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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Blogging Goals

I have been blogging for the last 10 years or so, on a variety of platforms, and talking about everything from getting hit by cricket fever briefly in college, to books and people that I had met, to inspiration all around me.

Over the last few months, I have been writing over at Medium (Check out my posts there!) , and you can read all about everything from my Secret Shopping in Germany to Travel Around Portugal.

I am excited to share some new goals for this blog:

  1. Establish an editorial calendar for the next 120 days by the end of the month
  2. Publish 3 times a week over the next 2 months
  3. Spend 45 minutes a week discovering other bloggers and reading and commenting on their posts

This is part of a WordPress course which I am taking called Blogging: Branding and Growth which I am taking with other participants in the #BloggingBranding module across the world. I am a fan of online courses, and look forward to discovering others’ posts as the course proceeds. Let’s go!

Success: Fred Swaniker’s Map

There is no overnight success – even though our get-it-now appetite for news and influence grows. And there are precious few stories on how to make it as an African in Africa – and the world in longhand, from the source. This weekend, Fred Swaniker spoke to me directly, reflecting on his weekend at Middlebury College commencement 2017. He posted a recap of his journey, mostly about how he got to receiving 2 Honorary Degrees one month and two continents apart by the age of 40. With the privilege of living in this era of Africa’s rise, comes with the responsibility of curating our history and learning from one another. I found this snapshot heartening. Well in Bwana Swaniker.

One big part of Swaniker’s post revealed his start as an assistant to a tradesman and fast food salesman, working alongside his mother, scholarship to Macalester College, college summer internships (including one very boring – but skillsrich stint at an insurance company). He then shares some valuable lessons that each of us can take to the bank: including places to get great insight on how businesses work, where to build your professionalism and sense of work-ready requirements, and how to stay the course. I particularly enjoyed his description of walking backwards as a tour guide in college, which I also did in college sharing my experience with prospective students. Check it out below.

Oh, to answer the question posed by Bwana Swaniker; my first job was helping my Mom as a salesman in the family snacks business at a very young age in the mid-1990s.

 

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Are you trying to challenge yourself to change your own CV and open up the next line in your career? Check out my recent post on getting hired.

Learning with you,

Josephine

Hey! Get Ready:Get Hired

I am happy to spend a good amount of time helping family and friends with their resumes and CVs, and it is about time we all get to the good stuff – better skills and employability. I am most interested in helping youth and those yet to be gainfully employed to get ready to take on the job market.

I said:

Apparently, by now – 2017- all university & diploma graduates should not list computer literate and punctual on their resume. It is assumed that you can do a presentation, type and edit and post your own work (and all other computer functions) and that showing up on time should be second nature. Your resume should in fact aim higher and list other things at which you are skilled.

My friend M commented:

It’s not even for recent university graduates. I’m seeing it in “professionals” through age 28…. typing with 2 fingers, late to every meeting or shift and providing what is considered by the individual to be a legitimate excuse each time, inability to use Excel/Word/PPT, etc. And as people are getting their degrees at older ages due to financial struggles and other setbacks, their willingness to learn more than “college” or even to understand that learning doesn’t stop after college leans towards the apathetic. “But I’ve just worked so hard to finish college,” is their thought. The employer’s thought is “But you are still not compliant with state laws, best practices, and professional development requirements to meet your continuing job responsibilities.” And it is over and over and over again, same conversation, different employee.

Yes! to the UN Global Goals, which encouraged us to do more. I agree we can “By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all men and women including young people, and persons with disabilities and equal pay for work of equal value” – Global Goal #8 

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How Do You Get Started ?

I did a quick search and found a few gems:

  1. Barclays has built a great LifeSkills site to allow youth, parents and teachers to : Build a Job Hunting Toolbox, Identify Skills, Gain Experience, Be Inspired
  2. European Union’s Europass offers information for those seeking to develop and create EU based CV and other job-hunting credentials. This is useful for CV based countries outside the EU which operate on principles related to previous EU countries

If you already have a Resume or CV and ready to finally update it:

    1.  Here is what TIME Magazine thinks you should be doing to improve your Resume (Jan 5.2017) including a nice free downloadable template shown below.money_01_30_17_resume-template
    2. Also, find out from the Interview Guys exactly what kind of resume you should be designing. This means, what structure by timeline, how long and whether you should have more or less on your resume.

All the best!

What other questions do you have about skills building, resumes, and creating impact from your presentations?