‘Women of Power’
Documentary Photojournalism project by Yana Binaev
Photography and Interviews: Yana Binaev

A short message from the photographer.

Muhammad Ali said, ‘He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life’.

I believe we are all born with talents and abilities that are unique only to each one of us.
The question is what does each one of us chooses to do with these abilities.

Throughout my life, I have witnessed people daring to discover themselves to different levels of depth and following their dreams only to a certain extent. In most cases, not allowing themselves to reach their full potential out of fear.
‘Women of Power’ is a Documentary Photography project that tells the personal and professional stories of eleven courageous women who decided to change their destinies and follow their dreams in spite of all difficulties.
My aim in this project was to break the illusion that successful roads are smooth and shiny.
Very often, those who watch from the side, forget about the hard reality that stands behind almost every successful story.

In the project, each one of the women is portrayed with five meaningful items of her choice through which she chooses to share her story accompanied with a short list of inspiring questions.
‘Women of Power’ project aims to break the stigma of a “superpower” that strong women have and demonstrate how simple and humane courageous women are.
While documenting and interviewing these eleven amazing women, I have discovered they have many things in common, but one that unites them all – what matters to them the most is people, their community, those who are around them. A simple coincidence or a leadership characteristic? In both cases, all of them value and build meaningful relationships around them.
I will sum up with one of my favorite quotes of all times,
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any”.
–Alice Walker

Yasmin

Yazzie Min – Spoken Word Artist and Founder of Stand for Humanity

Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
I am a woman of Indian descent, living in the UK.

I feel as my feet are in two worlds and it feels like a super power. My work is dedicated to that. I am a poet, a dancer, a speaker and a life coach, I am a founder of a humanitarian movement and an activist. They are all day to day jobs. Oh my God! This is way more than two sentences!

I am a woman who has a genuine love for humans and I spend my life using whatever part of me and whatever form of creativity that I can to help us remember our power as individuals to make change. That’s two sentences!

What matters to you the most?
I know this sounds cheesy. But it really is unity.


What inspires you the most?
I can’t think of any one thing. There are so many things. But if I would have to bring them into one it would be creativity. In all its forms, nature, humans, children. Children are a huge source of inspiration for me because I feel we all had it right in the beginning.

What scares you the most?
My own fear. Letting my own fear stop me from being all that I can be. Allowing my fears to be bigger than me.
What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?
Strongly build your own foundation within yourself. Be your own cheerleader. Your own source of self-belief rather than relying on other people. Not matter what people will say, you can always say, “yes, but I believe in me”. Nurture your self- belief, doing stuff you love.

You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.

This is really hard because I wanted to bring everything!

My first item is peacock feathers. They are super old. In most Indian households, you will grow up having them, everybody has them and as a kid, I would recognize them in every house I would go in. Back then, I thought, these are magic and, we have them because we got magic. As I got older, I obviously found out about the peacock bird and that is an Indian bird.

The second items is a ring, with a Labradorite stone which meant to be a crystal that has synchronicity and magic and I got it after doing a whole day dance class with year 7, 9 and 11 girls. It was the first time I taught dance and I was scared before I got there. It was an amazing experience, they were so fierce and I was so happy that I didn’t let fear get to me so on my way home I bought this ring as a no fear reminder.

Third item is a photo of girls from an orphanage. My sister and I were left alone there with 40 children for four weeks because of an emergency of the orphanage owners. These were amazing four weeks. This photo motivates me to keep doing what I am doing.

My fourth item is my journal, which also has peacock on it! I do like peacocks.
I have been writing since I was able to. If I can take one thing away with me, it would be my journal. I write every morning. It is my safety, I love writing.

The fifth thing are cards from people that matter to me. I have a huge wardrobe, which is all full of many cards with many words of love from my friends and family. And there is one card that I wrote to myself back in 2016 and every time I read it, I find a different message there.


Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.

Last year I got lost in my own fear and it was petrifying. I didn’t who I was. I felt like I disappeared somewhere and I didn’t know how to get me back. The experiences on the border of Calais with the immigrants at some point made me feel as I couldn’t carry any more the amount of pain and hurt that there is out there in the world and the suffer that people have. I couldn’t function, I always felt tired. But I knew I had to get myself out of that condition and so I did. I kept going and I eventually remembered why I am doing what I am doing.

Anushka

Anushka Sharma – Founder of Naaut

Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
I am an explorer, about to go on the biggest adventure of my life and I feel that my journey has only just begun and the time is now.

