Law student launches campaign for African girls' magazine

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Joe Schwartz
Fatmata Kabia
Riley Yuan/University Photography
Memunatu co-founder Mariama Kabia on campus Oct. 23.

Third-year Cornell Law School student Fatmata Kabia and her twin sister, Mariama, began Memunatu magazine in 2011 when they were undergrads at the University of Pennsylvania. The magazine, aimed at underserved girls in West Africa, promotes literacy, leadership and empowerment.

The Kabias, who are Sierra Leonean-Americans, hosted a launch event for their campaign on Oct. 23 in Myron Taylor Hall. They hope to raise $30,000 to help with writing, production and distribution of their February 2015 issue focused on Ebola. The sisters hope to capitalize on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 2, a global initiative to promote giving following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when social enterprises are featured on the Indiegogo site.

“This issue will focus not only on the crisis, but also on how girls can take action,” says Fatmata Kabia. “Part of this Ebola issue will include a section on teen stories, where girls can share their impressions and experiences in dealing with the epidemic. We believe that this is a particularly good time for girls to lend a voice on the issue so that they can really frame the narrative in their own way.”

Fatmata Kabia traces her interest magazines to her childhood, and more specifically to her love for Scholastic News, a classroom publication on math, the social sciences and social events. Like Scholastic News, Memunatu is meant to encourage inquisitive reading outside the classroom.

The Kabias drew a connection between their shared passion for magazines and the literacy discrepancy between boys and girls in their parents’ home country of Sierra Leone and West Africa as a whole, especially in the 10-17 age range.

“We knew that we loved reading magazines but didn’t know how to make one. We were able to attend informational interviews at Condé Nast publishing, which helped us to understand what it took to create a magazine,” Fatmata Kabia said. The quarterly magazine is published and distributed to secondary schools in Sierra Leone and comes with a teachers’ guide.

Fatmata Kabia stressed the importance of volunteer involvement. “Volunteers really are the core of the team,” she said. “With this launch, we seek to expand our volunteer base and get people excited about the issue.”

She credited her Cornell Law School experience as having a major impact. “Many members of on-campus human rights and various affinity groups have had diverse experiences. Bouncing ideas off of members of these organizations has been extremely helpful,” she said. “The interdisciplinary nature of the Law School has really helped with this project.”

The Kabia sisters have been recognized as Echoing Green semifinalists, Harvard Business School New Venture Competition semifinalists and Dell Social Innovation fellows. Visit the Memunatu Indiegogo website for more information.

Scott Goldberg ’16 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.


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