it. Rather than being complex, science was a field that she found enjoyable, and she found satisfaction in solving puzzles ranging from the vastness of the universe to the complexities of the tiny world. Science is more than simply a subject to her; it’s an inspiration.
Her passion for science stems from the countless opportunities it presents and its significant influence on the development of the contemporary world. It’s a passion based on the conviction that science can help solve life’s riddles and advance human knowledge.
Ms. Jabbie’s journey into climate change activism traces back to her early years, as she was an active member of the National Environmental Agency school clubs from primary one to six. Representing Bakoteh Proper in quiz competitions, workshops, and annual tree planting activities, her school consistently secured the title of the best environmental school, laying the foundation for her eco-conscious habits and unwavering commitment to environmental causes.
In 2018, her climate activism took a refined turn when she discovered Greenup Gambia through their digital campaign, “Summer Go Green,” and the widely-publicized Monkey Park incident. This discovery marked a turning point, propelling her into a prominent role as a respected climate leader. Grateful for the organization’s impact on her growth and knowledge of climate change, she reciprocated by actively contributing to its progress.
Before joining Greenup, Maimuna’s journey in technology had already begun, studying information systems as a minor and facilitating summer Tech camps for the WONMA group. This experience profoundly influenced her perspective on technology development.
“If you pass through our Gambian curriculum in school, you’d know that ICT has never been prioritized, and we always thought it was dispensable. But getting to learn more about information technology in university and WONMA Tech Camp, I recognized technology as a tool that can accelerate the development of every sector and an extra skill in technology systems in whatever field we are in makes one exceptional,” she told TAT.
For our woman hero, climate change activism transcends a source of employment; it’s a way of life that brings unparalleled fulfilment and impact. The journey feels less like a job and more like a calling, a profound blessing that goes beyond mere professional pursuits. Milestones have marked her path, with the receipt of the Heroes Green Award in 2022 standing out as a testament to her dedication and influence in the field. The recognition, amidst hundreds of nominees, reinforced her belief that she is on a unique and purposeful journey.
The impact of Ms Jabbie’s work extends beyond awards and accolades. The online Greenup Summer Go Green Campaigns have ignited a nationwide enthusiasm for tree planting, showcasing the transformative power of collective action. Witnessing the professional and personal growth of individuals trained over the years is a source of pride and inspiration. Over the past two years, she has been pivotal in fostering community ownership of the African Union’s Great Green Wall initiative. This involves citizen assemblies, blueprint development, and building a movement that resonates with the people.
Maimuna’s leadership is further demonstrated by implementing Enterprise development via Frontline Incubation. This initiative supports community entrepreneurs in developing business capacities channelling much-needed finances to their ventures. Participation in international forums is another dimension of her impact, where she shares The Gambia’s climate achievements, forges partnerships, and influences global climate action. Each endeavor contributes to a narrative of purpose, impact, and a relentless commitment to making a difference locally and internationally.
The intersection of climate change and technology is a unique niche. Ms Maimuna believes the latter plays a crucial role in addressing and adapting to the challenges posed by the former. Anchored in the belief that this triad is the key to lasting solutions, she finds inspiration in the current trends in technology. For her, technology is not just a tool but a catalyst for efficiency, minimizing the need for excessive mechanization in various processes. This ethos drives her commitment to integrating technology into every facet of her work. As she sees it, the potential of technology is vast and transformative. Technology opens doors to sustainable practices across diverse sectors, from climate-smart agriculture to renewable energy, biogas production, water management, and the creation of biodegradable materials. Beyond these tangible applications, digital platforms provide invaluable opportunities for marketing and networking, essential components for the growth of any business in the modern landscape.
“Technology provides opportunities in climate-smart agriculture, renewable energy, biogas production, water management, and even production of biodegradable materials. The digital platforms also provide opportunities in marketing and networking needed for developing every business,” she said.