I set up Nauut as in Astronaut, which is really underlying for the work that I have done in the past four years in the space sector, which really is driven by a lifelong passion. I am all about innovation and technology. I dream about the possibilities that there are for us as humans.
Naaut is about taking technology that is space technology and applying it to benefit everyone else.

What matters to you the most?
Happiness and kindness.

What inspires you the most?
Everything from art, technology, getting lost in a gallery, finding old books, spending time with people that are way more intelligent than I am and having amazing conversations.

What scares you the most?
Lack of self-belief.

 
What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?

Be brave, and if you can’t be brave just tell yourself to be brave. There is so much power in having a word with yourself and even if you feel scared, have a quiet word with yourself.

You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.

My first items is one of my favorite poems in the world, it’s called Ulysses. It inspires me with the feeling of an adventure that it is never too late to follow your dreams.

My second item is a Polaroid picture of the moon that I took with a telescope.

The third item is one of my favorite books, Contact by Carl Sagan. Carl himself was an amazing figure in NASA. But what I love about this is that we are doing with machine learning and AI that is potentially going to help us in exploring other worlds.

The fourth item is my sweatshirt made for me by my friend with the logo NUSH that is a mimic of the NASA logo.

The fifth item is a special crystal that I have for so long but this one shoots special energy to me.


Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.

Taking the decision to make Naaut and put it out to the world. I decided to set my own labels, instead of letting people tell me who I am. Caring and feeling guilty was the hardest moment.

Pip

Pip Jamieson – Founder and CEO of The Dots

Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
Dyslexic, Sole Female Founder who founded The Dots. I live in a houseboat with my amazing husband in London and I am definitely an international citizen.

What matters to you the most?
I passionately believe in the business that I am building. I started The Dots because I believe in a different way of work. LinkedIn was designed around this very corporate, traditional,
CV based career way. When I was working in MTV, people who freelance and have different side hustles surrounded me. I never believed that wearing a white suite and having a fat cheque could buy happiness.  I wanted to create a platform where we celebrated each other’s differences. I believe in building The Dots for that next generation, in a professional network that is built around deeper values.


What inspires you the most?
Everything! My community and being out and about. Ideas can come from anything.
The new wave of companies is putting people first, which is what I am passionate about.
I believe in the power of creativity.

What scares you the most?
Failing in creating a better opportunity for my community. I fiercely believe in what I am building.

What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?
I am a non-techy person who started a business. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It has all been just a learning curve. If you are passionate about something and work hard, you can learn anything. I have now a portfolio of mentors that help in specific areas. Branding, communication, raising investment, tech. It’s about taking their advice and working out what’s the right path for you.


You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.
My first item is my glasses, which is one of my favorite items and I have them in more than one color.

My second item is my Talk Nerdy to Me illustration that my husband who knows me best bought for me. I like people being nerdy and passionate about what they are doing and talking nerdy to me.

My third item is my home, Horace the houseboat that is names after the Roman poet who wrote Carpe Diem.

My fourth item is my basket which I love taking to the farmers market with me. It’s very much of a grandma basket but it makes me so happy! (Laughs)
Sunday is the only day that I’m not working, when I have time to switch off, that’s when the basket come to use the most.

My fifth items is a photo of my mom. My mom was very ill and I have really lost her longer before she died, because she was no longer herself with the illness.

Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.
We developed a blind recruitment tech tool, to help avoiding companies making snap judgments. For example, with the name, Mark the probability is much higher to get the job, than if your name is Mohammed. There are so many layers that can bring to bias. We launched a bias free browsing mode where companies on The Dots can talk with having removed all the identifiable information. I made a massive mistake that when we released it, we probably didn’t communicate the whole background and thinking behind it well enough. We worked a lot on it, diversity partners joined us and there was a backlash on Twitter.
What was so painful about it, is that for me having a purpose holds me through all this journey. Having a situation like that one made me feel like, shit, what’s the point?
I am working so hard, I wish someone just picked up the phone and spoke to me about it. At the same time, there were people supporting me as well.
It was a hard bit, but then the positive comes through and it made me think more about the process and how we communicate it all and it has definitely brought me closer to the people who supported me.

Samira

Samira Musa- Producer and Co-Founder of The Creative Roots

 

Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
I am a creative storyteller and a producer. I direct all around business women.

