Category: Teen Girls

Women Influencing Without A Single Word

Gosh! It is has been far too long since I raised my head above the parapet. Nonetheless, head down, so to speak, doesn’t always come with negative connotations.

In my case, I have been working towards an exciting project to be announced in the coming weeks, which will no doubt bring us closer to you, our teenage girl audience, for whom we exist. In this closeness, our goal is to be there for you, for whatever it is that you need at this time in your life, which is a good segue to the topic —women who have influenced me positively.

Though UIO celebrates girls and women year around, Women’s History month is a wonderful time to reflect on the women who have influenced and shaped my life—too many to name in this space but I do want to highlight just a few, starting with the first women who set the stage for my life.

Of course, my mother took the lead on this, and in many ways shared this role with aunts and grandmothers, and other close women relatives and those in the wider community.  But out of this lot—it was my mother and her only sister, Dorothy, who I pay homage to today.

Without ever saying a single word, they both taught me lifelong lessons about being independent. It was all in the way they lived.  I, along with my siblings, called these women Tid and Auntie.  The latter name comes as no surprise to you but the affectionate name Tid—given to my mother by my oldest sister—determined what the rest of us would call her.

Though both Tid and Auntie are gone from this world, their footprints are stamped all over my life.  For example, Tid always worked, even when her generation of women were forfeiting work/careers for one reason or another.  Not Tid, she worked diligently both outside of the home and inside of it.  She never seemed to feel any ways tired, not that I could see.

Frankly, I am better for her influence. Though she was not delighted when I took off for New York at the tender age of 23 (my goodness),  it was in part due to her example that I had the the courage to do so. And then when all roads led to London, though emotions welled up again, she came to appreciate my independent spirit and must have wondered if she had anything to do with it.

Now that brings me to Auntie, who often, asked me where in the world did I get my courage to leave home and live in a place where I didn’t know a single soul—okay I knew one, Paul, of course, the reason that I upped and left the country.

You, I teased, reminding her that she had left Georgia, the only home she knew as a young woman to seek a better life in Ohio. So, what if she had the company of close kin for familiarity when she first arrived, she made her own life and still returned home to Georgia every chance she got.

As a little girl, I remember her sending me packages (coats, clothes) from afar and then the excitement of waiting for her to visit. She and some close cousins would drive for hours to arrive at our house sometimes very early in the morning or late at hight but no matter what time it was, Auntie looked refreshed.

Though I would often find myself wiping what little sleep I had gotten from my eyes as she exited the car, she exuded happiness and enthusiasm.

And when the two women got together, they exemplified togetherness, though they lived miles apart.

So here we are. I am miles apart from my own siblings and in some ways worlds apart too, but thanks, in part, to Tid and Auntie, I am thrilled to be me and have never shied away from an opportunity to step into independence.  And pre-Covid, you couldn’t keep me away from Georgia, remember!

Anyhow, independence and interdependence are inherently linked and no one has to say a single word about it. It just is and is influencing a whole lot of folks in the meantime.

Are you one of them? Do tell. Share your stories here.

UIO Releases Podcast On Race and Racial Injustice

As a writer, I’ve always struggled with who has a right to tell a specific story.  Make no mistake about, I know that a darn good writer can serve up a good story whether it is her own or not.  Still, it is not always easy to write with compassion and empathy about something as controversial as racism or racial injustice.

Furthermore, this topic, in particular, conjures up deep emotions and can get real personal and so it should.  Getting personal sometimes is what it takes to get a point across.  Even so it is important to write responsibly and constructively. The same goes with talking.

That’s why I decided to use UIO’s platform to talk about race and to share some of my personal experiences in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.  How To Talk About Race Now examines why it is important to talk about race and offers tips on how to do so constructively.  Check out this timely and relevant resource on Itunes or where ever you listen to podcasts.  And by all means, join the conversation, leave your comments.  Let’s talk.

 

 

UIO Back to School Mini Series Launches

A September child, I have always felt grounded in the Autumn. Always  waiting for a breath a fresh air, a new beginning.  This one has been no different in that sense, me reflecting on the past and preparing for the future–my New Year of sorts.  But this year, I, along with everybody else,  am facing perhaps one the most challenging Septembers of all times.

The Covid 19 global pandemic has presented challenges for all of us to one degree or another. It rather feels like the storm has ripped through our lives and left a lot of rebuilding to do whether personally or professionally.

