Meet Young BPW member, Djenabou Bah

10 Nov 2021 3:57 PM | Lea-Ann Berst (Administrator)

Djenabou Bah was born and raised in Ivory Coast but her parents come from Guinea, Conakry, both counties in west Africa. She is a native French speaker and loves outdoor activities and adventures that do not involve heights! She likes tourism because it gives her the possibility to travel around the world to learn more about other cultures, meet new people and taste homemade food which allows her to try new recipes. She loves cooking!

Djenabou also likes spending her free time volunteering for food pantries, soup kitchens, Food Banks and other organizations that help people like Habitat for Humanity. She is interested in working with non-government organizations that are concerned with social issues especially poverty, unemployment, women's issues and quality education.

What is the name of your BPW Club?

I am member of the NFBPWC/NYC Chapter. I live in NY City in Manhattan precisely in Harlem.

Where do you attend school? What are you studying?

I have a degree in Tourism Management from "L’Ecole Supérieure du Tourisme et de l’Hôtellerie (ESTH)" in my country Guinea before coming to the US in 2017 to study. I first attended the CUNY Borough of Manhattan community college (BMCC) where I got my associate degree in Liberal Arts. Then I transferred to CUNY City College of New York (CCNY) where I am doing my bachelor's degree in International Studies with a concentration in Development and a minor in Community Change Studies.

What are your career aspirations? 

I want to create a non-government organization (NGO) that will focus on development and tackle social issues such as quality education, unemployment, women's issues and developing the tourism sector of my country.

I want to find a way to engage the national government to invest in its tourism sector, invite shareholders and partners to the country, and facilitate excursions for the country to become a world-class tourist destination both in Africa and in the world. This will not only boost Guinea’s economy, but also create several job opportunities for the populations.

My current objective is to obtain a position within a non-government or international organization that will fully utilize my skills and offer me an opportunity for continued professional growth.

I aspire to work with international with UNDP, UNICEF and USAID and also non-profit organizations that have the task of achieving sustainable economic growth and human development. I am doing all my best to make this happen by participating in many programs that have influenced my development by providing me with opportunities to develop my advocacy skill and learn how to identify and access key city, state, and federal government stakeholders.

School programs such as the CUNY USS (University Student Senate) and the CUNY Malave Leadership Academy program I have lobbied in Albany and Washington DC for CUNY students. I have participated in service projects that address issues important to The City University of New York (CUNY).

This has helped me develop leadership values and skills through experiential civic engagement, advocacy activities, and leadership competency training.

I have learned how to be an effective leader both within CUNY and in my community.

I am also making sure to do as many internships as possible before I finish my studies. Among them is the CUNY Women’s Public Service Internship Program which is coordinated by Edward T. Rogowsky Internship Program in Government & Public Affairs -- which provide students the opportunity to learn by doing in the offices of selected legislators working to benefit women and promote women’s issues in New York.

As I also want to know how the organizations I want to work with attain their goals. That is why I joined the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (NFBPWC) as an intern as its' mission is to " develop the professional, business, and leadership potential of women." NFBPWC works to empower women through education, advocacy, mentoring, networking, skill-building, and economic empowerment programs and projects. This is a perfect organization to work with as I will have the opportunity to learn those things while interning.

What brought you to this career path?

I am passionate about anything related to international development. That includes tourism because it can be a tool for developing a country especially if that country has the criteria necessary which Guinea has. Guinea has a varied tourist and cultural potential. Its biological diversity conceals appreciable aesthetic values, diverse and varied natural beauties composed of natural parks and aquariums, thermal springs, specific animal species and mountain ranges with numerous rivers, wide coastal beaches with dense forest, the foothills of the Fouta Djallon and the vast plains drained by the Niger river and its tributaries. The country has a seafront of 300 km and a continental shelf of 56,000 km2 among the largest in West Africa extending up to 80 nautical miles from the coast.

Unfortunately, this is not known to the rest of the world. So, I want to be able to participate in developing this sector in my country. Access to quality education, lack of job opportunities and women's issues is something my country is struggling with. So, I feel obligated to help find solutions to those problems.

Can you tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career so far?

  1. One of the things I learned and am still trying to apply is that: if you do not show your work and achievements or talk about them, you will not be seen or recognized. From where I come from, that would have been considered bragging about yourself. But here making sure that everyone knows the good work you are doing or did is putting yourself in front of the podium which can open a lot of doors for you.
  2. Another thing I also learned, whatever career you are pursuing, make sure to get enough experiences and skills as it sets you up to the game and gives you more change and opportunities. So, for someone that is still in school, I will suggest doing as many internships as possible, attend workshops and do some training and participate in projects and also learn a second language if possible before entering the job market.

Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are today? 

There has not been only one person that helped me get to where I am today and I could spend a whole day sharing stories about them.

