How to be the Female Game Changer for Congo?

How to be the Female Game Changer for Congo?

 

The 2018 theme for International Women’s Day was #pressforprogress, with a focus on women’s equality in terms of financial inclusion.

“Gender parity won’t happen overnight. And sources cite that women’s equality is still a long way off. But the good news is that across the world, women are making positive gains, day by day. And there’s a strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support.”  – International Women’s Day website

IMG_2712

ESIMBI magazine hosted its first Women in business seminar in London last week.

The room was filled with men and women who were prepared to hear and understand the struggles that women go through but also their successes.

Ika De Jong hailing from Belgium, told her story on how she created a platform as a presenter. A name now known by Congolese people globally.

Noëlla Coursaris spoke (and joked) about her career as a model. But stayed serious with regards to matters close to her heart, the Malaika foundation which supports girls education in DRC. Ten years ago, they build a school that offers free education to all the pupils enrolled.

Yolande Letshou, fashion and branding professional. A relentless woman that has a unique story to tell and who has clients all over the world, spoke of her journey as an artist and business woman.

Tina lobondi founder of ESIMBI said that Congolese entrepreneurs need more help and support, from each other and organisations that work in Congo.

Our guest speaker Lu Li spoke of her great platform, Blooming Founders, the UK’s largest female entrepreneur network.

IMG_2588

IMG_2715

Each story, each message sparked discussions that are needed in the Congolese community surrounding Congolese women and entrepreneurship. The event, which was meant to be a one off event, will now take place every year and invite Congolese entrepreneurs, businesses and investors to be a part of the discussion.

It is well known that unbiased access to education and financial services are important in playing a pivotal role in reducing the vulnerability of poor people. In many African countries, however, more than two-thirds of the adult population have no access to formal financial services.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, financial exclusion is as high as 76%. Additionally, exclusion is highest among women, young adults and the very poorest segments of society. Financial inclusion can advance equality for women in many ways.

  1. Having access to resources and to the tools that help them to earn a living, can increase women’s bargaining power on how money and other resources are used within the household.
  2. Financial inclusion can help increase women’s opportunities to earn or control assets outside the household.
  3. Thirdly, it can reduce women’s vulnerability by allowing them to insure against risk or borrow to meet unexpected expenses, such as medical treatments.

These are all key factors for economic empowerment. Financial literacy allows women and their families to understand how the accumulation of assets can aid in achieving their financial goals.

Processed with VSCO with s3 preset

Our event was not only to celebrate the many roles and positions Congolese women have in society and in the workplace but also show how financial independence helps them make decisions for their careers households and children.

  • To stimulate debate and build knowledge on financial inclusion.
  • To identify entry points for advancing the role of women in Congo.
  • To expand the network of champions and advocates of gender equality in Congo.

The challenge for women’s day 2018 was to make our mothers proud/ using our mothers as example, to have our sisters inspired/empowered, and our daughters envisioned. Congolese women have made great strides in equality yet there is still a great deal to be achieved. The International Women’s Day provided a unique and global opportunity to reignite, inspire and channel Congolese women’s equality for the future.

we aim to recognise and celebrate the valuable contribution Congolese women make in several different industries at our International Women’s Day function. The event brought together professionals from across the areas of construction, engineering, project management and design to celebrate their achievements as part of the 2018 International Women’s Day.

Topics of discussion included:

  • How can women best support one another?
  • Why International Women’s Day is important to me? Why am I here?
  • Who are the women that have had the greatest Impact on your life, and why?
  • What most concerns you related to women’s issues looking forward?
  • What do you want most for the women of tomorrow?
  • What would you try if you knew you could not fail?
  • How do I find direction, fulfilment and purpose in my life?
  • How to strive for, achieve, and maintain balance in our lives?
  • What needs to happen for women to reach equality?
  • How do you think Congo will benefit from a more inclusive society?

It was amazing to share that day with so many inspirational women. I definitely agree that more dialogues are necessary but, Education and Action are the key to progressing towards change. I look forward to taking part in the next event.

The below event will be attending by over 500 business women and I will be there too. If you would like to join us, use my code to get £175 Off the rate week, simply click here to book your ticket.

 

 

Advertisements

Why black people are being sensitive (And You Should Too!)