What matters to you the most?
What matters to me the most and becomes a part of who I am is people. If you invest in people that will give you a better sense of self-worth.


What inspires you the most?
The drive and the tenacity of the creative industry. An industry that sometimes isn’t looked upon as profitable, actually is very profitable. Many creatives that spend a lot of their time with no money, nowhere to live sometimes, hustling so many worlds. And for me, that’s what inspires me.


What scares you the most?
Fear of failure. I thought I dealt with it years ago. Ticked the box. It has stopped me from moving forward in my career. It is something that I am diving deep into in my career. I put myself in situations when I can confront it.


What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?
To the young women who aspire to be doing what I am doing, I would like to say that it is not easy. There are times when you really doubt yourself, your ability, your drive. But there are people who are brought in to support you in that struggle and in that time and if you don’t have those people, search for them. Don’t close the door.


You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.
There are five items and each one of them represents a different part of my personality and myself.

The first item is my rings. They tell a story and each ring has a different story.

My phone is my second item, it’s probably the least personable item but I haven’t changed my number for over ten years. Everything is on my phone, work, friends, and social media.
Sometimes if I have a moment when I can’t get out of my own head, I need to talk. But I need to talk at someone not to someone. Without any body reaction, so sometimes I just need to talk it out. So I record myself on the phone. It’s an amazing tool.

My third item is a singing bowl. You hold it in your palm and hit it, and the vibrations of your palm allows you to meditate. The sounds and the vibrations allow you to focus. It’s a routine that I do daily, I practice yoga and meditation and finish with the bowl before I get on with my day.

The next item is a book by a dear friend, Clemantine Wamariya, which is called, The Girl Who Smiled Beads. It’s very personal, she is a phenomenal woman. Her story is very relatable to me because she talked about her journey from Rwanda to the United States and who she is now and I related to it because I am from Somalia and I came to the UK from a country that was in a was condition. But what this book made me realize is how much privilege I had as a refugee, which is quite hard to say. But there are different levels to it. We had a bit of a rough time but we got on a plane and got to London. I was amazed to learn what people had to go through. Being held by warlords, beatings, going through different towns. I can’t even put the story into simple few words.

My last item are my boxing mitts, I picked these because I have a very active lifestyle. Every time I go to a session, I also feel like I can do more, it’s such a place where people put pressure on you and just can’t stop yourself and your body from stretching it to an end. I do four classes a week and yoga is happening every morning.


Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.
I was working in a branding agency. We were working on a big piece, very intensely, five different time zones involved, a lot of pressure. Then I was told I am going to keep working on it on my own as my colleague was going on holiday. I was terrified to be left alone. My CEO just said, you will be fine. I could have given up, kept pulling through, and I just made it and learned so much about myself at such a young age as it was my first proper job.

Deborah

Deborah Okenla – Founder and CEO of YSYS


Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
I am the Founder and CEO of YSYS, which stands for Your Start-up, Your Story.
We are a start-up community of entrepreneurs, innovators, marketers, investors on a mission to make change. What we do is we mobilize and engage our community to work towards eco system transformation within the start-up community, which mainly is diversity, inclusion and social change.


What matters to you the most?
My community, I am obsessed with them. Every single individual. Their platforms and well-being. And black womanhood- I want to make sure that the future of tomorrow have blueprints of what success looks like personally and professionally.


What inspires you the most?
Community. I can’t help it. My community and their success. They inspire me and the brave steps they take.

 
What scares you the most?
My organization dying, that scares me. Because if my organization dies I will like the mission we are working towards will have one less player to help it become a reality, which is to create an equal tech sector.


What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?

I love that question because on a recent panel and they asked me what would I tell to my 18 year old self and I said that, the thing that you think makes you awkward is actually your super power. What you think makes your different and unique – zoom straight into it.
Super powers are meant to be unique.


You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.

My first item is a journal that my boyfriend bought for me in the Black Girl Festival, which is an amazing event for black girls, covering all sectors. This is so important to me now because going through a stressful time, knowing that I can write everything there, makes me feel more empathetic with my thoughts and aligning with myself.

The second item is a little statue of the Vatican City. I went there recently with my boyfriend Andy who took me there. When I started YSYS, I wanted the membership of YSYS to be a country and make it be one legally. Vatican City is the smallest country in the world with a population of 1000, so I knew that reaching 1001 members; we will be able to call it a country. Looking at this statue reminds me of what the end goal is.

