Red Shoes! Aminata Conteh-Biger, This is What a Refugee Looks Like

Welcome back! Series 6 is here!

The title of this episode asks you to leave your pre-conceptions at the door. There is no one way for a refugee to look, seem, dress and show up in the world. 

On World Refugee Day, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) asks us to honour refugees around the globe. To celebrate the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home countries to escape conflict or persecution. 

And so we are excited to bring you this extraordinary interview with Aminata Conteh-Biger. 

Aminata is an UNHCR ambassador in Australia. She's also an author, speaker and the founder of Aminata Maternal Foundation. We met when I hosted an event for her wonderful book, Rising Heart, at an organisation in Sydney that we both support called The Social Outfit.

Like everyone who has listened to her tell story, I was deeply affected by it, but also by Aminata's spirit. She has endured some terrible things, but if I had to think of words to describe her they'd be about love, joy, generosity, fun, glamour, the sisterhood and activism. Aminata is a fabulous fashion fan, mum, women's rights and maternal health advocate, and, yes, refugee.

She is the sum of her many parts - proof that we are not one story, even when that story is as big as hers.

In 1999, during the civil war in Sierra Leone, the then 18-year-old Aminata was a kidnapped by rebel soldiers. She was held captive for several months, and finally freed as part of a negotiated prisoner exchange. When she fled to Australia, with UNHCR's assistance, she had no idea what it would be like. She arrived here with nothing and to had to start again.

Trigger warning - this conversation includes reference to rape and details of violence. But ultimately this is an uplifting story about fleeing one home and finding another - and joy along the way. 

Thanks to Spell, this episode is proudly brought to you by The Climate Council.

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