Why black people are being sensitive (And You Should Too!)
This is obviously quite a serious topic which I have been wondering about for a while now, so I thought I would write about it and hopefully hear your views too.
We often underestimate how much we damage someone else with our thoughts and actions, based on our own perspectives.
In modern times, many of us have been blessed with the ability to speak our mind.
I say blessed because we also often forget that in some places in this world, freedom is still not free.
Lately, there seems to be a movement where Black people are coming together globally as a community, to share their frustrations and I wanted to look into that. Is this another trend or a genuine Time’s up for us too?
I am Capricorn, and if you care about astrology, you know that we are known as the stubborn sign. And when we believe in something strong enough, we can fight anything.
I must be wiser now though, because for each situation, I am now able to take a step back and rethink before reacting. So let’s talk.
Recently, I saw a video of a black lady in America who was having a go at Disney and Marvel for a lack of Black Panther merchandise in their stores.
Black-Panther-Figure-Set
At first, I thought that must be a mistake because I assumed that when these studios invest in such a big production, surely they hope to make as much money as possible. So to my understanding, merchandise is part of that marketing budget.
Then I started reading the comments prior to writing a question I had.
After a few comments (most of them not very friendly) I decided to take “my” step back. 🙂
I wondered to myself, ” How many times have I been to a Disney store?”
Twice. The answer was twice, once to buy a toy for my friend’s new born and another time for my little cousin’s birthday. So I thought I would ask the same question to my friends and a few contacts. Most of my black friends said they visited the store 2 or 3 times or never in their lifetime.
Then I said, ” Perhaps that is the point where Disney was coming from”. No one expected Black Panther to reach a $1 billion dollar globally in such a short time or actually ever perhaps.
But anyone I know, including myself, who saw this movie, did not just see it once. They saw it twice, three, or more. Not because it is an all black cast film but simply because it is amazing.!The story line was on point, the action was well coordinated, family friendly and God, it was funny!!! So many lines to quote from my now favourite princess, Shuri. And these factors made it a recipe for global success.
BLACK-PANTHER-COLLAGE-KIWI-THE-BEAUTY-MOVIE-MARVEL-800x350.png
Going back to that video, I liked the initiative taken by some readers. Yes, they complained but they also found a solution to their issue by making their own merchandise and selling it. And guess what? They are making money.
Big corporations seem to struggle with their communication to consumers as they fear who they could offend. And by doing that, sometimes they fail big time. We are humans and we all make mistakes but when you are a business in the public eye, things can get complicated. This is not always easy to handle.
Everyone saw H&M in panic for a week over that green monkey sweatshirt (picture below). They of course apologised and quickly hired someone to review their marketing campaigns, and made sure we knew they hired a black person. This made me laugh.
I don’t really shop at H&M simply because it is not a store that comes to mind when I think about shopping but they have nice stuff. The quality has changed over the past years but the last item I got from there still looks pretty good.
That being said, I still wonder rather it wasn’t just another publicity stunt. If you are familiar with business or corporate structures, you will agree with me that before a big campaign comes out, it goes through many departments and decision makers. So it is a little bit hard to believe that a “mistake like the green jumper” can happen out of nowhere. The company’s sale were not great before the whole story so it kind of makes sense that they would want to create a polemic where people would be talking about the brand.
920x1240.jpg
I received various messages from people asking to boycott the brand, sign petitions, etc…. I refused to give that story a second of my day. Why?
I feel like like the mainstream media often feeds us what they want us to talk about when it suits them. This only takes away our focus from the bigger picture. And my bigger picture is development in Congo, education, building a brand of my own, etc… Of course, it is important for us to raise our concerns about what we see when we see it, but it needs to make sense. I was very disappointed to see videos of a black guy in South Africa going to an H&M store trashing everything.
1. He made no relevant point by doing so and probably was arrested for that behaviour. Another excuse for people to refer to “us” as savages.
2. The people working in that store were black people too and they had to clean up the mess. The company is too big for things like this to affect the decision makers.
I think what we should have done from that is ask ourselves, ‘when is the last time you bought clothing from a black owned business?” . If you can’t remember or the answer is “No” then basically have a sit and be quiet!
Range Rover, I read online did something once, where a guy left a white Range Rover near department store Harrods. On the car, there was red graffitis calling out a cheating boyfriend… This turned out to be fake for publicity and it worked.
People were taking pictures and sharing it online and with their friends. And guess what again? This brought sales to the company.
vandalized-range-rover-girlfriend-2
What is the big picture to you? For me, it is that we all need to buy from black owned businesses as much as we do the rest.
It seems like perhaps we simply don’t value ourselves enough and the results show. As an African designer, I see this everyday. We constantly need to explain why our prices aren’t as low as the high streets. We know deep down the customer knows the answer to that. We are not mass produced in China or else!
Most of us, work with small units and a group of seamstresses to make unique products. If you don’t see the value then there is no point of having a conversation.
Like Karl Lagerfeld once said, ” If you are cheap, nothing helps “.
Another big outrage happened early this year. The slavery in Libya.
The images which immersed, the videos, … etc… inadmissible. But not a surprise if you are keeping an eye on humans rights in the past years.
_99384633_handsinchainsgettyimages-884432302_976
I saw a heart breaking video of a young boy telling the world to stop bombing them because they are not terrorists. I just cried. Because really, what can we do? What do we really know?
Anyone who knows me, knows that my focus at the moment lies in Congo and thats a big enough pool of worries to solve. We all have a part in this.
And deep inside somewhere, we all know that any change needs to start with ourselves. We can no longer let the media, politics or anything dictate our behaviours. We can’t afford that.
Diversity around the world is not the minority group they want us to believe in. We are too many. We have a voice and buying power. The success of Black Panther just emphasised that factor. Maybe we are afraid of going for it, I don’t know what it will take nor how long. But things are changing. TV shows like EMPIRE, are showing us the successes (even if it is fictions) of black people out there.
How about we get more brainwash sessions from Oprah, P.Diddy, Jay-Z or any successful black businesses to remind us of our worth? Forget everything we learn to start from scratch and research who our ancestors were.
Slavery is something that happened to the African community, it is NOT who we are and NEVER represents where we are from. We need to educate ourselves. Research and research again so we can be informed.
There is not much left about the history of my country, but with the story of Queen Nzinga or Kimpa Vita, I know that Kongo was a KINGDOM. And today our resources became a curse that everyone wants to get a hold of, even if it means letting the people die. But thats a whole other subject.
I wanted to write this to simply voice this to anyone reading. Choose where you put your focus because your mind and your time are your most important assets.
Photos from Google search

What these women philanthropists did to empower others

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.