What these women philanthropists did to empower others

Becoming a philanthropist is not something I had in mind in the past 10 years. Personalities such as Mother Theresa, one of the few I followed along with Princess Diana, were not labelled like that in my small village back in France, but more like humanitarians I think. A philanthropist nowadays is a business person with a big heart who does more than just caring about social responsability. I used to donate to various charities but unfortunately none of them had a connection with Congo. This is the reason why I made it my mission to start researching Congolese organisations in the sector of arts and education. Many were helping schools but none were focusing on the creative industry so I decided to start my own initiative.

Where I am from, donating to others is not quite considered as an employment option. So I never imagined that giving back to my community would give another perspective to my work and what it means to do more for others even when you have less for yourself. It was very hard for me because I kind of expected to have the support of certain people, which never came… but it made me stronger and more determined to make things work. My vision was my own and I was wrong to expect people or my entourage to see it as clearly as I did. I remember my ex saying to me ” You haven’t build your career and you want to help people?”, that day I smiled and said yes in my head.

I also smiled because I realised that he was not the man for me and left him shortly after that. I have understood in the last 3 years that as humans, our purpose is to connect and love. Nothing else. We leave everything behind after death so why is it so hard for us to be open and give to one another?

Some of us look at Oprah Winfrey as a role model, for business, and to get inspiration. But the day I looked into Mother Theresa as a role model, a new world opened up. In Africa, Asia and other parts of the world helping your neighbour with whatever you can, comes down to common sense. People helping people without looking or asking for any recognition.

Africans are generally taught to be giving and kind, respectful to our elders by never calling their names. Many other cultures have these basis. Have you noticed that in the Hindu language for instance, every time you hear “Ji“ is often a sign of politeness: babuji, auntyji, etc… in Africa, it’s the same, Aunty, Uncle, Tata. Anyone from a neighbor, to a blood related aunty receives respect every time his or her name is called.

Companies such as Western Union are making millions because of the culture of giving. Perhaps the reason why we don’t really give this a second thought is because this is what we grew up to see.

 

 

 

I am often asked why I started a social initiative when my brand was still at an early stage, instead of fully focusing on building it?

Well, there are 2 reasons, which I actually did not realise straight away.

  • My grandmother, may she rest in peace, was the most amazing woman. Fortunate enough to have found a husband who adored her and made sure she lived a comfortable life. She was strong and loved fashion, jewellery and anything feminine. But what I remember her the most for is her devotion to her church and people she cared for. The street we lived in Kinshasa was “under her protection”. Our house was always open for anyone in need and I really wish I had a chance to tell her how much I admired her heart.
  • My aunt, she once told me after I refused to share my food with my little cousin – “ If you don’t give when you have little, you won’t give when you have a lot “. I remember telling her that whatever she said wasn’t logical because if you have a lot then obviously you are more keen to give to someone else. It is only a few years later that I realised I was wrong and she was right. Having a Giving heart is not everyone’s cup of tea and it definitely is not based on your bank balance. I have seen fundraising events where a room full of millionaires raised only £2000.

To be honest, I feel like my charitable work has made me more vulnerable and sensitive now. When we hosted our first free workshop for ESIMBI with about 250 children in Kinshasa, Congo, one girl came to me, she was 12 years old. She wanted to hug me and said “ Thank you for doing this event. No one ever do anything for us. “

No need to say that I cried…. It was probably the most fulfilling moment of my life.

This article is to highlight women I admire who are giving back whenever they can. I hope that it will help, the reader to understand my point about the art of giving.

But really, I can’t talk about black women and philanthropy without talking about one of the first known African- American woman, who successfully went from being a laundress earning less than one dollar a day to becoming one of the first self-made female millionaires in the United States. Her name was Sarah Breedlove, and she was also known as Madam C. J. Walker, the founder of a hair care empire and a well-established philanthropist.

Ms Walker used her fortune to champion the YMCA, the Tuskegee Institute, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and other important civic and educational organizations.

How impressive this woman was! Definitely worth celebrating this month. Here are my top 3 Sheros!

 

Noella Coursaris

She founded the Malaika school in 2007, a nonprofit organisation to empower Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programs. Malaika’s projects are impacting thousands of people’s lives in Kalebuka and are all offered completely free of charge. All these efforts have made her an advocate for peace, speaking to large audiences at UNICEF and the UK Parliament. Let’s not forget the several times she appeared alongside President Clinton on Clinton Global Initiative panels. Noëlla has been interviewed about her philanthropic work on global news outlets such as CNN and the BBC. And that’s only a few things about my Congolese sister.

 

 

 

Naomie Campbell

Our favourite top model is the runaway icon with the biggest heart. I always admired her for being real on camera as she usually simply speaks her mind. To me, that is definitely where her power lies… She organised the first Fashion for Relief to raise funds to help the victims of the Hurricane Katrina. The charitable organization founded in 2005 has since raised funds for various environmental and humanitarian causes. They organise events in association with the London-based non-profit organization CARE. They support international charitable organisations bringing aid to people in crises in different countries. The event always attracts high-profile individuals from the fashion, film, music, and television industries to participate and attend the show.  They have showcased in Cannes, London, Moscow, and Mumbai to name a few but also had partnership with global online retailer Yoox in 2012.

 

 

 

 

Jada Pinkett Smith

Jada Pinkett Smith and husband Will have been engaged in philanthropy for many years now. Their established a family foundation which supports a range of causes including education and the arts. Jada graduated from Baltimore School of the Arts, and donated to the school 1 million dollars in the last decade. The foundation also supported an energy start-up called Quidnet Energy, a “developer of grid-scale energy storage systems capable of enabling the baron-free power grid,” and recently backed NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Fusion Film Festival, which works with women filmmakers. The “Girl’s trip actress” has always been someone to watch out for. Her interviews and motivational speeches have me shook everytime. I will always remember that video where she speaks to her daughter about love and what it means to be a woman. So inspirational!

 

 

 

 

I would love for you to let me know who are your role models in the non-profit sector, rather they are from an African background or not.

In life, we must stand for something, whatever that may be. Giving to others has never been about charity, it is about love. Always.

 

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