My third item is my beats headphones, also a gift from my boyfriend Andy (laughs). Always wanted a pair. These are special because Serena Williams had these ones in a leopard print and I love her, because of the way she is showcasing herself today as a black woman who is often penalized for often being great. It is quite sad sometimes but she keep pioneering and keeps being crazy, as she likes saying. Because that crazy is going to help you win more. And of course listening to music, podcasts and music calms me so much.

My fourth item is my mobile phone, because it has the Slack channel through which I can communicate with the entire YSYS community. I can communicate with my friends and as I live quite far outside of London, I get a lot of work and notes done on my phone.

The fifth and last item, is a book called “Take what you need” by Abiola Babarinde who is part of our community. I love the things that my community creates and it really inspires me. I am always a big champion. She took time out of her professional work to write this book, and one of her quotes in page 66 says,
‘There is more magic in letting the process take you to where you need to be,
than exhausting the your existence rushing after what was already yours’.

 
Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.
I was working for an organization; I was so passionate to work there. While working there, I experienced a lot of gas lighting and many micro-aggression and I ended up deciding to leave. I didn’t really know what am I going to do but I kept planting seeds.
The next day after leaving, I went to meet Dirk, who runs Hatch Enterprise. I was quite stressed, but we had a chat over a coffee in his new co-working space and an idea came to mind about starting a campaign and bring 25 women together to diversify entrepreneurship and make it special for women of color. We did it.  Through this campaign, I learned so much from these 25 women. The campaign portraying all those women lead to getting funding from NatWest and launching an accelerator specifically for women of color and that was called the BAME Female Founders Incubator supported by EBay, NatWest and Google For Start-ups. The launch of that event helped my organization and every time I look back, I realize that it was the soul food that I needed. I was really doubting myself and it just took 25 inspiring women to remind me what we are doing this for and remind me of my capabilities.

Kike

Kike Oniwide – Founder and CEO of BYP Network

 

Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
I am a 26 years old British - Nigerian who wants to change the world. That’s one sentence, that’s all what I want to say.


What matters to you the most?
Equality. It’s a weird thing. The fight for equality. Giving makes me happy, solving problems.

What inspires you the most?
People who are thinking outside the box, who are being fearless knowing the risks of putting ideas out there. People who don’t stay still and keep moving.


What scares you the most?
Raising my ambition, as funny as it sounds. Because that ambition has to be realized and that is quite scary at the same time in terms of responsibilities. But I have to go forward with that.


What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?
Step outside of your comfort zone. If you have an idea, step outside and speak about it.
Your ideas are valid and you do matter. If you see a problem, you are the one that should fix it. Just go forward with that no matter what the risks are.


You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.
My first item is my Florida jersey. Before Florida I was in the UK, I was an International Athlete but also had very good grades. But my identity was very centered on me being a sports person. Florida was a turning point. It was a moment where I was able to see other things except of sports and became a defining moment in my life.

My second item is my BYP Network flyer, I had the idea and I wanted an app to connect all the black young professionals in the world, and a year later I had the app out, even though I didn’t know how to. I am still on that journey but looking back at this flyer it is a nice reminder that the idea came and I got it done.

My third item is the book ‘Slay in your lane’ by Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke,
I just love what they did here. I’m inspired by people who think outside the box and do something different and for them to do this and champion black girls all around the UK is so important cause we need representation and we don’t have it and for them to highlight it, I think it was really amazing.

My next item is my SKY cup, I became a Sky Woman Technology scholar nearly a year ago now and I didn’t know what to expect from it but I knew this is a great opportunity and they have been incredible to me. Being part of SKY has been incredible for BYP Network.

My final item is my vision board for 2019. I like this vision board because we did it on our vision board workshop. We had around 40 people and the atmosphere was very inspiring and spiritually connected. My vision for this year is very focused on giving- it says, use your power for good, tech entrepreneur goes global, solve problems for Africa. Very much about the things, I want to do, to help the community.


Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.

My hardest moment was when I was at the University of Nottingham, I was in my second year. At that time, I was supposed to go to Harvard University but because everything turned out last minute and I wouldn’t have been able to start until I finished Nottingham, it made no sense. In the second year I fractured my back, lost my coach, my grades were terrible, as my identity was focused on sports, it was a very hard time. I remember I was walking up the hill and I just made a decision to give my everything to get back on track. I worked so hard, I don’t think I ever worked that hard. I managed to get my scholarship to Florida. It was the moment when I realized I can do anything I put my mind on.

