Dr. Fadji Zaouna Maina — the first Nigerian scientist to work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) — has always had dreams of solving water problems in her hometown since the age of 10. Now, she will take on the entire world’s water crisis with data from NASA, reports Face2Face Africa.
Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou has deemed the 29-year-old Zinder, Niger native as “a national pride, and a role model for the youth of Niger.”
“I pushed the boundaries, I made it possible and I made a whole country proud,” said Dr. Maina. “The chances for a girl like me, born and raised in Zinder (Niger), to become a scientist at a well-known institution like NASA are almost zero.”
Growing up in Zinder, she acknowledges that Niger’s water crisis is deteriorating due to climate change. Dr. Maina knows having tap water in her home gave her an edge over other children, especially girls who were tasked with searching for water from the lake or from neighbors.
“People think that boys should go to school or go to work and the girls should find water and come back [to do] cooking and cleaning,” says Dr. Maina during an interview with Share America.
“[Girls] don’t have time to go to school,” she said. “Girls’ education is one more problem that comes from climate change — I have seen that.”
This reason alone pushes her to give it her all and strive for success.
“I have a responsibility on my shoulders because I believe I need to show the face of my country,” said Dr. Maina. “It’s like changing the image of Nigerians and changing the image of women generally.”
No stranger to success, Dr. Maina completed her secondary education at age 16 and has been an advocate for child empowerment and education since she was a teen. She also served as a junior deputy in Niger’s National Youth Assembly.
In 2016, she earned her Ph.D. in Hydrology from the University of Strasbourg, a field she selected “to participate in improving the conditions of access to drinking water in Niger,” per The Africa Report.