Last week was a sad week; on Tuesday 3rd April it was announced that veteran Gambian broadcast journalist, Aja Maimuna Bah, had passed away in Brikama at aged 64. This article pays tribute to a journalist who, for the country of Gambia, made history as becoming the first Gambian female broadcaster. Working in an industry hugely dominated by men, Aja Maimuna Bah not only achieved her dream of being a broadcaster, but she also went on to win the heart of many Gambian citizens, becoming a household name in the early seventies. The next four decades of her career were dedicated to broadcasting some of the country's most pressing issues.
Reflective of her success, her funeral was attended by literally hundreds of mourners – both those who knew her and those who did not. The mourners included many of her ex colleagues from the Gambia Radio and Television service. Among these were the broadcast company's highest level executives.
Aja Maimuna Bah was born on New Years' Day in 1948 in Brikama – the same city in which she died – to local parents. She was a pupil at Brikama Primary School, and then went on to study at the Gambia High School. After leaving high school with good grades – and having had a traditional upbringing, Maimuna Bah decided to train as a nurse. One day, however, she was interviewed by local radio station, Radio Gambia – then in its beginnings, and quickly realised her talent and passion for journalism. Her good looks and youth meant that she was in a good position to pursue a career in broadcast.
Making history for women
Also on side was her infamous voice, described by many as deep and resonant. She was versatile, passionate, strong and immediately found herself able to identify with a wide range of people. At the time she started her career in the seventies, this was a full package that broadcast outlets had never before seen in a woman. From the day she was first hired by Radio Gambia, Aja Maimuna Bah began to make history for women in Gambia.
Maimuna Bah held many prestigious positions while employed at Gambia Radio and Television Services, including producing and presenting programmes covering some of the country's top issues, such as: health, community and agriculture, as well as national finance, individual income and payday loans. Most notably, perhaps, was the work she carried out exposing and campaigning for women's, gender and human rights issues. She held many positions for GRTS, right up to her retirement in 2003, and even after her retirement she was contracted by the broadcast outlet as a program producer until 2010, when she was finally forced to stop working due to ill health.
Showing solidarity for her profession
In 2005, Maimuna Bah showed her solidarity for the world of journalism by playing a key role in a protest to the police headquarters, appealing for a full investigation into the death of fellow journalist, Deyda Hydara, who was assassinated after leaving a party to mark the 13th anniversary of the birth of The Point newspaper. The managing editor of the paper was killed as he gave a lift home to two female colleagues, by an unknown individual. The protest was also held to demand that the Government investigated previous arson attacks on media houses – an issue that Maimuna Bah campaigned tirelessly for.
Dedicated to her country
Aja Maimuna Bah was a pioneering and highly competent journalist who was entirely dedicated to helping her country through freedom of press speech. Despite being a highly talented and successful journalist, she did not want to leave her country and work in international journalism. Instead, Maimuna Bah remained in Gambia, and as a result won many shows of her own. The most famous, of course, was the show she presented for over 30 years – Hospital Request (a programme aimed at Mandika women). She was also a regular newsreader, presenting in Mandika, Fula and Wollof. Her ability to present in multiple languages earned her much respect in the Senegambia region.
Committed to her family
Despite her successful career, Maimuna Bah remained committed to her family. Her nephew, Taya Jallow, spoke at her funeral to describe her: "As a family woman Maimuna Bah was caring and helpful to all her large extended family." Perhaps this, along with her dedication to her helping her country move forward, was why she remained firmly grounded to her roots.