Empowering and inspiring women

Our stories can change the world is a campaign to inspire, encourage and connect with each other through our journey stories, highlighting challenges, nuggets of wisdom and what it was like on the road to achievements.  

Founder – Mariatu Turay-Akar

This campaign has been on my mind for quite some time and links into our ‘BE Bold, WIN, Wear Colour’ call.  I wanted to share something much greater than me – the collective power of our stories.  The conviction that this was the next step for me, came when I finally had the courage to share my own story publicly. I was surprised at how many women and men connected with me and found courage and inspiration from what I’d shared. So last year, I finally started to invest in my dream when I asked a few ladies to be a part of our campaign. Most of the stories you’ll read about or hear, are from customers of mine now, some have become friends and you may get a glimpse of how our divine energies have impacted each other. 

However, this is how it came about, but before I give you a glimpse of that, there is a slice of wisdom I’d like to share with you – there is value in using your talents or gifts or doing what you do diligently; because as you employ what sets you apart, you grow from a single stem to becoming a stem with branches. The book of Matthew 25: 14 – 28 is about the parable of the bags of gold, which captures this point elegantly. There is value in this parable for Christians and non-Christians alike, as it’s a nugget about life. What you use, will become useful to you. What you don’t use, you’ll never know the value of. I now try to capture this point through a snippet of my own story below and how it’s got me to starting this campaign.

When I started Gitas Portal many years ago (and then it wasn’t called Gitas Portal), it was just a hobby that started in our home. I wasn’t any good at the other stuff I’ve now grown to master. I was just passionate about using colourful bold prints to create stuff. As I invested more time in my passion and people reacted well and not so well, I started to venture out of our home and took chances showing my work in local markets, popups and across festivals, some of which (fast forward to present) have been overseas. It’s not been glamorous by any stretch of the imagination but I’ve had a sense of joy and freedom doing what I love and being able to share it across the world.  The reason I share this with you also, is to encourage and inspire you to start whatever you are sitting on. No one is born ready-made, most achieve their dreams by going after them and sometimes the hand we get can be pretty messed up, but it doesn’t matter. Use the hand you’ve got. Others may have a good hand but they have still got to invest in themselves and their dreams to see them come true.

However, it was not till I ventured out of my home, that another dream of mine began to make sense and started to take shape. My dad always teased when I was younger that I would win any court case by talking my point to death – of course this also means I’m resilient if I believe in something. So, it was only natural that in an environment where I’d meet lots of people, my curiosity would take over. You see I love talking to people, it’s in my genes and through this love, I’ve met so many incredible, humble people in my line of work that have inspired me – I mean people like you and me – not celebrities or high flyers etc; but people who are both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. They are vulnerable but yet still fighters, diligently impacting the lives of those around them – sometimes despite the incredible challenges they’ve gone through. Some are the once broken, who’ve refused to stay down – the unsung heroes. These women have made me cry with their stories, made me stronger by their humility and power, inspired me and most importantly, affirmed that our stories were meant to be written just the way they are, so that we can inspire and help set others free.

So, no matter where you are at in your journey, don’t give up on yourself – you are a masterpiece in the making and you are phenomenal too or on your way to becoming phenomenal wherever you are. Your story is not insignificant – all you have to do is pass the baton on. Our stories are meant to be shared so we all rise together.

If you want to share your story as there is someone it will inspire and empower, or connect you with, please reach out to us, but make it a habit of sharing.

This is her story……

Meet Hawa Turay – Health Carer
I want to encourage women about life. I’m from a beautiful country called Sierra Leone and I just want to give a little of my life story. I first came to the UK when I was seven and went back to Sierra Leone when I was seventeen for a holiday and got stranded there, as my father believed I would be better off in Sierra Leone. Things were very difficult for me during this time – relearning the different culture and language. I had left my friends in London and a way of life that I was accustomed to. However, I was able to make the best life for myself that I could.

In 1991, civil war broke out in Sierra Leone and I was caught up in it. It was a very dreadful time as I witnessed young children and adults being killed, limbs being  hacked off.

