Chidiogo Akunyili: Be Kind to Yourself for Not Being Superwoman

Chidiogo Akunyili is a woman of many trades. She is the Founder of She ROARs – Reimagining Our Africa Rising. This pan-African platform seeks to empower women across Africa to unleash their full potential. 

As a writer, storyteller and movement builder, Chidiogo is impacting the global narrative with her belief in the power of people affecting change. Having lived on 5 continents and being able to speak 7 languages, Chidiogo’s philosophy is founded on the African concept of Ubuntu and celebrating our shared humanity. 

Beyond her work, Chidiogo Akunyili has been awarded multiple awards. These include ‘100 most influential Young Africans’ by Africa Youth Awards and ‘100 most inspiring women in Nigeria’ by the Guardian. She is also a World Economic Forum Global Leadership Fellow. 

In this interview, we learn more about She ROARs and the impact it has been bringing. 

What led you to start She ROARS?

After working with hundreds of women across Africa, I came to the realization that we needed more spaces to support women on their personal and professional journeys. Changing a community begins with enabling women to tap into their full strength and potential.

Inspired by this, we started She ROARS. Through this platform, we support women by equipping them with tools to build bridges to fulfilling their potential. We do this by creating spaces for them to flourish, empower each and impact their communities.

Can you tell us more about the impact She ROARS has had?

To date, She ROARs has reached hundreds of women across Africa and the diaspora. Through events, we’ve created spaces where women have been challenged, empowered to realize their dreams and walk in their own truths.

We see in all our gatherings the great value of stepping away from business as usual and truly connecting with a powerful circle of womanhood.

Women have added that this platform gives them confidence and support from the group as a whole. We see the strength of space to connect with self and each other. Even if you take nothing else away, there is already a great power in knowing that you are not alone

@SheROARsAfrica challenges the notion that empowerment is big and strong. Sometimes it is soft and tender, and raises an awareness of oneself. Click To Tweet

What have you learned since starting this platform?

The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that, if you have an idea that inspires you, just start! What it will grow into is unknown. However, you should trust your curiosity to lead you to greatness.

She ROARs was born out of a Women Advancing Africa Conference where Graca Machel challenged us to empower each other as women. As women shared their deepest wounds, vulnerability, and courage, I felt all that could be when women were given a space to share together.

Though this idea came from an intuition, it soon turned into a business with a name, logo, website, social media presence, launch and finally a team to push things. We then started leveraging women gatherings to offer She ROARs seminars, workshops, events, and partnerships.

What challenges have you faced with She ROARS?

The challenges are real. But the most important thing I’ve learned is to be kind to myself despite not being superwoman. Starting She ROARs alongside a full-time commitment to write a book meant working on two things that needed my full discipline and drive.

Despite spending over 10 years in the corporate world doing strategic consulting, I doubted my potential to deliver without the habitual external deadline. This fear soon morphed into a constant ‘you are not doing enough’ voice in my head. This soon became stressful.

So, I learned to let go and take some time off every now and then. And above all, I needed to remind myself that if I wanted to go the distance, I couldn’t do it all alone. I needed to trust others talents to help me. Finally, I would write down everything I needed to do monthly, weekly and daily. This helped me declutter my tasks and achievements.

Can you tell us more about the book you are writing?

My first book has been such a rewarding project! It started as a simple idea, the story of a mother, Dora Akunyili. My mother is described by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as “radical because she had integrity in a system that was unfamiliar with integrity…kind and vigorous, and when she spoke, she widened eyes as though to better convey the force of her conviction.”

Her life is a story of strength arising from the ashes of struggles — the deeper her scars, the stauncher was her fight and spirit of justice and truth. I want the reader to take away the power of conviction and the courage needed to follow through.

What were the fears you felt you had to overcome with the projects you are undertaking?

The deep fear of failure. Three years ago in the mountains of Peru, on the back of an extended retreat, I was held by 9 sisters as I shook and cried at the recognition of a truth that was calling to me, to leap.

