Inspirational women – Morleen Okolonji from Women of Substance
Sunday 8th of March was International Women’s Day, a day where women all over the world are celebrated for their achievements, a day where awareness is raised against bias and a day to encourage action for equality.
There’s many individuals and groups that do these things on a daily basis and ELBA was fortunate enough to attend an event by the Women of Substance group who support and empower women from different backgrounds and religions to utilise their full potential despite the hardships they may face.
We had the privilege to interview Morleen who is the founder and CEO of Women of Substance to get a feel of how the charity supports women and where her passion comes from.
What drives you as a leader?
What drives me is my passion for seeing women walk in purpose and utilise their capacity, which spans from my own personal experiences. Having my first child at 16 meant that I was ‘limited’ in what and who I could be. I wasn’t accepted by mothers as I was too young and I wasn’t accepted by my age group because I was no longer a ‘child’. But through the support of people around me, I eventually debunked that pressure and encouraged myself to still aim high and achieve my goals despite what I had gone through. I saw it more as a blessing rather than a curse, because it gave me a push and determination that I needed to be where I am now. So, this drives me to also lead women into the same mentality and life where anything is possible!
Which women does the Women of substance group target?
We do not have a particular group of women that we focus on, we try and tailor our approach to every woman from any background or age. We try however to ‘catch them while they’re young’ as they say, as this can prevent women from making certain mistakes and equip them with the knowledge needed to progress.
As a mother of boys, we also try and tailor our services to the opposite sex by setting up online assistance to help males start-up businesses and cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset. This is mainly for boys in underprivileged areas such as Bangladesh and certain parts of Africa, to empower them and equip them to become better men despite their environment. It also gives them the opportunity to aim higher as we have certain requirements they have to meet, such as: finishing their GCSEs; going to College or having attended University, before being allowed to join.
How does the Women of Substance group empower women?
We do this through events and workshops tailored around issues surrounded womanhood, motherhood, sex, children, pregnancy as well as providing teaching into childcare business set ups, such as nurseries, child minding, registered childcare and playgroups. We still thrive to help in areas that we may not have all the information on by bringing in professionals to speak to the women. All in all, by doing these events and workshops we have created an open and transparent space for women to encourage and comfort each other as well as motivate the next generation of women.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a woman in east London?
East London has been very good to me, we have received support from a lot of local organisations and authorities, so that we are fortunate. However, my main setback as the founder of this organization is funding. Funding is something that has been an issue for a long time, most of our events are self-funded and though I am happy to fund these events where needed, support from external individuals and organisations such as ELBA goes a long way! Support may just be in getting volunteers to deliver sessions, so we don’t have to pay an external person or bring along some snacks for the attendees, we are so appreciative of the help we have received from ELBA so far!
Lastly, why is it important to provide a safe space for women in the community?
It is important because we are all born for a purpose and when we don’t know or lose that purpose, we are vulnerable to abuse in all aspects. So, it is important that a woman is empowered and given this space because they are able to acknowledge and build on their purpose, so they are less likely to fall into idleness, abuse and depression. In this safe space they find unity, which makes women stronger.
Are you interested in getting hearing more or getting involved in the work that Women of Substance does, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.