She was aged 56. She was a strong woman, who believed in her capabilities. She was well-respected in her field of work. Her dedication to her career and the constant bid to keep people informed helped her overcome all fears. She lost an eye while at work, but this did not stop her from pursuing her goals. She became even more determined, facing many dangers, guided only by her faith and the decision that the trouble was worth it.She covered many stories in conflict zones, bringing to our TV screens, the reality on the ground and drawing us closer to the events happening miles away from us. She gave a voice to the voiceless and the oppressed and was a prominent media figure. It was during one of her many services to the world that she breathed her last.
Marie Colvin, American Foreign Correspondent for London’s Sunday Times was killed in a rocket attack in Syria yesterday, together with French Photographer Remi Ochlik, the same day she was set to leave the troubled region. The attack came after Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad, vowed to ‘kill any journalist who set foot on Syrian soil’. In her last media dispatch, she talked about how she watched a baby die and how the Syrian authorities were getting away with their crime. Her death is a huge loss to the media fraternity; a vacuum that might be very difficult to fill. However, her passion and determination can only serve as enough inspiration for her colleagues and future journalists. I read her story and was touched beyond measure by the sacrifices she had made, believing in herself and pushing forward when her colleagues decided to retreat. In her bid to get ‘one last story’ before leaving Syria, she lost her life. How many of us would have stayed on, knowing the danger and threats we were faced with; knowing we could die at any minute; knowing we might not see our family and loved ones again; knowing we may never get to carry on with the job we are so dedicated to?
When I first heard the story, I cringed. I could only think of my mom’s words and my family’s fears when I decided to pursue a career in Journalism.They could only think of the danger I was getting myself into. They were worried that I would get kidnapped, tortured or killed. I could understand their frustration and for a moment, it felt good to see them all care so much at once. As much as I wanted to do that, I couldn’t brush away their concerns because they were backed by real events. Each day, we would hear stories of journalists that get threatened, attacked or killed and my family did not want me to be a part of the statistics. Deep down, I did not want to be another one of them. I’ve always been afraid of death and would always pray that mine comes to me peacefully. However, as I grew, I realised that I had to let go of my fears if I wanted to pursue my dreams. I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to be, but the decision got easier as I grew older. It was clear that the media was what I wanted to go in for. The passion grew with each passing day and I was elated when I got enrolled in Journalism school. I was finally going to live my dream. My family still has their doubts and they spend each day praying I will have a change of heart. Unfortunately, my mind is made up and I am striving to get to the top.
In life, we get to face a lot of trying situations. We have big dreams and great ambitions. We have that strong urge to go out there and change the world in our own little way. We want to touch lives and bring help to those who need it. However, some of us are easily drawn back by a certain fear that engulfs us. It is completely natural to be afraid, but when we let that fear overcome our beings, we realise that we end up falling short of our own expectations. Fighting those fears might be easier said than done, but it takes strong will, determination and passion to overcome them. We have seen people try and fail. We have also seen others try, fail, try again and succeed beyond imagination. A lot of career options in this world are considered dangerous. There are a lot of risks involved and this discourages a great number of people. When I think of the advice I get from people close to me to quit, I always end up asking myself one question: If we all quit, who will be there to keep the world going? If all journalists decided to put their pens or microphones down, who will bring us the information we need? I believe it is one sacrifice we have to make and it takes one, two, three or more people to make a difference. We live in a world where people show a strong desire for knowledge. Some go to all extents to dig out information. The journalist, in a way, makes this a lot easier. They are there to bring you the latest happenings around the world. They inform and educate, analyse and criticise. They are faced with so much criticism from different parties, but this does not deter them. One might dare say journalists are not given the respect they deserve in society, but in my two years of study, I’ve learnt that this is the less of our worries. I go out to do reports and the only thing on my mind is how to get the story across in the best possible way.
I did an internship with a certain newspaper last summer and I was proud when I saw my first byline. On the first day, I met the Editor-In-Chief and we chatted for a few hours. At some point, he looked at me and said ‘I think you’re too smart to be a journalist. You should go read Medicine, Law or something more lucrative’. At first, I didn’t believe my ears. This was supposed to be my supervisor and he was already discouraging me from going on with the career. More out of shock than curiosity, I asked him why he thought journalism was not lucrative. After all it was his source of living and he looked very comfortable. He replied that it was a waste of time and journalists were not respected, especially in this part of the world. I reflected on his answer and could see his point. However, I made it known to him that I didn’t decide to be a journalist because of the money(or lack thereof) . For me, it was a dream, a wish fuelled by a strong passion to change the world. I couldn’t see myself doing any other thing just yet. I was determined to learn and become professional. I put it to him that the problem with Gambian media is that every Modou, Demba and Pateh could wake up one day and don the journalist title. There was enough proof in that media outlet, with high school graduates being employed as reporters, without the faintest idea of the different genres of journalism. For them, anyone who could string words together in an article and give it a title was good enough to see their byline in print. As a result, the quality of their work leaves a lot to be desired. I wouldn’t put it past people to turn their noses up when they read certain things in Gambian newspapers and follow it up by putting all journalists in the circle of ‘incompetent people’. I realised that all these factors could have taken a jibe on my determination, but that word is too strong. It is what has kept me going and will continue to keep me on the path towards achieving my goals.
Everyone who knows me is aware of that burning desire to one day become a news anchor on CNN. I derive a lot of inspiration from Aisha Sesay, a Sierra Leonean working with the same network. I can relate to her because of the proximity of our origins. I read about her and I realise that it would take a lot for me to get there. More importantly, I had to really want it to happen. There is no doubt about my desire though and it’s what keeps me in school even when it becomes unbearable. I’ve come too far to give up. I’ve raised a lot of expectations including my very own. Expectations that I’m not ready to let down. I tell myself that I cannot disappoint the many people who have a lot of hope in me and my potentials. Sometimes I get scared that I might fail, but I shake that off and keep going. How do I do this? I look at my reflection in the mirror and tell myself that this was what I chose to do. This was what many people recognise me for now. This was my way of moving my country forward. I am overcome by that desire to change the face of the Gambian media. I am determined to make my country proud by being out there, with other colleagues, relaying information to billions around the world. Few things make me happier than imagining myself on that big screen being recognised as the lady from The Gambia.
I want you to look deep down and tell yourself that you can overcome your fears when you put your heart and mind to it. Identify what you want in your life and GO FOR IT. Do not let anyone or anything deter you. Believe in yourself first and gradually, you’ll have more people believing in you than you could ever imagine. Embrace that career because it is what you want. Chase your dreams to the end and even when you get there and things still look bleak, push harder. You just might end up finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This rainbow that obviously comes only after it has rained. Tell yourself that you can do it. Tell yourself that you are going to be that one person who’s going to dispel people’s fears about a particular thing. Live your dream and prove the doubters wrong. This way, you’ll not only let your light shine. You’ll be giving other people the opportunity to see the way from your brightness and ,as a result, getting their own lights to shine. More importantly, put your faith and your trust in God and he shall see you through.
Fight your fears. Live your dreams. Be happy. 🙂