International Day of UN Volunteers: Adama Njie, Gambia

unmiss south sudan lakes state rumbek unv volunteering international day of un volunteers gender affairs equality voice visibility

After a life of volunteering back home in the Gambia, Adama Njie took the plunge to become a UNV and Gender Affairs Officer in Rumbek. Photos: Nina Zubovic/Vignjevic

5 Dec 2022

International Day of UN Volunteers: Adama Njie, Gambia

Nina Zubovic Vignjevic/Filip Andersson

LAKES - Born and raised in the Gambia as the second of seven children, Adama Njie is now 46 years old and a mother. While she had always known that her life would involve volunteering for her community, little could she imagine that she would become a UN Volunteer.

A scholarship made it possible to complete her Gender and Development Master’s Degree in the United Kingdom, which in turn opened her eyes to the possibility of using her skills and desire to help somewhere abroad. In 2021, Adama Njie arrived in Rumbek, South Sudan, as a Gender Affairs Officer for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

‘’Being a mother and a working woman is not always easy, but we can always find ways to contribute to the community. I have volunteered all my life and was very honoured to join United Nations to serve internationally,” she says.

Work requirements mean that Adama spends a lot of time in her office, but if she had it her way, she would always be out and about in the field, interacting with South Sudanese women.

‘’Outside of the office, that is where life happens, and where the real work is done. To support women, I must go where they are and listen to them. Engaging with the local women, finding out more about their challenges and try to find solutions, that is the most beautiful and meaningful part of my job because it allows me to tailor my activities to their priority needs,” says Adama.

Addressing the needs of girls and women is important, but surely the name gender affairs implies involving the other 50 per cent of humanity as well, or not?

‘’Of course, gender issues are related to both women and men, but in a South Sudanese context, where women find themselves very much disadvantaged, giving them voices and visibility becomes the natural priority,” she explains.

Having an institutional platform is helpful for anyone who wants to participate and be heard when important topics are discussed. For this reason, Adama Njie and her colleagues were keen to offer their technical support to the creation and registration of Lakes States Women’s Association.

‘’That is something that I am very proud of, because the association has given these hardworking ladies a space to cooperate and better articulate their needs and how they are going to pursue them,” she says.

Reflecting on lessons learnt during her first year in South Sudan, Adama opts for respect for diversity as the key one, as it unlocks other essential skills: listening, communicating and overcoming differences.

‘’I came to a completely new environment. I didn’t know anything about the community, culture and way of life. But I have adapted, and I have realized that we all, colleagues and beneficiaries alike, come from different places and yet need to find common ground for development to happen.”

Adama Njie wholeheartedly encourages others to pursue the unique experience that serving as a UN Volunteer is.

“It’s amazing. You get to explore another country and get familiar with hundreds of different cultures. You learn new skills, make new friends and gain valuable experience, but above all you will be serving fellow human beings who really need you. There is nothing better than the feeling of knowing that you have contributed to a better world’’.