I am thrilled to introduce your brand new column in The Standard called Our Trailblazers. It’s about the extraordinary people who live amongst us; Gambian brothers and sisters who’ve had the courage to step out of the crowd and create their own paths in life. They are either the first in their fields of work or one of a distinct few. Every week we will bring you an interview with one of these trailblazers. The aim is to inspire individual thinking, original thinking, and creative thinking; because that’s the stuff genius is made of.
For our maiden edition, it is my pleasure to bring you into the world of an amazing young woman, Mrs Rohey Samba-Jallow. She is our country’s very first female sea-pilot. Yes picture this…. a slender young Gambian woman manning a beast of a ship in the middle of the high seas. She is our homegrown trailblazer… and as if that’s not enough she’s got almost two decades of writing and three published books of poetry under her belt and she’s not stopping soon. Mrs Samba-Jallow certainly needs no crowd to beat her drums or do the clapping for her. You are about to find out how dancing to her own tunes from an early age has set the tone for this lady’s extraordinary journey through life. Hear it in her own words.
Please tell us about yourself?
My name is Rohey Samba. I was born in 1982 at Farato Village. I spent my early childhood at Farato juggling between the Quranic ‘madarasah’ ran by the late Pa Sowe and a nun-ran school commonly called Father’s School by the natives. During that time, I showed great aptitude for learning. At the age of five, my mother sent me to Methodist Preparatory School. I was later enrolled at Ndow’s Day Care Centre. I completed my secondary school education in June 2001 at the Ndow’s Comprehensive Senior Secondary School.
In late 2001, I joined the Gambia Ports Authority (G.P.A) as a Trainee Pilot. I was inducted into the system and trained on local knowledge by the Pilots for two years. In 2003, I was sent for further training at the Regional Maritime University, where I completed in 2007 with the Overall Best Student Award and the Admiralty of Ghana Navy Award for Best Student in Nautical Science.
Upon my return, I was promoted to Junior Pilot in 2009. In January 2010, I was seconded to the newly established Gambia Maritime Administration as Assistant Marine Surveyor. I received a scholarship to study Maritime Administration at the World Maritime University in Sweden in September 2010. On obtaining my Masters I was promoted to Principal Officer Maritime Safety and Environment, which post I hold to date.
My passion is writing poetry, fiction, true stories everything. I have been writing from a very young age and I have won many writing competitions when I was in high school. I published my first book; Mother Gambia…Beats in 2003. To date I have released two more books. Writing for me is a dream come true.
Describe your life’s work and why you chose that path.
First of all, I never set out to be a sea pilot. I guess my childhood allowed me to tune into the sub-rational channel that led me to my vocation for I was and still am a Tom Boy at heart.
Generally, I like to view things differently, to analyze situations in perception and to be thorough before drawing conclusions. Pilotage was made easy by those traits because you need to use your head closely with your heart to berth and/or un-berth a vessel in much the same way as writing tunes your sub-conscious mind to make profound truths about human nature. My life’s work has just begun; I will let posterity judge me.
Please share with us the steps you took to reach this stage of your life’s work.
1. Aspire- from the onset I aspired to be something in life. I did not contend with being a faceless individual-the common face of the common man. I wanted to become and not just to be.
2. Learn- nothing beats learning, whether in the ‘madarasa’, at school, in the workshop, at home wherever. Knowledge empowers the spirit and strengthens the mind. I love learning above all else.
3. Persist- persistence is key to attaining a desired objective. Cynics and critics will swamp you with all the reasons why you would fail, I listen to my heart and it works.
4. Endure-the fastest runner may not win the race but the one with the highest endurance. For me, endurance is the blueprint for success.
5. Happy-happiness is not granted, you have to happy yourself. Success is not a recipe for happiness, but happiness engulfs success. Happiness for me is waking everyday and loving myself, being comfortable in my own skin and loving what I do. What others say or do is not important.
What was the most important point in your journey from ordinary to trailblazer?
I started out not well-versed in travelling the expansive field of human foibles. When disappointment gave its head to my heart, it made me look myself in the face and decide to have faith in no human being other than myself. I reinvented myself and in the process took my destiny in my own hands. I have never looked back.
What impact do you believe you have had on the lives of others?
I assume I have busted the myth of only men being sea pilots. This would encourage women to venture into the overwhelming male-dominated sea area and work together for nation building.
Who is the single most important person in shaping who you are?
That is the woman who in pain bore me and in resilience grew me, my mother.
What is the most important life lesson you would teach a mentee?
Associate with people who love you, impact your life positively, people who do not have loose lips that divulge your secrets or loose tongues that backbite or slander you behind your back. In short know your enemies and accept them as part of life, but do not hate them because hatred destroys our sanity.
Who is your role model and why?
My role model is every God-fearing woman who juggles marriage, family and work and is not consumed by the clout or susceptible to egotism. For me, it misses the whole point if a woman succeeds in worldly life and loses her soul.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love spending time with my family, being a mother and playmate to my children, watching reality TV and walking, for walking enlivens my inspiration.
Please tell us one thing most people don’t know about you.
I speak fluent Fula because my mother is Fula and I love to communicate in my mother tongue.
Footprints: What would you want to leave behind as your legacy?
I would love to be remembered as a good human being – a great mother to my children, a wonderful wife to my husband and an inspirational woman to the generations of young women that will come after me.
What new projects are you working on?
As Principal Officer, Maritime Safety & Environment, I am currently working with the Task Force of the Joint Operation Centre, comprising representatives of all the security outfits in The Gambia, to ensure that mandatory standards are implemented at all landing points in The Gambia so that we have minimal maritime casualties in the coming year. This will safeguard a competitive maritime transport environment that favors safety best practices at all times.
On the other hand, I am working on my writings and by the end of next year, I endeavour to release two more books in the market Inshallah.]]>