FEAR: Obstacle or Motivator?


Madjiguene Fall, M.Ed. Find Your Own Agency: Fear as a motivator

By all accounts, business owner, mother, wife, professor, and doctoral candidate Madji Fall is an empowered young woman who is blazing her own trail on her way becoming one a dynamic leader in the education field.  But hidden from this narrative of success is a story of survival.

Madji was born in Senegal into a middle class family of high achievers.  Her parents developed successful worldwide businesses, affording Madji with opportunities to attend school here in the U.S. where she spent her adult years.

Speaking five languages and achieving the highest academic accolades were not enough to shield her from a harsh life she could have not imagined.  Madji tells her story as beacon of hope for any young woman who feels trapped and afraid.

As a young adult, she found herself in an abusive marriage, breaking her down and robbing her sense of self-worth. She drew on her faith to help her cope and kept the truth from her family, thinking that things will get better. She believed somehow things would get better.  She also wondered if this is what fate intended for her. “Is this my destiny, to be trapped?” she wondered.

But things got worse.  Abuse turned to violence. When she feared for her life and the life of her little boy, she knew she had to act.  Madji describes her flight to a shelter with just the clothes on her back and little money, as a time in which she began to “find my own agency”.

There is a French work, l’autonomisation, which translates to empowerment.  L’autonomisation would be her mantra for the next few years. Madji describes her own personal brand of l’autonomisation as reaching down and pulling up an inner strength that was there and ready to be claimed. This inner strength was vital, for when she fled, she had few options. A family member wanted her to leave the U.S. to escape her situation, but leaving with her child would have been impossible without written consent from her abusive husband from whom she was hiding. Risking deportation, she remained in the U.S. to pull herself up and to create a safe space for her and her little boy.

Thankfully, she did survive that ordeal.  Happily remarried, now a U.S. citizen, she is visiting colleges for her son and pursuing her doctorate.   Lessons from the past motivate and propel her onward. Fear is now her useful companion: she is ever watchful to not allow fear to overtake her or become an obstacle.  Finding agency is a daily, purposeful quest.

What would be Madji’s advice to young women who might feel trapped by circumstance? She replies with a firm, “Find your own agency!” Reach down and pull out strength that is there; the inner strength that you know you have.

Madjiguene Fall, M.Ed. is a Professor in Residence working in the area of Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Education at Rowan University

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