Milana

Milana Karaica – Founder of NERD Productions


Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
I always seek. Whether it is creative, talent, opportunities, answers. I look for things. I am an observer. I like to empower people to be the best version of themselves.


What matters to you the most?
Family. I don’t necessary mean your blood family. For me it’s my immediate family, my dearest closest friends and my work family because we spend so much time together and always have each other’s back.

What inspires you the most?
People. There is nothing better than sitting down and having a conversation. It will always teach you something new.


What scares you the most?
I have an irrational fear of failure. It is irrational, because, to fail is to learn. There is no such thing as to fail, you do a trial run and you do something again. Something different.


What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?
It took me a long time to learn this one. Because of all the pressure we are under, we are forever trying to fit into a box. Even on paper, we are immediately fit into a box and categorized. Every form we fill out categorizes us into Black, White, Mixed or other. Later it starts being about a social class and so on. We try so hard to fit into these boxes instead of giving the value to the special things that each one of us brings along. We try to fit in so much. After all these years I have realized it’s ok to be different. I am a massive equality advocate.


You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.
My first item is my engagement ring because, without my other half, I wouldn’t have been here today. He supported me through the hardest time of my career. Without him, none of this would have been possible. When things were difficult, he was the one to encourage me the most.

My second item is the photo of my sister and me. She is the younger sister, but she is my forever partner in crime and best friend. She is a hilarious person. She is very honest and approachable. She is a big influence in my life.

My third item is my little house chain, I bought a house when I was going through a divorce, as an attempt to not feel as a total failure at that time, that was my solution and I planned to make it to be a nice place before I am 30. I never actually had a proper home before that. Coming from a country that was a war zone, and then being an immigrant. Buying a house made me feel like I really have a home, even though it is just a physical home.

My fourth item is my Nerd cup, because when I was growing up being a nerd was not cool but as I have grown, I became proud about being obsessively working on something and being obsessed about animation, which is a form of expression. When a colleague of mine bought me the cup, I thought that’s actually very much me.

My fifth item is my Mickey Mouse pillowcase and it is my oldest possession.
I don’t remember where do I have it from but, we lost our house in the war. I was five when the war started. The house was destroyed; we lived in the part of Croatia that was essentially the war zone between Croatia-Serbia and Bosnia. Not the best part to live in.
When the gunfire started, we went to hide in the forest, but we didn’t think we wouldn’t come back to our house. My father was at the front lines, we didn’t even know he was alive until much later, it was only my mother and my sister at that point. After that, we fled to Serbia as we had some family there, and luckily, my parents were united again.
Being of Croatian nationality but of Serbian heritage wasn’t of the most pleasant thing to be, no one likes you. Messed up situation.
My parents struggled for a few years there but when Serbia got bombed in 1999, that’s when we decided to come here, to the UK. Years after, when my mum went back there, she found this pillowcase among the ruins of our house.


Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.
It was the time when I worked for about eleven years in a company that grew into an international giant and I was being promised I would make a partner, but my boss didn’t keep that promise. Instead, he vanished, moved countries, didn’t pay us, and left me as the face of the company putting all the blame on me. My other half was the person who stood behind me along with some of my dearest friends now, who are some of the most talented Directors and Illustrators that I work with. While I was depressed they were, the ones lift me up saying that I am the one that helps everyone with confidence problems and reminds them that they are good enough. They said, “We need a home, we need somewhere to work”. That is how NERD Productions started.

Claudine

Claudine Adeyemi – Founder of Career Ear

 

Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
I am a young, Black, ambitious woman, who is passionate about impact particularly in relation to young people but also has a weird geeky side and interested in the law.

What matters to you the most?
People. Having an impact on people, that drives many of the actions that I take. I get a great buzz out of connecting and helping people.

What inspires you the most?
People. In the sense of seeing other people taking actions and achieving things.

What scares you the most?
Nothing really scares me. I believe in God and I believe that he has a plan for us all. I am here to deliver my purpose and be the best version of me, and I really believe that everything happens for a reason. I take each day as it comes, but the thought of an ultimate failure does scare me, dying knowing that I have done nothing and contributed nothing.


What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?
Do something. Find something that you are passionate about and do something about it. No matter how small it is. Any cause that you are passionate about.