To this end. I am excited to announce UIO’s first podcast in our Back to School Mini Series. Staying Safe At School During the Covid Era features five panellist who engage in thought provoking conversation about the return to school in both the US and the UK.

Whether returning physically or virtually, educationalist and students alike are putting safety first to ensure that they can learn in an uncertain space.  Panellists Carmen Li and Sue Atkins both point out the importance of having our basic needs met first.  And Nikki Gordon offers suggestions to students and teachers on how to transition from the physical classroom to the virtual for the best possible outcome.  Students Zaqiya Cajee and Olivia Clark-Dixon bring their youthful enthusiasm to the discussion and look at how to move forward from a student’s perspective.

Though longer than our normal podcast, Staying Safe at School…  is worth the listen for students, teachers and parents alike.  As we return to our daily living,  the podcast not only brings inspirational discussion on a shared topic, it also offers tips on staying balanced, on how to find opportunities, if you will, during a crisis.

Listen on Itunes, YouTube or where ever you listen to podcasts.  Watch this space for next week’s podcast with inspirational speaker and author Suzie Lavington on how to navigate the new space we are in.  See you then!

UIO’s Second Most Popular Podcast Named

This week we continue sharing hot tips from our most popular podcasts of all times.  Second up is On Social Anxiety with Claire Eastham! Like the first, On Personal Development with Robyn Spens, this podcast is packed with hot tips but we’ve pulled out the top five, which wasn’t an easy job at all. They’re all great.

Anyhow, first on the list is Recognising the Signs. Experts agree that social anxiety is one of the most unrecognised conditions of all times, often mistaken for being shy.  Number 2, Get Help!  All too often we don’t  get help for our mental health issues but getting help is the first step to healing, as it is with physical help.  Check out the entire vlog here.

And keep watching this space for our back to school mini series coming in September, loaded with tips on how to navigate our new world order.  Remember take care of you inside out and See you soon!

 

UIO’s HOT TIPS From Most Popular Podcast

So pleased that UIO podcast will be back, after a short absence, with a mini back to school podcast series in September.  Lots of experts on matters such as staying safe at school during the COVID era and dealing with grief.  Meanwhile, we are releasing hot tips from our most popular podcasts.  First up is On Personal Development with Robyn Spens.

Loaded with great tips, we’ve highlighted five:  Number 1, Eat Right. Food plays a huge part in supporting both our physical and mental health, even more so under duress.  And we are under a great deal of stress the world over.

No surprises that number 2, is to Sleep Well!  The key to doing so is setting a routine, which includes a reasonable bedtime and the ability to stick to it. Good sleep really matters and can influence all aspects of life. Check out all five tips here.

Social Media Etiquette During Loss

Nowadays almost everyone on the planet has had a brush with loss. Though the biggest loss of all is human life and we have been overwhelmed with grief on that one. Still the loss of a job, the freedom to go to school, to socialise face to face with friends, and certainly the loss of necessities such as food and medicine are not to be sneezed at. Loss hurts and has emotional and mental consequences.  Of course some loss is deeper than other loss but whatever level it is on, loss can and does cause emotional and mental duress, and needs to be handled with care.

My latest vlog  (well sort of it; still getting there) is about social media etiquette during loss.  As we are spending more time than ever on social media and simultaneously facing great loss, it is so important to navigate the space with good emotional and mental health in mind.   You can watch here!

Meanwhile watch this space for our new podcast released tomorrow, Wednesday, May 20! The topic is rejection, a timely matter, almost always but particularly now during lockdown. Naomi Richards, known as Britain’s Kids Coach gives great tips on how to manage rejection in a tight space. Pass on to your friends as we could all do with a little extra help about now on how to feel accepted during a difficult time.  Take care of yourself inside out and remember it is you I owe.

Keeping Mentally Fit During the Worst of Times

Week two of doing a video blog. As the pressure continues to mount on countries and people around the world, UIO podcast continues, along side many others, to explore ways to keep safe and healthy. This week I look at keeping mentally fit. Of course, this a huge task for any of us, particularly those who have suffered loss and those who are directly suffering ill health. Still it is so important for all of us to join together and do what we can.

On that note, I am sending prayers and heartfelt hugs, even if they are virtual, to everyone everywhere, particularly our healthcare workers throughout the world. So pleased to join our neighbours throughout the country last night in applauding our NHS. Anyhow, watch my vlog on YouTube.

