Mariama Mounir Camara-Petrolawicz: There Is Indeed No Limit

| May 10, 2012

She is the first African woman from the Republic of Guinea to grace the cover of Afrikan Goddess Magazine. She is a stunning African beauty with a heart of gold and she is our May 2012 feature for good reason. Mariama Mounir Camara-Petrolawicz is the co-founder of There is No Limit Foundation. And just as the name suggests, she seeks to empower young girls and women to think beyond their circumstances for brighter futures tomorrow. Through micro-lending, education and entrepreneurship, she and her co-founder (who is also her younger sister) seek to empower women and children. And just like the women who have come before her, Mariama tells Afrikan Goddess about her childhood and how some of these experiences in her early and adult life have helped shape the compassionate advocate she is today. Read her interview with us below:

Please tell us a little bit about Mariama Camara-Petrolawicz. Who is she?

My name is Mariama Mounir Camara-Petrolawicz and I currently reside in New York City. I am an entrepreneur, a humanitarian activist, writer and Co-Founder of There Is No Limit Foundation. I am also a voice of Guinea and of women and children worldwide. Advocacy is a passion. I raise awareness about issues of women and children empowerment, education, entrepreneurship, health, sanitation, and access to water through my organization There Is No Limit Foundation.

I was born in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. I am originally from the Nalou tribe of Boke. I am the fifth of eight children. My father is a politician and my mother is an entrepreneur. I feel lucky to have educated parents who were willing and are still willing to give up anything and everything in order to ensure a successful and safe future for their children. However, even their love could not protect me from the hardships I faced in my life. The issues I faced groomed me to be a better person; I would not change my life story. I feel blessed to be surrounded by an amazing and supportive family and great friends.

What inspired you to create There Is No Limit Foundation? Was there a particular moment that led to the birth of your foundation?

My sister Aissata M.B. Camara and I started There Is No Limit Foundation out of passion and because of our personal experiences. We believe every individual has a right to live in dignity and security and we wanted to create an organization that promoted these ideals. Our parents also played a big role because they taught us to give back at an early age. As children, we witnessed their role in helping the community. Our home was always open to others and we often accompanied our parents on humanitarian visits. My father and mother helped raise countless number of children who today are successful in their own rights.

All of these experiences continuously created an urge and need to help others. After years of discussing the potential of creating a non-profit organization, we finally took the “plunge” and created There Is No Limit Foundation in 2008. We wanted the organization to be a testament to the resilience and strength of individuals.

How has your life’s experiences and background translated into the work you do at There Is No Limit Foundation?

My experiences are vital to my work with There Is No Limit Foundation. Because of the issues I faced, I am a better advocate for women and children. My sister and I experienced some of the issues we are fighting against; therefore, we understand how important it is to end them.

I am also able to relate to the people we help because we have lived similar lives and they can relate to me because they see there is hope. They understand I am speaking from a place of understanding and love.

My professional career is also important to my work at There Is No Limit Foundation. I started my career as a model and also worked as a make-up artist and public relations agent. These careers enabled me to create lasting networks which I now use to strengthen our work.

Our work is very attuned to our experiences whether personal or professional. I am always willing to learn from others and I enjoy volunteering and experiencing new things. These traits help me lead There Is No Limit Foundation because we always seek innovative new solutions to problems. We are a responsive organization and we believe it is our duty to understand and evaluate our experiences so we can be of service to those who need it most.

Why is your tool of choice for fighting global poverty and gender inequality microfinance? In addition, give us an overview of the work your foundation does.

There Is No Limit Foundation is a movement of people who believe they have no limits and who strive to move mountains and continue to fight even when they are pushed down. Our mission is to empower communities through education and sustainable development; our focus is especially on women and children because we believe they are key allies in creating empowered communities. We run programs that enable us to fulfill our mission.

We chose our current areas of focus because we believe they are key to creating and maintaining sustainable, healthy and stable communities. We work in the areas of agriculture, water and sanitation, education, entrepreneurship and micro-finance. Ultimately, our goal is to empower communities to work together in order to tackle the issues they face.

We work holistically to fight problems at their root. Let us examine poverty as an example; poverty is at the root of all social problems. Gender inequality exists in many communities because parents are often very poor and they must make hard decisions in order to ensure the family’s survival. In the case of education, they often must make the difficult choice of sending only one child to school. Unfortunately, the choice is often not in favor of women and girls.

By economically empowering women, we are working to end poverty and gender equality at the same time. Moreover, we are ensuring that families are safe and healthy.

In a society and culture where patriarchy is the norm, what do you think is needed for Africa to incorporate human rights for women? In addition, why is women’s rights and gender equality an important issue to tackle?

Women empowerment is a crucial issue to tackle. Women are the backbone of societies and we literally shape the future because we are the ones raising children. We cannot expect to have a good future as a society and a continent if our women are being abused and neglected.

