Akech Mayoum

Akech Mayoum

Give a brief bio about yourself/ your background/ your history.

I was born in Sudan, which is now known as South Sudan. I was born in the middle of a civil war, so my family fled to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya a month after my birth. At the age of seven, my family immigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Adjusting to a new country and language was not easy, but I learned English quickly thanks to my love for novels. My dad would often make me read a book before I was allowed to watch TV. Little did he know, I could not put down a book and would read at the dinner table and at community gatherings; all the places I was not allowed to read.

Like many newcomers to Canada, my dad desired more resources and opportunities for me. My family could not afford to send me to private school, so my church sponsored me. From grade 7-9, I attended a small private school where I was the only black person in my class. I experienced a lot of bullying, with peers often making fun of my afro, or the Sudanese food I packed for lunch. I remember going home crying and bagging my father to send me to a different school. In junior high and high school, I attended the University of Winnipeg Collegiate on a full scholarship. The school was a little more diverse, and for the first time since elementary, I made friends and felt a sense of belonging.

I am fortunate to have been introduced to the value of education at an early age. To this day, I am both thankful and frustrated by the education system I have grown up in. I am thankful for the way in which academia continues to expand and challenge my perspectives. However, I am frustrated by the lack of diversity, and I hope for change. Travelling has given me the opportunity to hear diverse voices I did not have access to in my classrooms.

What education have you taken?

I graduated high school from the University of Winnipeg Collegiate in 2012. I then attended Canadian Mennonite University and graduated with a degree in psychology in 2017. I am currently completing my fourth and final year at Brandon University and will graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychiatry Nursing.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

The first accomplishment that comes to mind are my academic accomplishments. I come from a culture that often values education for men, but not so much for females. I am the first female in my family to graduate university, as well as high school. In May of this year, I will hold two bachelor’s degrees, which I am extremely proud of. I am hoping that this trend continues, not only in my family, but for many South Sudanese families.

My work with the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee (EDI) at the Faculty of Health Studies as a student chair has given me the opportunity to advocate for anti-racism. Our committee recognizes that social justice and evolutionary change requires all of us. I’m proud to have contributed toward a more inclusive post-secondary education and a safe space for students who look like me. I am grateful for the committee’s vulnerability and willingness to share parts of themselves. I can only hope that we graduate and leave Brandon University a more socially just, equitable, and inclusive space.

How did you become interested in your field of study?

When I first when to university, I thought I wanted to be a gynecologist. In my first year, I took all the science courses; biology, chemistry, and physics, but it did not feel like the right fit. It was not until my second year when I decided to try some psychology classes, and I fell in love. I thoroughly enjoyed waking up each morning to attend classes, and so I followed my heart and continued. When I graduated with my psychology degree, a friend told me about Psychiatric Nursing. Psychiatric Nursing seemed like the perfect combination of my love for medicine and psychology, so I applied.

What is your philosophy in life?

‘Don’t forget to lift others while you climb’ is a phrase I once heard that has stayed with me. I did not get to where I am by myself, there have been many in my corner who have shared their wisdom and guided me. I am lucky to have champions such as my math teacher in high school, my family, my two lead research investigators whom I work with, and many others. I also strive to lift others around me as I too climb.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I hope to gain diverse experiences as a practicing Psychiatric Nurse. I plan to work in Northern Manitoba and internationally before applying for a master’s degree in global or public health. In the meantime, I hope to continue doing research in anti-racism at BU CARES as a Research Assistant.

In one sentence, how will you #BreakTheBias?

I will #BreakTheBias by continuing to break barriers and using my voice to encourage and empower women like myself.

Nominator’s Comments:

I am honoured to be able to recognize and nominate Akech Mayoum for the International Women’s Day Award. Akech is a 4th year BScPN student that has gone above and beyond to embrace cultural diversity and make a meaningful difference in the Faculty of Health Studies. Akech recognized a need within the Faculty of Health Studies to address racism and inequities. She approached faculty to create a student led Faculty of Health Studies anti-racism action plan. By taking the lead in that initiative she engaged the student body to advocate for equity and develop a plan that can be followed by the faculty for years to come. Additionally, she initiated and pushed for the faculty to start and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee which will enact the action plan and continue the work. She did all this while also maintaining excellent grades and being a strong support for marginalized students within the Faculty of Health Studies. Akech was also involved in an autoethnographic research project and is the first author on a manuscript looking at the process of starting the FHS ARAP that is going to be submitted to a National Nursing Education journal. Her leadership, commitment, empathy, drive resonates across the faculty and she has been a role model and a leader that has definitely left a lasting impact. She is going to make a brilliant psychiatric nurse and my hope is that she continues her studies as she has a lot to offer the profession more broadly.