The ESP Of Coping During Unprecedented Anxiety

Anxiety has been a big deal for sometime now in our world but with the uncertainty we are facing due to COVID-19, anxiety has hit new heights and become a pandemic unto itself.

This week, I have drawn on the resources of UIO podcast in a short vlog to suggest three general ways to get our heads around the situation, if you will.  Of course, heeding the advice of our experts (our healthcare agencies) is paramount for safety and well-being.  And as we do this, it is so key to stay well emotionally and spiritually, too.  Watch the clip on YouTube. 

Also, listen to UIO podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Play and Spotify as well as many other channels for more inspirational advice and hot tips on many subjects related to both mental and physical wellbeing.

 

 

Finding My Voice

I am delighted to have guest blogger Zaqiya Cajee, the founder of SwopItUp, the clothing swop initiative in schools that is sweeping the country and giving teens a wonderful mechanism to do something about climate change. Check out what she has to say about finding her voice to get the word out about SwopItUp. And learn how to find your own voice for whatever it is that you are passionate about. 

While I had been feeling passionate about bringing positive change to the environment for some time, the first time I had the chance to speak out was in Feb 2019, and I’d just turned 16. I was at the Royal Geographic Society at an event on the impacts of Fast Fashion on the environment. In a lecture theatre room filled with attentive adults, the panellists had been discussing why fast fashion was bad, listing many of the problems (e.g. carbon emissions from production & water use from intensive farming practices), but not focusing on solutions, which really surprised me.

As I sat petrified, my heart practically beating out of my chest, I knew I had to push past the nervousness and let them know that I had a solution. I had to make everyone aware of SwopItUp, my clothing swop initiative in schools, that I believed had the potential to grow nationally or even internationally, keeping huge amounts of clothing in use for longer.  This would be teens tackling one contributor to climate change at scale.

And then I raised my voice, told the room about SwopItUp, and asked the panel for their ideas on how to get more people to engage with it.

Amazing result! It was so worth it, the rush of adrenaline I felt having spoken up,  and afterwards when I had people coming up to me congratulating me and networking with me.  This was a massive reward. SwopItUp was gaining momentum.

Next up was an invitation to speak at a parents eco event at a local secondary school. This was only a small crowd, but I started to learn my presentation style, and understand how to make it feel comfortable for me. I spoke for much longer this time and had some slides to support me, and the questions and feedback that I got at the end boosted my confidence even more.

In August, it was time to step in front of the camera. I wanted the world to be able to hear my message directly from me, so I set about creating a 30-second video explaining SwopItUp,  and highlighting our goals for the future. I uploaded it onto social media and was delighted with the response.

Importantly, it attracted the attention of the Head of Markettiers, a Broadcast PR agency in London, who offered to help me spread my story. They got me radio interviews on many stations, such as the BBC and Love Sport Radio among others.

Coming face to face with skilled journalists and in one instance, one that was a climate denialist, gave me opportunities to really make my case.  I can’t say it was all smooth sailing but I was prepared to fight back, of course, in the most diplomatic way possible.

From this, I’ve gone from strength to strength including being on panels (like Sustainable Fashion Festival), contributing Blog features (including this one) and addressing groups at Universities.

Upon reflection, I have come to understand that finding your own voice can be broken down into four simple steps:

Step 1: 

Determine what your passion is.  It needs to be something close to your heart. What is it you want to speak about?  Do some research on the topic to find similar people and events in your niche.

Step 2: 

Gain support.  This includes from friends and family but also find events in your niche, particularly ones where you can listen to other people present, but use the opportunity of question time to use your voice. This worked for me, though it took a little courage.

Alternatively,  network with other people at the event afterwards. This is a great way to learn a thing or two from the speakers but to also start to gain a little confidence in a low risk environment.

Step 3: 

Do a presentation to a small group on the subject that you are passionate about.

Step 4: 

Consider how to get your message out to a wider audience whether through the use of social media or through the networks and contacts you have already made. Don’t be scared to involve adults to make things happen for you, they are great at opening doors.

I have no regrets about taking those first steps as it has helped me to find my voice and to gain momentum for an organisation that I truly believe in.

So now it’s up to you to start on step 1 and make things happen. I wish you the best of luck.

Follow my journey on Instagram @zaqiyacajee.  Comment on my recent post and include #findingmyvoice so I can follow you on your journey in finding your own voice, Zaqiya x