The impact of technology extends even to remote settlements, where drones and satellite mapping tools play pivotal roles in accessing and delivering farm products to consumers. This enhances efficiency and contributes to economic growth in these areas. In her perspective, applying technology systems to pressing issues such as climate change ensures the efficient delivery of solutions, promotes sustainability, and results in substantial economic gains for the region. It’s a holistic approach that reflects a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of technology, sustainability, and economic prosperity.
As an all-time STEM Advocate, Maimuna firmly believes that the issue of women’s discrimination in the workforce is deeply rooted in mind, emphasizing the influential role our beliefs play in shaping our lives. To confront this challenge, she advocates for a mental shift, encouraging women to cultivate self-belief as a primary means of overcoming obstacles. Recognizing that, in most cases, our minds serve as the internal barriers, she emphasizes the importance of self-confidence.
In her view, as long as there are no physical or direct impediments to women’s progress, the primary battle is fought within one’s mind. She stresses the significance of learning and acquiring knowledge about their chosen pursuits to empower women. Her advice extends to research, reading, seeking guidance from well-intentioned individuals, and finding mentors in the desired fields. Acknowledging that she is on an evolving journey, she underscores the continuous growth process through accumulating experience and knowledge.
Ms. Jabbie encourages women not to fear the learning process while advocating for them to try different things until they discover what works best. In a challenging environment, she acknowledges the uniqueness of the experience, highlighting that overcoming adversity leads to exceptional achievements. Despite the difficulties of developing interests in potentially toxic environments, she sees this as an opportunity for women to rise exceptionally when they excel against all odds.
“On the bright side,” she said, “There are more and more opportunities for women in STEM fields with programs that drive for more inclusion, so it’s up to us to take our chances.”
Maimuna adopts a strategic approach in her climate action efforts, engaging responsibly with stakeholders and navigating step-by-step processes. She emphasizes the importance of celebrating small victories in this lifelong endeavor, recognizing that future hands will reap the benefits of the seeds planted today. Her commitment is centered on fulfilling responsibilities to the planet and the next generation, noting that if just a quarter of the world’s population commits to climate action, substantial progress could be made in undoing past damage. However, she highlights a deficiency in commitment at government levels, attributing it to political and capitalist influences. Despite this, she acknowledges significant contributions from local communities and youth in climate action and expresses optimism that full implementation of government policies could positively alter the global climate landscape.
In their approach to climate initiatives, Ms. Jabbie and her organizations prioritize community ownership by collaborating with local leaders such as Chiefs and Alkalos. Direct engagement with focal persons, including counselors, Village Development Committee members, youth representatives, and women representatives, is crucial for effective delivery and communication within the community. Mobilizing and communicating with the help of women’s groups, specifically the ‘Kanyelengs, ‘ is an efficient method. Recognizing indigenous knowledge as a solution to climate change, they aim for sustainability by instilling a sense of ownership among the people, who inherently value initiatives that directly involve them in the initiation and implementation stages.
The resilient climate change activist envisions more inclusive climate solutions tailored to the diverse needs of various demographics, including women, children, indigenous people, and people with disabilities. Their anticipation extends beyond volunteering, as they look forward to actively contributing by creating green solutions. They emphasize the autonomous nature of the environment and highlight the urgency of climate action, stressing that human activities are outpacing the environment’s natural recovery processes.
“I look forward to creating more climate solutions, not just by volunteering but also by creating green solutions as we proceed. Nature takes care of itself, and climate change occurs because the rate at which humans are destroying the environment is faster than the rate at which the environment is recovering. This should be enough to remind us to participate in climate action to allow our planet to recover, or we continue to pay for the impacts, unjustly for those who don’t contribute to global emissions”, she said.
As we conclude this empowering episode, we’ve witnessed the inspiring journey of Maimuna Jabbie, a trailblazing woman driving change in climate action. Her commitment to inclusive solutions and technology integration is a beacon for others. The urgency of climate action resonates as a call for collective responsibility to allow our planet to recover. In a different light, women and girls aspiring to make a similar impact, the key lies in self-belief, continuous learning, and active involvement in their communities. By embracing these principles, you, too, can become catalysts for positive change, contributing to a sustainable future for generations.