Onyinye Udokporo is one of the UK’s youngest education experts, dyslexic author, CEO and Founder at Enrich Learning. Onyinye Udokporo speaks with Business Africa Online (BAO) on her thoughts on this year’s international women’s day theme: #BreakingTheBias. Excerpt.
“This year’s international women’s day theme, #BreakingTheBias is a significant one. Why? Because for as long as I can remember, there has always been one, or in some cases, several biases against women. For me personally, being the first-born child and a female (often referred to as ‘Ada’) in an Igbo family is enough for me to have all the odds stacked against me. Luckily my parents are modern, liberal, and progressives who have always wanted me to break the mould. And do what, culturally, is not considered the norm for women and girls.
So, what does #BreakingTheBias mean to me?
Well, it would take more than my allotted word count to explain it all to you. But put simply, #BreakingTheBias means equal access to opportunity for all women and girls irrespective of their colour, creed or circumstance. I was given the same opportunities and more when growing up at home with my three brothers. This access to opportunity empowered me to use my voice to speak up and out about what I believe in. It made me know that as a woman, not only is my voice and opinion important. It is valued and can be used to make a positive difference. I was made to feel like a matriarch and this gave me huge amounts of confidence which I have used to do things many believed would not be possible at a young age.
At the age of 12 I began my entrepreneurial journey providing education services and serving people globally. Now, aged 23, the equal access to opportunity I was given has enabled me to be the CEO of my own company Enrich Learning. Having the privilege to lead from the front means that I can continue to champion initiatives that are designed to help women level up. This year I urge you all to think about how you can empower the women and girls around you to follow their dreams. I urge employers to close the gender pay gap in their institutions. Lastly, and most importantly, I urge all parents and carers to ensure that their daughters are given access to education. An educated woman is an unstoppable woman.
Harris M: Keeping the craftsmanship alive through African fabrics
Harris M was created by Congolese entrepreneur Harris Mayoukou, Harris M. is a young fashion and accessories brand inspired by the bustling streets of Château Rouge, a colourful district of Paris. This project is above all a family story that begins with a sewing machine belonging to the great uncles of the designer in Congo. A machine that was offered to his father in the 70s and that the latter offered him in turn at the launch of the brand. Moreover, she still uses it today in the production of pieces in her Parisian workshop.
Coming from a family of artists and talented couturiers, Harris was keen to carry on this family legacy through his brand Harris M. She makes it a point of honor to take only fabrics produced in Africa in order to support the crafts and printing works still present. The brand offers accessories and casual wear mixed clothing, comfortable and quality. The founder defines the brand in 3 words: KANDA which means family in lari. Because she wanted to perpetuate one of her father’s first jobs.
Harris took her first classes in a very small workshop in Montreuil in order to keep this practice in the family and keep this precious link. Then PASSION because all the pieces are made according to the desires and the favorites. Finally ETHICAL, because it tries to ensure that small craftsmen, whether they are in France or in Africa, continue to be paid at the right price
APINAPI is reducing waste and supporting the autonomy of women
APINAPI is a social business focused on zero waste and symbolizes the meeting between France and Senegal. It all began in 2010, when Marina Gning and Jeanne-Aurélie Delaunay founded the company APINAPI in Paris, with the aim of democratizing washable diapers and natural baby products. After 10 years working in the cinema industry, they wanted to raise awareness about washable nappies and natural care products for babies.
During her travels in Senegal with her husband, Marina finds that the products she offers in France are perfectly suited for Senegal. Indeed, she sees how plastic waste litters the streets of the country, especially disposable diapers. These, which were a few years ago a “luxury product”, have become very accessible with the arrival of low-end brands.
These layers, of poor quality, give irritation and are not reliable. The family budget is reduced and women with low incomes use a single diaper for their baby all day! By offering washable diapers to her sister-in-law in Dakar, Marina sees how much easier her life is: less redness, less expense, less waste. In addition, the diapers were a great success with the friends of the young mother.
The trigger is born from there. What if these washable diapers were the solution? In 2015, she got fully into the project with her partner, her husband and Marianne Varale. The team was born, and in 2016 Marina and her husband decided to sell their apartment in France to settle in Senegal and launch ApiAfrique.
Today, ApiAfrique is a Senegalese social enterprise, which offers innovative, local and environmentally friendly solutions for the hygiene of women and babies. Its vision is to promote sustainable solutions that contribute to women’s empowerment, waste reduction, the fight against exclusion and job creation.
Meet French-Senegalese mothers after black babies
Douce mélanine Founders
N’dioba DIONGUE and Astou diongue, two French-Senegalese mothers have both had bad experiences with baby cosmetics products that contain potentially dangerous or allergenic substances. Looking for a solution, they found out that products adapted to black and mixed-race children can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Following these bad personal experiences, they decide to react and remedy them by offering healthy products, especially for babies. This is because they are fragile. The beginnings were not simple: market research, business plan, search for formulators, etc. It took several months before they could find a lab to work with. Not being in the trade, they also had to train in formulation.
Douce mélanine was born in 2018, with the aim of offering a range of care products with 98% natural ingredients, traditionally used in Africa for baby care. The goal is to transmit care rituals with products from the African pharmacopoeia. For example, we can find touloucouna oil, with unsuspected virtues which is relaxing and is used in Africa for infant massage. A necessary return to the roots, to allow babies to enjoy all the benefits of this treatment with ancestral oils.
Then in 2020, as for many entrepreneurs, the coronavirus came knocking on the doorbell. After several questioning and restructuring, they decided to stay the course. New tests are carried out, formulas are retouched, and the adventure resumes in 2021 to never stop. Today, Douce Mélanine has made her way and has found her place in many bathrooms all over the world.
DOUCE MÉLANINE fights every day to offer mothers products with healthy compositions. Its products are formulated and manufactured by a French laboratory certified Ecocert and COSMOS. Without perfumes, tested under dermatological control and composed of ingredients from the African pharmacopoeia, babies will appreciate its care which will bring softness, hydration and relaxation.