Ms. Barkatou Sabi Boun is Senior Manager at Benin Telecoms SA, a public institution responsible for operating telecommunication services in Benin. She also promotes reforms in the telecommunication sector. In October 2019 Ms. Boun had the opportunity to travel to the U.S. and participate in the IVLP program Advancing Women in STEAM Fields, arranged by Meridian International Center.
During her visit to the U.S., Ms. Boun reviewed the evolution and advancement of women in scientific research and innovation in the United States, networked with professional counterparts at scientific academies, associations, universities, businesses, and agencies across the U.S., and gained insight into the critical need for women's involvement in the design, engineering, and implementation of scientific research, applications, solutions, and technology. Ms. Boun’s group met with a variety of professional resources including the Tabernacle Choir, Innovations Early College High School, the Utah STEM Action Center, and Pluralsight.
Ms. Boun’s group had the opportunity to visit Silicon Slopes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing Utah startups and the tech community throughout Utah. Participants met with Carine Clark, an Executive Board Member at Silicon Slopes, discussing her work to elevate Utah's tech community through her involvement with the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development. The group also addressed the challenges of navigating a career in a male-dominated industry and efforts to promote women in business.Another highlight from Ms. Boun’s trip was her group’s visit with the Latter-Day Saint Humanitarian Center, established to prepare humanitarian supplies for use worldwide and to train those desiring to develop employable skills to become self-reliant. During their visit, the group toured the Humanitarian Center and learned about the volunteer efforts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints locally and abroad. The group participated in a service activity alongside local volunteers to assemble personal hygiene kits for people in need.
Since her visit to Utah, Ms. Boun reports increased knowledge within her field of work, a greater connection to her community, networking with more people, volunteering more frequently, and sharing her thoughts at public events and gatherings. Ms. Boun shares, “My commitment to my country has grown to the point I was able to put my professional career on hold to volunteer to defend democracy and work to revive my country. The trigger came to me from involvement during community activity in Utah where I saw how people dedicate their lives to great causes.”
In a recent meeting with a youth organization, Ms. Boun expressed the importance of “patriotic commitment as being essential to the construction of the Benin that we love.” She explained “that if we want our country to progress, we must stop doing as we did before.”
While the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic limited her ability to pursue her previous plans, it also empowered Ms. Boun to take action in her community. She shares, “I'm in political and public action. This implies meetings with different social-professional categories. The Covid-19 barrier gestures imposed lead me to receive activists in small groups, which lengthens my processes. Also, in some localities, my organization is obliged to invest in providing participants with face masks and hydro-alcoholic gel.”
Fortunately, Ms. Boun’s experiences in Utah helped her navigate the challenges of the global pandemic. She writes, “At the start of the pandemic, I helped make the right information available to populations in local languages and in rural areas through several digital channels. My civic engagement having strengthened, I continue to support vulnerable people by providing them with masks, gels and food through several organizations.”
We are proud of the innovations made by professionals, like Ms. Boun, as they have turned a devastating and challenging situation into an opportunity to better their community. This spirit is central to fostering citizen diplomacy and promoting peaceful relations between individuals during this difficult time.