Ixchel, a most treasured guide who was holding this sacred space of sisterhood shared these words, “You keep getting that same message… what are you afraid of giving up my sister? The fear will always come in, when you see it, walk through it, that you may be free, that you might know what it feels like to be free falling from a cliff.”

Dance has truly helped me overcome my fear. Dance is a space where I can explore the connection between my mind, spirit, and body. To me, it means freedom to live the life I want and be in an active space of creation. Dance is a reminder to let life flow.

What is your biggest regret and achievement?

I do not believe in regrets but rather in lessons. My biggest lesson has been to let things go. You find that so much energy is spent sweating on little things. Therefore, I try to always remember that ‘this too shall pass’. I shouldn’t get lost in the struggle, but find peace in the learning.

My highest achievement is letting go of my illusion of control to follow my deepest calling to flow. This included leaving a successful career to follow an idea to write a book. I took the proverbial leap of faith has led to us sharing this moment together. I have never looked back since.

If you’d like to get featured on our Facebook page, click here to share your story with us.

Smangele Nicolette Ngwenya: I am Enough

Born in the east of Johannesburg in Ekurhuleni, Smangele Nicolette Ngwenya is a self-motivated, systematic and confident woman.

Having grown up in her grandmother’s green shack, she sums up her background as colorful and supportive. 

This background inspired her to start the WomenYouAreEnough organization. Through her organization, Smangele hopes to empower and inspire women. 

What was the motivation behind your organization? 

I’ve always wanted to be involved in meaningful & fruitful things. My prayer has always been, God helps me to give more than I can receive. Being raised by a giving grandmother made it natural to me.

When the organization started, I only wanted to help take a disadvantaged girl child to school. Then suddenly, I also wanted to collect sanitary towels so that no girl child could miss class because of something that occurs involuntarily.

The organization has since become a movement with a hashtag #WomanYouAreEnough which reminds all women that it’s okay to be imperfect, that it’s okay to help other women without taking the glory once they reach to the top. WomanYouAreEnough means that when Queens(Women) gather, wonderful things happen.

What does confidence mean to you?

Personally, confidence means complimenting another woman’s beauty & understating that their beauty is not in the absence of mine. It means recognizing the strength of another woman & knowing but also knowing that I too am enough.

So confidence is about being happy in my own skin and also appreciating the strength of those around me. 

Has your confidence ever been compromised? 

Women have often compromised my confidence every now and then. I have had a very strong personality which has often mistaken for being a miss know it all.

I was teased for my body weight and facial features. However, despite all these negative comments, I have never felt any less confident. In fact, I have been fortunate enough to attract confident women who see each other as Queens and not threats.

What is your mantra?

My daily mantra is reminding myself that I am enough. Even on my worst day, I wake up and dress up knowing that without any reasonable doubt, I am enough. I don’t have to force what’s meant for me as it will find me.

Are women empowered today?

I have to say that women empowerment is definitely on the rise. Especially with the use of social media, we are seeing more women in the corporate world holding higher positions. Different organizations and movements are making sure that women empowerment is on the rise.

WomanYouAreEnough is one of those. We have different empowerment programs such as the matric dance campaign where we dress up disadvantaged girls for their big day. We also host seminars and share personal struggles to continue encouraging women. Therefore, females are inspired by everything we’ve done.

Where do you draw your inspiration?

My late grandmother Salamina Mafoka Molakeng Mimi truly inspires me. Though life has dealt with her, she has remained hopeful. My mother NoNhlanhla Ngwenya who from the age 18 has worked double shifts at various restaurants so that we can have a normal childhood also inspires me.

Finally, every other female who decided to go for it even though their background didn’t allow them also greatly inspires me.  

Does overconfidence cause more problems than under-confidence?

There’s nothing like being overconfident according to me. So, I’d say there are more problems caused by being under confident. Society still tries to tame females.

They tell us we are too old, too confident or too much. At the end of the day, these things make us doubt ourselves & we end up in a certain box hating each other as females.

If you’d like to get featured on our Facebook page, click here to share your story with us.