I believe that women empowerment must be a partnership. There is a lack of communication among stakeholders which limits the efficiency of programs and movements. We must all work together toward the same cause. We must teach women about their rights and help them participate in the political process. We need to encourage them to vote and to speak out. But we must also make sure we work with men as partners in the cause. We have to help them understand the benefits of empowered women.

What challenges have you encountered in building There Is No Limit Foundation and how have you dealt with these challenges?

One of the main challenges we’ve had as an organization is getting people to understand the need of our community. Most people have never heard of Guinea so they have very little knowledge of the problems there. When we first started in 2008, very few people knew that Guinea existed.

We have worked extremely hard to shed light on the country and its people. Our team has participated in high level meetings including those at the United Nations during which we have advocated for women and children’s rights in Guinea. We have also been featured in the Chronicles of Philanthropy, the leading philanthropy news source. The article enabled us to reach a wider audience which has helped us a lot in talking about the women and children we serve.

Challenges have been learning lessons for us and we have learned to value them because they usually lead to better improvements for the organization.

You currently provide services only in Guinea. Do you have plans to expand into other African countries? If yes, where?

There Is No Limit Foundation is a global organization and our goal is to be in countries with the most needs. We are currently strategically analyzing other countries for expansion.

African women are increasingly getting involved and speaking up about the issues that affect them. What are your dreams for the role of women in Africa and the state of Africa in general?

My dream for African women is simple. I want to see African women free and happy. I want African women to have the same opportunities as men and I want them to feel safe in their homes, cities, countries and most importantly in their bodies. I want to see more African women leaders and entrepreneurs. I want us to be more involved both nationally and globally. I want us to speak for ourselves, to tell our own stories of survival. I want to see my mothers, sisters and daughters smile because we carry so many burdens and we deserve to be acknowledged.
I dream of a sustainable Africa; I want us to rely on our own skills to develop the continent. I want more unity and transparency on the continent and less reliance on aid.

What are the best ways for Afrikan Goddess readers to assist your organization? What are some of your organization’s most pressing needs and how can our readers support you?

The best way to support There Is No Limit Foundation is by joining our movement to bring powerful and innovative change to our world, to Africa, and to women and children. We are not just an organization we are a movement, a vision, and we want everyone to support us in improving the lives of communities.

We welcome every help and encourage everyone to engage with us. You can join us on our social media pages and spread the word about our work. You can also donate to our current campaign to bring clean water and food to the community of Kamba, Guinea. There Is No Limit Foundation is not only me, or my sister. There Is No Limit Foundation is all of us.

Finally, if you were not involved with There Is No Limit Foundation, what would you be doing? In other words, what other passions resonate with you?

It is hard to imagine what I would do if I was not involved with There Is No Limit Foundation. The organization is such a big part of my life and I love the cause so much. I am grateful to God to have the opportunity to do other things as well. I love writing, dancing and fashion; I am multi-talented. I am an entrepreneur. I operate other businesses and recently collaborated with my siblings to create Guinea Fashion Week which was a great success. I have more businesses in the pipeline as well. I remain forever grateful because I know others do not have the same opportunities and I fight because I want other women and children to have the freedom of choosing their destinies.

For more information about There is No Limit Foundation, or for ways in which you can become involved, or if you just want to reach out to the founders of this wonderful organization, visit http://www.thereisnolimitfoundation.org

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AFRIKAN GODDESS MAGAZINE is a subsidiary of Afrikan Goddess Media, LLC. Our content is designed with the educated, professional, classy, charming and sassy African woman in mind. We encourage women to express their creativity and ideas through writing, and also serve as a platform for meaningful discussions and exchange of ideas.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Estelle says:

    What an informative interview. She is an admirable lady and I wish hre and her organization much success.

  2. Gina says:

    It is amazing to see women like Mariama standing up and taking a stance. In our world today, this is very admirable. Good job!

  3. Mary Beth says:

    This is an Amazing Article Mariama. You surprise me more and more, each and everyday. Good job. Keep it up

  4. Jonathan says:

    Such an exceptional woman; great article!

  5. Marie Anderson says:

    Really great Article Mariama you impressed me the very first time we spoke in 2009 during UNIFEM walk to End Violence against women. You were determined for your advocacy for women and children. I am so proud to see your progress, there is so much more greatness for you in the near future. Keep up with the wonderful work, you are a true inspiration for the next generation. Congratulations.

  6. Jason says:

    This Article is very interesting and powerful. I love the fact that Africans are now telling their own story. Africa needs the participation of the children of Africa in order to shine and become sustainable. Mariama makes an amazing point about her dream vision for Africa. Well done Mariama, keep up the wonderful work, you are an amazing asset for the African continent, I hope they will know how to support you and your amazing organization. Really great interview.

  7. Bintou Bangoura says:

    you make us all proud as African and Guineans. you represent really well the Republic of Guinea and our flag the RED YELLOW GREEN. congratulation we love you! keep up with the wonderful work