Name: Mariatu Kamara
Most of Kamara’s life in Sierra Leone was shaped by the Sierra Leone Civil War from 1991-2002. In 1999, at the age of 12, Kamara was raped and impregnated by a family friend whom she was being pressured to marry; shortly afterwards, her village was attacked by armed rebels with the Revolutionary United Front. During this attack child soldiers cut off Kamara’s hands and she witnessed the killing of many family friends. Following the attack, Kamara lived in the Aberdeen Amputee Camp in Freetown with other members of her family. While living at the camp, Kamara survived by begging from wealthier Sierra Leoneans in Freetown. Her son died at 10 months of age due to malnutrition. After foreign journalists visited the camp and interviewed Kamara, her story began to garner international interest and in 2002 she was sponsored by a family to move to Toronto. Shortly after arriving in Canada, she began a formal education and then completing secondary school. In 2008 Kamara enrolled at George Brown College in Toronto in the Assaulted Women’s and Children’s Counsellor/Advocate program.
5 Reasons Kamara is Awesome:
- In 2008 Kamara published a memoir, The Bite of the Mango, about her life in Sierra Leone and her first years in Canada. The Bite of the Mango has won several awards, including a Silver Award for Book of the Year from ForeWord Magazine (2008), the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction (2009), and the IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities Award (2011).
- She is a UNICEF Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, giving presentations on the impact of war on children.
- In 2009, Kamara was named a Voices of Courage Honoree by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children.
- She has also established The Mariatu Foundation, which seeks to provide refuge for women and children in Sierra Leone by creating shelters for the abused.
- Her story inspires women to persevere in the face of adversity and delivers a resonating message: women can overcome anything.
Photo via gloster.com.