Mariama “Mary” Issoufou is passionate about gender equality. As a native of the African country of Niger, she’s well aware it’s not something people can take for granted.
“I came to the U.S. 18 years ago partially because it was as a journey in fighting social injustice,” Issoufou said. “I followed my husband, a doctor, to Omaha, as he did his residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC).
“But in our native country, not all girls are allowed to go to school,” Issoufou adds. “Illiteracy rates among women are extremely high and I never agreed with that. Nobody has a choice to be born male or female.”
Issoufou originally intended to become a doctor herself, but there was always a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right with that career choice. She began her medical studies in Niger, where she met her husband. Once in Omaha, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in community health from the University of Nebraska Omaha and a master’s in public health (MPH) from UNMC.
The mother of four children—ranging in age from 16 to 5—is now in Creighton School of Law’s Accelerated Juris Doctor program.
“It’s funny, because years ago, a personality test during my other studies showed that I’d make a good lawyer,” Issoufou laughs. “I just didn’t really start to think about (law school) seriously until I realized something was missing from my life. I want to fight for women and kids and working with an MPH degree meant I was primarily involved with intervention and evaluation, but I needed more—and that’s where law comes in,” she adds.
“After I complete my law degree, I hope to start a nongovernmental organization back in Niger that is a school for girls that offers free legal services,” Issoufou adds.