You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.
My first item is a book called Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, because I remember to this day how I felt while reading this book as a teenager. She used to write many young teenage books and I read them all. It dealt creatively with racism and it was the first time that I was introduced with the concept. It flips society, where a black girl falls in love with a white boy but in that book, black people are the elite, and that opened my eyes to diversity and equality. Not too long ago I had the chance to meet her in person.

My second item is my Eeyore teddy bear,  I chose this item because when I was a child I was obsessed with teddy bears and I used to force my brother to play with me. I chose Eeyore in particular because of what it symbolizes as I have gone through a long period in my childhood known as the moody one. Which I had to internalize and that fueled my obsession with the Eeyore character. 

My third item is my favorite pair of high heels, which I haven’t worn for a while but I have had those heels for years. I bought them around the time when I left home and started getting independence, started going out clubbing. It was just a moment of my life when I started growing up and changed from being a complete tomboy into wearing dresses and heels.

My fourth item is my law society certificate. I included that because it is an essential part of an experience of my life. I wanted to be a lawyer from the age of eleven so that was the ultimate goal and also achieving that, I thought I actually made my mum proud. But I still felt that I haven’t done anything yet, it’s only after I was admitted into being a solicitor that I thought, it is safe to say, she would be proud of me.

My fifth item is the flyer of my start up Career Ear, which is what I live and breathe now. It is a start-up which is a careers advice and recruitment platform with the aim of breaking the barrier that young people face when seeking for careers advice, and opportunities with supporting employers to be recruiting from a wider range of talent.   

Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.
I left home when I was 16, and at some point, I was living in a hostile environment. I had major destruction around me but I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I had the option to stop partying, and having fun with other girls in the hostel. What helped me to overcome that hard time was that I desperately wanted to make sure that my mum, who passed when I was five, would be proud of me. I really wanted to make sure that I grew into someone that she could be proud of. Plus, I had the goal of becoming a lawyer since I was very young. None of that destruction fit in with who I am anyway, so I got myself straight and achieved my grades.

Mansata

Mansata Kurang - Founder and CEO of VR Revival

Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
I am from Gambia, West Africa. My background is creative technologies and I am very passionate about using technology to help with dementia and mental health issues in Africa and the UK.

What matters to you the most?
People unlocking their full potential. Especially young people.

What inspires you the most?
People becoming what they are meant to be inspires me.

What scares you the most?
The fear would be not meeting my potential. Not having enough time to do all that I want to do.

What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?
I have this belief, you can see it, you can be it. It’s important to have a role model.

You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.
My first item is my dreams stone, it’s something I carry with me wherever I go and I discovered that the most important thing to me is reaching my potential.

The second item is my journal; because I think it is very important to journal and put down our failures and successes. On the bad days, I can read all the amazing things I have done, it will put me up and on the good days, it adds humility.

The third item is a picture of my family on my sisters’ graduation. My sister is my best friend and seeing her graduating in spite of all her struggles is very meaningful to me and feels like my own success.

The fourth item is my laureate award of Women of Africa, I was selected to represent my homeland, Gambia. It gave me a lot of exposure and connection because so many people reached out to me after.

The fifth item is my mobile phone, it’s valuable to me and of course in our generation the phone helps so much to manage a busy life and keep in touch with family that lives far away.


Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.
Last year, when I started setting up my company, I had another two co-founders who decided at some point that they don’t want me in the project anymore, in spite of the fact that this idea was initiated by all of us. For me it is a real life mission, and they didn’t see it this way.
I could have given up but I decided to continue, in spite of not having the technical skills required for that. The truth is that they just left it and never kept working on it. For me, it’s a lifelong dream on which I am working on daily.

Rachael

Rachael Corson – Co-Founder of Afrocenchix  

Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
I am a Ghanaian – Londoner, I live with my Welsh husband and our two beautiful children.
I run a small company and I write science fiction.

What matters to you the most?
Relationships. God and people.


What inspires you the most?
I get a lot of inspiration from nature and from stories, hearing what people have been through and how they overcame it. My children inspire me, I love seeing how everything excites them. Seeing how everything is happening in nature even when no one is watching, unlike most things in our society. It reminds me of how things don’t need to be watched to be valuable.

What scares you the most?
My biggest fear would be being alone. Being in need and having no one around to help. That’s a deep rooted fear of mine.

What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?
There are no super women; everyone who has achieved anything has failed a lot trying so many things. I think that if you want to achieve anything and make the world a better place, then know that there are going to be failures. My message will be, keep going. Stay humble and keep going, there is always so much more you can do. 