READ HER FULL STORY HERE (1.5 min read)

Meet Alimatu Dimonekene – Women’s Rights Advocate
“Life will be ok and people do care and will love you no matter what. Don’t be scared to pursue your dreams. Always go for what you want.”

Alimatu Dimonekene is an Award-winning Women and Girl’s Rights Advocate. She is a tireless activist who is dedicating her life’s purpose to enhancing the reproductive rights of women and girls especially those affected by harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation\cutting (FGM/C) with child and early forced marriage and exploitation.

READ HER FULL STORY HERE (1.5 min read)

 

Meet Sonia Meggie – Diversity Consultant/ Founder Inspirational You and FunkyNChunky

A challenge that made me see and approach life differently was in one of my first roles after University I was referred to as a Coloroid in reference to my ethnicity.  It was one of the most hurtful things that I had been called, especially in the workplace.  I soon quit that job and was fuelled with purpose to make a difference in the workplace for other black professionals.  It made me determined to empower women and young people to progress in competitive industries and sectors.  When I had my daughter, I made a personal commitment to myself to ensure that I would work hard to ensure that she was filled with confidence and had access to opportunities.  I believe in the African proverb “It takes a village” and often used this approach in her upbringing.  I continue to ensure that she and other young people meet and listen to senior leaders who can inspire them with their future career choices.

Wisdom nugget
Tell yourself YES.  Whenever doubt or naysayers come your way, try anyway. Take a leap of faith.  Look back on life and say “I tried or I did it!”.  Create moments and memories.  Finally never be afraid to ask for help.

READ HER FULL STORY HERE (1.5 min read)

 

Meet Sarah Eckert-Moore – Events & Artist Manager / Philanthropist

Strengths come in many guises:- I have always had a strong rebellious streak which over the years has sometimes caused me to take a course of action ‘just because’ or as a response to being told not to. This has caused me a lot of pain at times when I have made an ill-considered decision but also opened up doors and huge possibilities. When I was 17 I decided on a whim to hitch hike from my home in Bristol around Europe for 3 month, this led me into a few dangerous situations but taught me that I am strong, resilient and resourceful when I need to be and the bad experiences were totally outweighed by the amazing people I met who showed me nothing but kindness.

Giving back: – I believe we all have to give back, we cannot just take. It just doesn’t work!  That is why I devote a lot of my time to working and raising money for charities. So I am also proud of the fact I climbed and reached the top of Kilimanjaro in 2015, I did this for charity with Eddie Nestor MBE, his wife and our fitness instructor Dave McQueen.  We raised £40,000 for charity.  I also co-produced 11 shows at Hackney Empire over the years raising over £100,000 for a small impoverished town in Ghana.  I am currently a very active trustee of the Rudolph Walker Foundation which aims to improve the lives and aspirations of young people through drama.

READ HER FULL STORY HERE (2 min read)

 

Meet Patrice Lawrence – award winning writer. UK. 

 It’s never late: – “Orangeboy, my debut novel for young adults won the Waterstones Prize for Older Fiction and the YA Bookseller prize as well as being shortlisted for Costa Children’s prize and a number of other prizes. This all happened as my 40s drew to a close. I have been writing as long as I could write. Life circumstances has meant big time gaps between writing opportunities. I studied for an MA in Writing for TV and Film while working and with a one-year-old child. I gained a Distinction. I received a bursary from the BBC to explore comedy opportunities and an Arts Council grant for time to write my first novel. As my daughter turned four, I became a single parent and my
focus was on her and trying to financially survive in London. I consciously side-lined my first love, writing and hoped it would still be waiting for me later. It was.” 

Wisdom nugget: – “…try and be kind, try and be patient and remember how it feels to be the outsider. With the success of my books, I’d add – pass it on. All the young women who tell me they write, ‘but I’m not very good’. I want them to know they are good. They are finding their voice and their words. It is good and necessary.” 

READ HER FULL STORY HERE (3 min read)