I was born and brought up in Mali. My whole family is still living there. Back in 2006 at the age of 18 I married a young man, Mahamadou who is now my husband. We moved to Paris after our marriage. I spent 2 months in Paris before moving to Dundee. At first Dundee felt very foreign to me. I felt lonely and isolated when I first arrived with no one to talk to and nowhere to go. Going from living with all my family members to arriving to a city I had never even heard of was a very strange feeling. Watching the TV does not help as all the channels are in English and I did not understand the language at that time.
My husband’s friend informed us about Dundee International Women’s Centre. From there I started the beginner’s English class. I was not going to let my language barrier to stop me from living a good life. I decided that I need to go out of the house and do something for myself. Once I gained my self-confidence and my English began to improve I attended other classes and events in the centre. I then gathered the courage to take my English skills to the next level by attending Dundee College.
I never expected that Dundee would be the city that enabled me to achieve my dreams. I pushed myself harder and enrolled in a computing class which taught me admin and customer service skills. I got the opportunity to apply these skills in a real life working environment. I did my placement as a receptionist at DIWC. While doing all this I was pregnant with my third child. It was a hard journey to take care of 2 toddlers, being pregnant and also trying to go after my ambitions. Sometimes I feel like I am trying to do too much in one time. But I felt so empowered to not give up. After I completed my placement I continued to volunteer for 3 months at DIWC until I applied for the receptionist post in 2016.
I never dreamt in my life that I will be able to not only speak English fluently but to be able to secure a job. My biggest achievement was when I completed my ECDL course. Now I feel that anything in this world is possible as long as I put my mind into it.
Being a full time mum with 3 young children and working as a receptionist at the same time; I don’t think my 18 year old self would have believed that I could be the woman I am today.
All this was possible because of the encouragement and support I got from the DIWC. Even on a bad day, I come in to the centre and instantly feel better about myself. The crèche facility is a huge driver in enabling me to further my education. Knowing that my children are always nearby puts my mind at ease.
In 5 years’ time I would like to see myself established in a role where I am even busier than I am now – if that’s even possible! I have been in Dundee for 9 years and I am loving my life here. Sometimes when I go back to Mali I need to readjust myself to fit right back in. Dundee has changed me in ways I thought was never possible. I am now fluent in English, French and Bambara. Even if I move to another city in the future I am confident that I can make the most of it.
Mariam Niakate #WomenOfDundee