Our journey to making it.

The following is written by a graduate of our 2016/17 programme, Anwara Begum.

“When I started this program, more than anything I was searching for direction. Direction that I’m pleased to say You Make It has now provided me with, along with the insight and resources to help me achieve my goals. Weekly workshops covered a broad set of topics, including public speaking, health and self-employment. I learnt that I could speak to large groups, and in the way that I feel most comfortable with — as myself! I learnt the importance of conveying my ideas in order to connect with people so that they can support my ambitions. I learnt that with willpower I can get anywhere, and my background doesn’t have to hold me back. I learnt that as women we are stronger together, and that in the current climate this strength is so important.

One of the most moving and determining moments on the course was during week two. We were being taught by a spoken word artist, Beyonder, about how to speak confidently and authentically in public. His message was that we all had a voice and to be heard we didn’t have to conform to any ‘norms’. This was the moment I realised I didn’t have to speak or sound a certain way, my speech is determined by me, it carries and conveys my struggles, my story and my message on my terms. I tried this out at our graduation ceremony months later, and the claps and focus of the audience proved what You Make It urges its women to believe — that we are good enough as we are, we can talk naturally and honestly, and that it’s the confidence underpinning this that will make people listen.

It was during Beyonder’s workshop that another woman on the programme took the stage to practice aloud what she’d jotted down in a previous writing exercise. But she didn’t stick to looking down at her paper, she didn’t need to because she spoke boldly from her heart about who she was, what she struggled with and what she wanted from life. In that moment, her narrative captivated us all. Through this young woman’s courage to open up to us, a group of strangers, as we were at the time, the tide turned for us all.

During the programme we cried together, we grieved together. We talked about those things that had held us back and stifled us in life. But by the end we prevailed and knew we would overcome life’s hardships, now with the confidence and belief that we were worth the effort. As a group we developed strong friendships, we trusted and had confidence in each other. While our experiences were not entirely the same and we realised we all had our own battles to fight, we also learned that we were better off fighting them together. By crossing each other’s paths at You Make It, we all gave one another the uplifting inspiration to continue our journeys more hopeful, unyielding, passionate and optimistic. I look back on that early session with Beyonder and consider it formed the foundation to what became our sisterhood.

I went on to learn so much more, beyond the workshops. I had the chance to meet extraordinary people whose visions and aspirations worked to further drive my determination. I had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, those who had made it in fashion, art and enterprise. I’m excited to see what our own emerging artists, writers and entrepreneurs from the group go on to do, boosted by the possibility of their dreams becoming a reality by meeting those who’ve been there and done it. I met amazing mothers (You Make It goes out of its way to support single mothers) and witnessed their love and dedication to their children and how much of themselves they sacrifice for them. Mothers, member of our communities who, I would argue, too often go unappreciated.

I saw and learnt that all the women’s experiences, hardships and hurdles made them more resilient. The very formation of You Make It serves as a testimony to that resilience that I witnessed within all the women in our group. It took a single woman to provide this initiative — to get up and dedicate all her efforts to deliver to other women the support they need, and to declare that they are incredible, they are worth it and that they too can make it.

We increasingly find ourselves in challenging times with racism, sexism and xenophobia gaining popularity. Government cuts to local authorities are impacting organisations intended to help underserved groups. There is a need for more of us to be vocal and to stand up and defend the values and institutions that are so precious to us all. The very same struggles faced and fought by many before us for the liberties we enjoy today. Our personal stories bind us to the broader story of our city where we resist bigotry and injustice. In such a climate, You Make It is essential for the service it provides to our community, empowering women to locate and use their voice, understand their strength and their value, to defend anything that threatens our progression as people who are equally deserving of a good life.

I have graduated from the You Make It programme more determined to pursue my goals, earn a living, while also serving my community as You Make It has worked to serve me. This organisation, changing the lives of those with some of the most challenging back stories, has acted as a portal to further self-discovery for all who’ve taken part in its programmes. Myself and my peers have left the programme knowing that our journeys are only just beginning. We are only just getting started.”

See www.you-make-it.org for more stories about our impact.

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