African Women in Europe 2018

 

Two African Women in Europe, Josephine Karianjahi and AWE Co-Founder Joy Zenz
Two African Women in Europe, the author and AWE Co-Founder Joy Zenz

A decade ago, Joy Zenz and her co-founder Wambui Njau had a vision to bring together African women from across Europe in friendship, and to build community away from home. Today, African Women in Europe (AWE) have a square of the internet that is purely dedicated to their lives and their shared sisterhood.

On the last Saturday of June in Amsterdam a summit and celebration gala brought many of these women (and a few men) together to mark 10 years of AWE. Every attendee was greeted with a warm hug and a welcome to the workshop. Despite being total strangers, it felt like walking into a family reunion. There were a lot of breaks, and delicious food and snacks between to season the numerous chats and rich affirmation.

African Women in Europe
African Women in Europe 10th Anniversary Summit

Maggie Mulwa started us off with a talk on Discovering Your Talent, Gift and Strength.  She cuts a figure of a woman who knows her why, and it encouraged us to think beyond one’s training, or experience for talents and skills which help us create daily, and which can help one generate an income. She celebrated all those who work in fields where one needs not only talent, but a calling – like teachers and nurses, recognising that the things that lie in each of us are great.

Over the first tea break, I met women from Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe and we bonded over our shared Ankara outfits. No doubt we were ready to meet one another in amazing bespoke outfits. We laughed together like old friends and shared a light moment trying to get the very fancy and efficient coffee machine to work. Did I mention fresh cinnamon sticks for those like me who love herbal teas? 

Steve Odhiambo, an e-health startup founder entrepreneur who has created the African Investor Master Class led a capital-centred session. He asked us to focus on capital endeavors here, including for-profit entities such as cooperatives or small businesses as applicable. He wants to see more Africans investing in Europe while we are here, even as we invest in our home countries, and ventures in those areas. Statistically, right now in Germany 50% of new businesses are started by people with a Migrationshintergrund (migration background) , yet only 2% are started by Africans – even though those started by Africans invested among the highest amount of startup capital in their ventures.

Beside Steve was his wife, Mercy Odhiambo, founder of Nafrobox.de, a beauty and lifestyle product subscription box product lovers. I got to talking to her about the product box, and for those who have been searching for products that are good for you, and to feed your product habit, this is it.

Laura Tinzoh, a Köln based author and motivational speaker took the podium with a stirring presentation on how to soar higher. Trained as a food scientist, Laura brings much precision to exposing the elements of a life well lived.

Laura Tinzoh, Motivational Speaker and Panelist African Women in Europe
Laura Tinzoh, Motivational Speaker and Panelist

Based on her life experiences in Germany and in her home country, she wove a beautiful narrative of the things we need to love in order to soar higher. Her presentation was creatively put together by one of her sons, and it was a terrific example of talent right at home. Do you collaborate with the young adults in your life to learn from them? Laura did! As for the elements of love – Ourselves, positivity, standing out(because of your talent), challenges and forgiveness were the top five. Her September 2018 Women Empowerment Summit is in Köln.

Over lunch, I got to hear one of the co-founders, Wambui Njau share about her experiences with AWE to date. Wambui Njau Co-Founder AWE

Two African Women in Europe, Josephine Karianjahi and AWE Co-Founder Wambui Njau
The author with AWE Co-Founder Wambui Njau

After lunch, we moved into a young adult section which was led by Malkia Jeri Designs founder Njeri who shared her career journey with us. She moved to Europe with her family, and although she knew she has an entrepreneurial and creative fashion side, she has also worked on building her fashion to include both African and Western designs. She stressed the importance of keeping close with her mentors, and also making sure that we always incorporate the elements of style within our day to day fashion. We also had a fun Gele/Headtie tying contest!

Youth motivational speaker Victoria Nkatha spoke at length about youth and depression. While this topic seems to be more common among pop culture, she shared the experience that she has as a young woman who came out of her teen years while living here in Europe with her family. She talked about the struggle to maintain identity and the ways that one can try and be understood. For the parents reading this, I saw her takeaway as a call to keep asking after ones children on a daily and continuous basis.

African Women in Europe Attendees
African Women in Europe Attendees

On matters legal, Jennifer Obaseki aims to increase the number of black judges in Europe. As a solicitor and owner of her own law firm, she wants more people across Europe to take advantage of work experiences at different firms. Her office welcomes enquiries about students who can take up work experiences. She also encouraged us to adopt business strategies in our work, in particular knowing the plan, the budget and the value proposition of all our ventures. She let us in on her start as a law firm owner with 3,000 Pounds and a bank overdraft, to its growth to the point of employing lawyers and other staff. A ‘Mom on the Run’ she reminded us to learn about how to get clients on the internet, and to learn how automation can make the difference between new business and our current way of seeking out new clients with old techniques. You can find her at Legalpaal and engage her firm Obaseki Solicitors.

