Dakar - The streets of Dakar, Senegal, brim with dreams, each a thread weaving hope for a better future. Among these dreamers stands Fatou Guet Ndiaye, a beacon of empowerment and resilience. Her journey spans continents, challenging stereotypes while advocating for women's investment. 
Passionate about continuing her studies, the then 23 year old aspirations reached beyond the shores of her homeland. Yet, her path was not without its twists and turns. After completing her education and fueled by a thirst for knowledge and skill refinement, she embarked on a journey across the sea in pursuit of further training, only to find herself facing unforeseen obstacles. 
Six days at sea led to a sobering realization as the pirogue, a traditional canoe in which she was traveling in, ran out of fuel. Fatou and her companions were rescued along the coast of St Louis. The disappointment weighed heavily on her as she returned home, her dreams seemingly dashed.
“When I returned, it was not easy for me…Because it is hard for a woman to take the boats to immigrate. And also, it was a burden for me to see my parents again and explain to them the reasons for my departure,” Fatou previously explained.  

Fatou Guet Ndiaye, a former IOM volunteer for Migrants as Messengers (MaM), spoke at the celebration of International Women's Day 2024 organised by United Nations Network on Migration in Dakar. Photo: IOM 2024 / Lucas Chandellier

However, fate had a different course in mind for Fatou. Her encounter with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) marked a turning point in her narrative. As a volunteer in the "Migrants as Messengers" campaign, a peer-to-peer awareness-raising campaign that empowers young people in West Africa to make informed decisions about migration, Fatou found not only a platform for learning but also a purpose in empowering others like herself. 
With her skills in graphic design and a heart filled with compassion, she became an integral part of the campaign, dedicating herself to its mission of empowerment and awareness. 
In a recent interview after an event organized by IOM Regional Office in West and Central Africa celebrating International Women’s Day, the now 39 year old shared her journey: "I dreamed of developing my professional life around photography and filmmaking. But very quickly, I realized that I needed solid training to compete in this male-dominated field."  
This year’s theme of "Invest in women: Accelerate progress for gender equality and safe migration" resonated deeply with Fatou's own experiences. Fatou expressed her belief in the importance of investing in women, stating, "A woman who has a decent job to support her family will not let her children risk their lives for anything in perilous adventures." 
Her words echo the sentiment of countless women who have dared to dream beyond the confines of societal expectations. 
Through IOM’s campaign, Fatou has not only honed her skills but also is a trainer, imparting knowledge to volunteers and journalists across Senegal in audiovisual techniques. Her dedication and talent were recognized when she clinched the third prize at the International Film Festival on Migration in West and Central Africa in 2021, showcasing the talents fostered by the project.

Fatou Guet Ndiaye, a former IOM volunteer for Migrants as Messengers (MaM), at the celebration of International Women's Day 2024 organised by United Nations Network on Migration in Dakar. Photo: IOM 2024 / Lucas Chandellier

"I am now a photographic artist whose work is celebrated and displayed in embassies in Senegal," Fatou proudly declares. Her journey from a novice to an acclaimed artist is a testament to the transformative power of investing in women's potential. However, she acknowledges the challenges she faces in her profession, including the high cost of equipment and the need for continuous training. 
Despite these hurdles, Fatou remains undeterred. She emphasizes the importance of investing more in women, recognizing that empowered women not only uplift themselves but also safeguard their families from perilous ventures. "Although I am now qualified to work professionally, I'm also motivated to learn other skills to use certain equipment and more advanced techniques to provide competitive work on the market. I am not against migrating to train myself, but this time in the safest way, which is what I always encourage those around me to do," she asserts, advocating for safer migration pathways and opportunities for women to thrive. 
As International Women's Day fades into memory and we look ahead to the Summit for the Future in September 2024, Fatou's story continues to resonate. Her journey of empowerment through lens and voice inspires a collective call to action, urging stakeholders to invest in the untapped potential of women like Fatou, whose resilience and determination light the way for generations to come.  

SDG 5 - Gender Equality
SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities