By: Habiba Cooper Diallo
NEW YORK, On September 28th and 29th, I was in New York to attend the Guineans Succeeding in America (GSA), formerly known as the Guinean Students Association, 3rd Annual Conference. GSA’s objective is to empower the Guinean-American community through education and professional development.
The two-day event attracted students and professionals from all across the U.S., including Alaska, in addition to attendees from Canada, such as myself. The conference kicked off with a lovely gala dinner at Baruch College, during which presentations were delivered by members of GSA’s executive committee. Topics ranged from the need to increase entrepreneurship among Guinean youth, to facilitating the transition of Guinean professionals abroad into the Guinean workforce. Committee members shared personal stories of their journey to success and the challenges they have had to overcome along the way. Bernadette Sylla gave an overview of GSA’s organizational structure, objectives, and current projects.
Very compelling was the closing speech of Abdourahamane Diallo, GSA founder and outgoing president. He spoke vividly of the challenges facing new immigrants in accessing the American educational system. He also noted the importance of having information to guide entry into higher-education. Diallo stressed education as the key to social, economic and infrastructural development in Guinea. He explained that wealth is not determined by the amount of natural resources a country has, but rather by the mindset of its people. In addition to presentations from GSA committee members, we were also graced by encouraging words from guest speakers including, Amadou Thierno Diallo of the Islamic Development Bank.
In the afternoon of the following day, nearly 700 students, professionals and Guinean community members gathered at The City College of New York for the main event. Highlights included the “Uniforms Panel,” moderated by Mamata Bah in which she addressed the role of women in the Guinean community. Daouda Diallo urged women to go to school and to go as far as attaining their PhDs. He cited the mutual benefits for both husband and wife if the woman is educated. Another key takeaway came from Ibrahima Bah, a Design Release Engineer, who highlighted the value of positive self-talk, especially before job interviews or any major event. He recommended standing before the mirror and uttering phrases of upliftment to ourselves, similar to what the likes of Deepak Chopra advise their followers.
Finally, a most poignant moment of the conference for me was the testimony of Ms. Jamilatu Diallo, a blind community member who detailed the struggles she had to overcome to obtain her degree in Psychology. Some of her key points: Making a contribution to society is essential. Also, in the pursuit of education, we should not put obstacles in our way. Obtaining a degree can be simple. One can be a full-time student, a part-time student, or even take one class at a time in order to reach the end goal. I appreciate that she linked the importance of education to religion. The Qur’an says “iqraa,” meaning read and learning therefore is an obligation for Muslims.
I am pleased to have attended the 3rd Annual Guineans Succeeding in America conference. I was truly impressed by the committee’s high-level of organization. Their success is a testament to what can be achieved when great minds unite to achieve a shared objective. Congratulations to all the committee members on this major accomplishment.
Habiba Cooper Diallo
I am a Canadian fistula advocate and blogger, and the founder of the Women’s Health Organization International, WHOI. I have been doing fistula awareness-building in Canada for the past 10 years. My work on fistula has led me to Ghana, Senegal, Guinea, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. I have been featured in Forbes, the HuffPost, and UNFPA