International Women's Day - Stories of non-medical staff showcasing women's strength: “Stop doubting yourselves!”

Zakia Abubakr, Cook at OCG coordination in Khartoum

Cooking is not just a job for me; it's my passion. Food is a reflection of culture, and Sudanese cuisine is a true testament to our rich heritage. 

From savory stews and gravies paired with rice or bread, to the irresistible flavors of peanuts and delectable pastries and desserts, our food culture is truly special. My name is Zakia Abubakr, and I have been working with MSF for 26 years as a cook. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of cooking for countless people from different backgrounds and cultures.

At MSF, we embrace diversity, and that means catering to different tastes and  needs.

I love working with MSF because they help my people, and  that's something I'm truly proud of.

I was once told that I'm the fuel of the MSF engine, and that inspired me to work even harder. 

I want to be remembered as the smiling mother who tried to feed her children, so they could continue to do their work.

Cooking for MSF is not just about making meals; it's about nourishing the bodies and souls of  our team members, and I am honored to be a part of that.

© Giles Duley

Mary James, Female Driver in Juba South Sudan

My name is Mary James, I am 31 years old, and I am the first female driver  for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in South Sudan. A journey that has  been immensely rewarding.

My story with MSF began two years ago in November 2021, but the seeds  for this path were sown much earlier. After pausing my high school  education, I took a new direction in 2015 by completing computer and driving courses with a plan to become a driver. This decision would  shape my future in ways I never imagined.

In 2017, I started working as a driver for various companies and  NGOs, and later found myself navigating the complexities of the Covid-19  pandemic as a driver. This experience was a turning point, leading me to join MSF, where I found my true calling. Though the journey wasn’t  easy. In a job where women are often overlooked, I found myself as the  only lady in interviews, competing in a field dominated by men.

But I persevered, driven by the belief that being a woman should not define my capabilities.

I cherish my job with MSF, not just for the personal fulfilment it  brings, but also for the impact on my family. It’s more than a means to  bring food to the table; it’s a source of happiness for everyone who  depends on me.

Mary James is the first female driver for MSF in South Sudan. © MSF/Evani Debone

Marie-Jocelyne, Nshimirimana Finance Coordinator

I started off as a national staff member. I fulfilled many different roles, including six years in various administrative positions. This gave me the opportunity to train extensively within Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and the skills I developed gave me a lot of opportunities.

My line manager suggested I switch to working internationally to support other projects. This is not an easy decision when you have been married for 16 years and have five children. The eldest will soon be 16, and the youngest is eight years old.

It’s not easy, but in a way when I talk to my children, they understand what I’m involved in, because they see how we help patients. My family understands what I’m doing, they’re proud of it, and I am too.

Currently, I manage an all-male team of six. In a way that’s not easy either, but on the other hand, you can make it easy when you have your own management style, and you bring something to them.

Marie-Jocelyne, Nshimirimana Finance Coordinator. © Franck Ngonga/MSF

As a woman, it is an honour for me that my involvement helps bring support to people, among whom there are mothers, children. As a mother myself, this is something that is close to my heart and gives me the strength to be more committed than ever.

Every woman should know that we, women, are capable.

We are capable of bringing positivity to the community, to make things happen in a beneficial way. To make the world go round; and to bring happiness to others.

Women have an important role to play in society. Women need to know that. We have the assets; we have the skills. So, women, stop doubting yourselves. Society needs us. And the community needs us to make things happen.