You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.
Family is really important to me, my origins, and my small family that me and my husband created. My first item is a frame that says the Corson family in Welsh, that’s a gift from my sister in law.
The second item is the Dutch Delft – it’s a beautiful ornamental china that also represents that side of my family.

My third item is the Kente, which represents the Ghanaian part in me. I just love Kente and how symbolic it is.

My guitar is my next item. I feel that I am most creative when I dive deep into creating music and writing. My husband bought it for me so it has an extra layer of importance.

My fifth item is the Bible, I became a Christian when I was 21. I was quite put off by religion up until that point, but I studied the bible before making that decision. I was seeking God. On the day that I got baptized, this bible was given to me and I used to take it everywhere with me until it became a joke because it got so old and beaten down that everyone used to say, Rachael is bringing her papyrus scroll.


Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.
I suffer from depression that lead to many hard experiences in my life that affected me a lot. After graduation, I lived with my business partner for a year after university, and our flat flooded, her father came and picked her up to their family home and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I was technically homeless so I sofa surfed with friends. Sometimes I would go to church with my suitcase on a Sunday and people would ask me if I have anywhere to stay. It wasn’t that long of a period in my life. It was about a month and a half until I found a place to stay. Even though I had the support, it brought up a lot of pain from my childhood that wasn’t resolved. There was a time when I was 14 and we were homeless. It reminded me of that and it took me into a bad depression. It was a really difficult time. Simple questions like how am I would make me burst in tears. Being able to pray and have support through church helped a lot. Also I met my husband at that time and developed a friendship. I overcame it with good relationships and lots of prayer.

Nim

Nim Haas - Head of Marketing at Global Processing Services

Tell me about yourself in two sentences.
I am multicultural mess and I think that my background and the way I grew up, is what enabled me to embrace diversity.
I am originally Thai and I was adopted by chance. The girl my parents came to adopt, they thought at that time that she died, only many years after we found out that, she was alive but that’s another story.
My adopteive dad is German and my adoptive mother is originally half Moroccan, half Spanish-Turkish with Jewish origins.

What matters to you the most?
My daughter.

What inspires you the most?
Other people.

What scares you the most?
Narrow mindlessness.

What would be your message to other young women who aspire to be doing what you are doing?
Believe in yourself, there will be good days and bad days. Even in the bad days continue believing in yourself and be passionate about what you are doing. Always know there will be someone who is actually looking up to you.


You chose five items through which you want to share your story. Tell me about them, and why did you choose these items.
My first item is a card that my best friend Robin and her family gave me. I love the card because it really reflects a lot about me. It says that they love me like family and that means a lot in a city where everyone is a stranger and I have no family around.

When I moved to Singapore, I had a moment of hesitation in my career when I was going to work in a major Marketing agency, I didn’t know if I want to continue doing it. I used to do a lot of abstract work on Adobe Photoshop and printing those out on acrylic. I made this object very discreet so I can have it in the office and no one could tell what it was, when it’s actually my daughter when she was born and I am holding her but no one can see it, it’s really abstract. That’s my second item.

My third item is a book. When I was ten, my mum gave me a book that became my favorite. It’s The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It talks about family, giving, self-knowledge, joy and sorrow. It has a lot of meaning to me.

My fourth item is a bracelet that is very spiritual to me, that my mum bought me and I believe it protects me. I am coming from a very Sephardi, North African house. My mum always said, be careful with your achievements and people watching you. She was always weary of the evil eye.

My last item is a necklace with a stone that my partner gave me. The stone is very dear to my heart because my partner is very special to me. This stone soothes me and calms me down in difficult moments. 


Tell me about a hard moment you had and were about to give up and how you overcame it.
I had a bad accident when I was in my early 20’s. I was pushed off and ended up in the hospital for 3 months, and spent nearly a year and a half in a wheel chair. The doctors wanted to amputate my leg. I have no mobility on my left ankle; I can’t stand for too long and I have crutches which became a huge part of my life. If I walk for an hour, I can’t walk the next day. Being disabled became the hardest time of my life, but I overcame it.

Very big thank you to all of the powerful and unique women who took part in this project, it was a special honor to document you and share a piece of your power with the world. Thank you for being Women of Power.

Special thanks to Samira Musa for supporting the project.
‘Women of Power’ is in Partnership with The Creative Roots.

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