  • My family, especially my mom and dad have always supported me and made everything possible for me to get an education even though they did not get a chance to have one.
  • My friends from both my country or here have also played a role by supporting and encouraging me as much as they could.
  • Also, faculty and staff from both my schools, the Borough of Manhattan Community College and City College of New York have played a significant role by providing me with learning material and opportunities from both in school and outside school for my professional growth and personal development. 
  • Members from the NFBPWC have also helped by not only mentoring me but also providing me the tools necessary for my future career. I am so grateful and feel blessed to have crossed paths with all these amazing people.


How did you find BPW? What is one memorable experience you've had with the Club so far?

I found out about BPW through the City College Edward I. Koch Fellowship in Public Service for Summer 2021. Deborah Cheng, the Director of Fellowships and Public Service Partnerships introduced me to the Club which was in their partner list for the summer internship which I was more than happy to join after learning about what the NFBPWC/NYC does.

Every day spent with this Club and its members, especially Nermin Ahmad the President of the Club and Voyka Soto the Secretary, who I have been working closely with during my internship is a memorable experience for me. I am so amazed about those women's dedication and passion about what they are doing and also about the knowledge and experience they have.

Another experience is tied to our Afghan Women Project. Even though our internships have come to an end, my friend Emily VanVleck, another hard-working person who I have come to have a strong relation with and have continued as student members of the Club and have been instrumental in developing the Afghan Women Project. Our President fully supports us, and the National President, Megan Shellman-Rickard has made it a priority project for the national organization. This project aims to assist displaced Afghan women and girls arriving as they adapt to life in the US.

We aim to make the transition smoother and reduce some of the shell shocks that come with sudden migrating to a new country. We have a multi-dimensional project for assisting these women. This includes

  • a guidebook for ease of adaptation to ‘American life’, 
  • a robust mentoring program, 
  • an advocacy campaign, and 
  • resource gathering. 

Many of the fleeing refugees could only bring with them what they were wearing. We have found that there is an urgent need to assist them with new goods such as undergarments and gently used clothing, particularly head coverings such as large scarves. Our organization has already started a restrictive clothing drive for these items which are delivered to the women on the military base where they are being processed. Emily and I have also reached out to our school for assistance in this project which was very welcome and supported by dean Andrew Rich and his staff who are doing their best to assist us.

I can not express enough how happy and grateful to be part of this amazing project. I have always wanted to work on such a big project and now I am part of it, I will do my best for its success. This is an experience I am not going to forget.


How can the BPW Club and its members help you on your career path? What do you wish we knew about you and your pursuits?

BPW is already equipping me with practical skills, experiences and knowledge which will increase my self-confidence. I joined the Club in the Grant Development and Management position. I was tasked to:

  • Identify suitable grant opportunities for the Club and those to engage in for advocacy
  • Assist with relevant topic research
  • Assist with grant applications and grant writing
  • Coordinate and follow-up with grant partners and participants
  • Generate and analyze reports and make general presentations of information. 

I did not know much about grants before joining the Club but I have learned so much about it now and am still continuing learning. I know for sure this will set me up for jobs in development and fundraising which all nonprofits have to engage in.

I am more than happy with this internship as I am not only learning more about non-profits work but also help the Club fulfill its mission to “develop the professional, business and leadership potential of women at all levels, advocate and to strive toward equal participation of women and men in power and decision-making roles.”

This is also exposing me to a broader professional network where I can get to know people who may be or have been in similar situations as me or have continued to advance in their career and can help me take that next step toward where I want to be. I truly believe that I will fulfill my potential by working with the Club.

Would you like to share how you have evolved since Covid-19 disrupted 'normal' business life?

Before Covid-19, I hated online classes, remote learning or virtual meetings and was always avoiding them. I like human interaction, so, I tend to be bored, lose focus and concentration virtually. However, this has changed in some way since I started taking remote classes due to the pandemic. It was either I took those classes remotely or wait until school started in person which was not clear. I did not want to waste my time, so I tried.

At the beginning, I really struggled, especially with classes with longer hours. But, education is something I have learned to value since I was young. I know and believe in the importance of earning a college degree through hard work and dedication. I finally got used to it and even found that it has some advantages for me. I was able to:

  • Save money for my monthly MetroCard for transportation, 
  • Cook more often than to buy food outside which I did not even like, 
  • Finish my classes and go to my work without leaving my room since my job also moved remotely,
  • Intern with organizations and companies, attend workshops and other programs which would have required me to travel long distances and in other cities,
  • Learn more about computer skills and be familiar with many computer programs and software. 

I am happy to have experienced it as I learned a lot and saved money and time. However, as I said, I like interacting with people. So, I can not wait for things to get back to how it was.

Connect with Djenabou!

 

Anything else you'd like to share? 

In regard to the Afghan Women Project, we are looking for immigrants to interview for our guidebook, all names will remain anonymous. 

  • If you want to share your Experience Settling into the American Way of Life: click here for a Google Doc.
  • If you are interested in assisting with this project, please fill out this quick survey.
  • Contribute to our direct fundraising campaign for displaced Afghan women in the United States. We will be purchasing and providing new undergarments (panties, bras, socks) that are modest. DONATE HERE
  • Email the leaders of this Special Committee at AfghanWomen@nfbpwc.org. Let us know how you can support us with these goals in mind.

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