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Aminata Conteh-Biger - Founder & CEO of the Aminata Maternal Foundation, is an author, inspirational speaker, activist, former refugee from Sierra Leone, wife, and mother of two. She is a Special Representative for Australia United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Growing up in Freetown in civil war- ravaged Sierra-Leone, Aminata enjoyed a charmed childhood. She and her siblings were raised in the ‘big yellow house on the hill’ by their beloved father, Pa Conteh.
Family, faith and education were the focus of the Contehs’ way of life, until 1999 when a devastating civil war changed things forever. Rebel forces stormed Freetown and the Contehs’ home, kidnapping a teenage Aminata from her father’s hands. Held captive for months and subjected to horrors, Aminata was finally freed as part of a negotiated prisoner exchange, and released in return for food and medicine.
Not long after her release, the UNHCR recognised that one of Aminata’s captors posed a continued and serious threat to her safety. In 2000, with the support of the UNHCR, Aminata became one of the very first Sierra Leonean refugee women to settle in Australia. Her immeasurable determination and adaptability enabled her to strive to forge her own path, and build a successful life in her adopted home - Australia.
Since arriving in Australia, Aminata has previously held careers in fashion as a model, a retail associate, and eventually appointed to the Board of philanthropic clothing label The Social Outfit. However her innate desire to give back, along with the traumatic birth of her first child - Sarafina in 2012, led to her founding the Aminata Maternal Foundation. Her goal was to reduce the devastating infant and maternal mortality (during birth) in Sierra Leone, which presents as one of the most dangerous places to give birth in the world.
Sarafina’s (her daughter) birth was traumatic! It took up to 7 doctors being in the delivery suites to ensure the survival of mother and daughter. Aminata realised that, had she delivered her baby in Sierra-Leone, her and Sarafina may not have survived. Consequently, she felt compelled to help fellow Sierra-Leonean women gain access to maternal health and survive their birthing journey.
In 2016, Aminata travelled to Sierra Leone and documented the country’s maternal healthcare crisis with SBS Television’s Dateline in ‘Daughter of Sierra Leone’, an award winning documentary.
Today, Aminata continues to work tirelessly to make a difference in maternal health to the women in Sierra Leone through the Aminata Maternal Foundation. Her goal is to raise awareness of the challenges of access to maternal health in Sierra-Leone, find working solutions in the community, while highlighting the country’s extraordinary beauty. In Aminata’s memoir, Rising Heart, she wholeheartedly expresses her vision, which is to empower midwives through training, to improve the effects of ill maternal health and to build a maternity hospital in Sierra Leone.
As a keynote and motivational speaker, Aminata uses her story to help organisations build the resilience of their people and inspire teams to work together for a higher purpose. She has a passion to continually make an impact and motivate children and adults alike to never give up, exemplifying the meaning of succeeding against all odds.
Her compelling memoir, Rising Heart, with Juliet Rieden, was published by Pan Macmillan Australia and New Zealand in September 2020. Aminata’s story has been featured on television, radio and press including BBC World News and The Project with Lisa Wilkinson.
Aminata Conteh-Biger talks about:
• My Father’s Legacy Lives In Me
• Race Inclusion & fostering belonging.
• Embrace opportunity Despite Adversity
• The Gift of Forgiveness
• Owning Your Story
• Dare To Be Different