African Women in Europe Book

AWE has written a volume of African Women in Europe containing autobiographical snapshots of a sample of the members. You can buy the book from the organization here

As such, it was not a stretch of the imagination to walk through a ‘Write Your Own Book’ session with author Cecelia Mwaniki on reading and writing our own books. For those of us who are always on our phones or watching TV and catching up on the Netflix queue, you can relate to not being able to read paper and other physical books the way we consume digital content. She called to mind the great writers of the past and the fact that their work survives them. I was happy to get a few tips on how to read offline – in a no-distraction room, taking occasional notes, and even make sure that this is a physical print of the book.

Finally, we had a session on financial freedom with Mema Ngunga. Thinking about money really should not be an exercise in frustration or anxiety. She offered some concrete tips on how to apportion money – 50% needs, 20% savings and investment, 30% leisure. She had some solid tips for how to start creating financial freedom, having a passive income in your lie. You can learn more about her and book some personal finance review time using Facebook: African Professionals in Germany 

Throughout the workshop, you would just be able to turn and meet new people. I met a home health entrepreneur, a humanitarian worker on home leave, a children’s author, registered nurses and teachers, grandmothers, mothers, daughters, clergy members and many other new friends. Afterwards, there was an evening program which I could not unfortunately attend. I left recharged and excited to connect and take home all the lessons, joy and sisterhood in that workshop. I even learned how to tie my hair differently. If this post has made you plan to attend 2019 AWE – get in touch with them and book as soon as registration opens up.

Thanks to Mkenya Ujerumani, the leading site for Kenyans living in Germany.

Have you interacted with African women in Europe who inspire you? Please share your experience in the comments section.

New to this blog? Get to know me a little better and read some posts that may be your next opportunity (Click to learn more!)

xo

Josephine

 

 

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2018 Reads

If I told you to start your year with a book in hand, which one would it be? Better yet, have you just made a resolution to read 52 books in 2018? Good on you! I have every intention of keeping up my own reading. If you have not yet started reading, or dropped reading a while ago, welcome back.

As an adult reader, I started looking at writers who put black and African diaspora protagonists at the forefront of their stories.When I was at school, my primary and secondary schools each had a well stocked library and the curriculum had us in the library for the national radio weekly lesson. Even now, I marvel at how a public school in Kenya in the 1990s had such foresight. One of the most popular collections was the African Writers’ Series. At that time, I knew little about writers from other parts of Africa, and I was especially taken by the stories of adventures in West Africa and South Africa through writers like Achebe, and Gordimer. These short books, often 100-200 pages long planted a connection with the rest of Africa, and the idea that the lives we lived were ordinary and yet extraordinary enough for someone to write about.  I am still looking for stories like these.

 

Never having been much of a sci-fi reader, I have now finished Octavia Butler”s Parable of the Sower, and I have just started Parable of the Talents. Last year, I had the pleasure of picking up a couple of her books at a terrific price, on Kindle Day. Butler, a MacArthur Genius Fellowship awardee (1995) was until her passing on in 2006 a brilliant writer of science fiction.  She used to affirm herself, writing famously : ” I am a bestselling writer, I write bestselling books”, noted by NPR in 2017 as one way that she writes herself into her story. I am enjoying reading her rendering of life in 2026, which startlingly captures a few too-close-to-real events we have already seen in 2018, yet she wrote this in 1993. She writes a future much like the world we live in, where there is racial and gender diversity and everyone has to do their part to make each dystopian future liveable. If I find myself in Southern California, I will surely visit the Huntington, where her papers have resided since 2008

Free books! What? A book at no cost to you – especially after you compile a book list at least 100 titles long? (Looking at myself as I write this to you!) While in Kenya this past Christmas, I captured my very own free e-reader. Well, actually, I learned about World Reader, which boasts a library of over 40,000 books in 43 Languages at no cost, and in partnership with authors, publishers and other friends. How cool. I cannot wait to put some titles on a smart device and hit the year reading everywhere.

I hope you can start on your own list of books to read this year, whether you start with just a few pages, a favourite poem, or even just finishing the local newspaper cover to cover,

Please let me know in the comments section what you suggest I read this year. And your go-to books.

Happy new year,

Josephine

PS: If this is your first time here, get to know me a little better by checking out some of my earlier posts on Getting Hired,and Getting Scholarships for Further Studies