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FunTimes Magazine

Youma Bah

Kilimandjaro owner Youma Bah hails from Senegal, West Africa. Her restaurant offers delicious food at very reasonable prices and was lauded by Philadelphia magazine at ”one of the best in town.”

Best and worst decision?
 “The best: Coming to the U.S. in 1999. When there are nine girls and three brothers, it was mainly the females who had to step up and help the family. I had to find my way for the younger kids. We grew up in the ghetto (in Senegal), surrounded by drugs, alcohol and prostitution. If I didn’t succeed to help the younger ones, they might have fallen in that life. That pushed me to stop everything, even school, to help. Today, they all are in a good place. The worst decision: I was in the economic program, but didn’t finish college. Fortunately, I was still able to help my family.”

Dream job as a child? “I wanted to be a judge, working in the army or justice department.”

Barriers to female leadership?
 “In our culture, a woman should get married at an early age. Woman were not trained to tackle leadership, rather how to cook and clean. We’re getting there, but we still are struggling to speak up as we should. Male employees’ egos get involved, and they ask, ‘Why do the women tell me what to do?’ We are still dealing with these issues. When we stand up and believe, we succeed.”

 Who inspires you?
“My mom, (Aiffaea Mdiaye), she left school and was married at She raised nine kids on her own. My father was in Europe and visited every year. She overcame that and fought for us to get an education. She is now a vice-mayor in our city and in the senate. If my mom can do that, then I say nothing can stop a person who really wants to succeed. You just have to believe.”

Challenges for next Generation?
“We, when young, didn’t have as much freedom as women now. If they use their uniqueness in the right way, they can make a better world. We are the mothers of this world: the ones who protect our men; the ones who protect our kids— women are protecting the world.”