Event review: From Shame To Strength, Friday 30th October

By - Thursday 19th November, 2015

Not victims, but victorious. Katie Rose listens to a group of women who seek to empower others

Photo author’s own.

On Halloween weekend and the penultimate evening of Black History Month, celebrating Women in Leadership, it felt absolutely fitting to attend an event exploring the deep and often hidden issues faced by women. Having recently shared a profound discussion about empowering young people’s voices with Magdalene Adenaike on her Croydon Radio show, Deep Truths, I knew that it was going to be a powerful evening.

Behind closed doors in the most private realms of relationship, women may face teen pregnancies, abandonment, domestic violence and sexual abuse. They are often literally left holding the baby and nursing their wounds alone, as victims are frequently shamed rather than supported by their communities. Magdalene’s book chronicles her own journey from the trauma of teen pregnancy to empowerment as a leader and an award-winning entrepreneur: From Shame to Strength.

As Nero Ughwujabo, CEO of Croydon BME reminded us, Croydon has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in London, something that can lead to devastating consequences for young people, including exclusion from education and career opportunities, social isolation, poverty, and mental and physical health issues. Magdalene’s aim for the event was in her own words to “expose young people to these issues in ways that support them; to build understanding and help them make better life choices”, and to “help families build resilience, be healthy and maximise their life chances”.

Croydon has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in London

From the start of the event, young people were given centre stage: Magdalene’s six-year-old daughter sang a beautiful song about empowerment; Rough Diamonds gave a spoken word presentation; and students from Croydon College performed three dramatizations from the book. Through beatbox, song, monologue and physical theatre, the young people interpreted and explored the powerful themes of the story for themselves. Imaginative, insightful and profoundly moving, these presentations left few eyes dry and underlined the essential role the arts have to play in enabling young people to make their voices heard.

Photo author’s own.

Magdalene’s story was set in the context of powerful women leaders, the theme chosen for Black History Month 2015. In her addresses, the mayor of Croydon, councillor Patricia Hay-Justice cited Queen Amina of Nigeria (330BC) as an inspiration and emphasised the importance of drawing strength from ancestry. There was also a slide show of women leaders past and present including Angela Davis, Halle Berry, Rosa Parks, Diane Abbott and Una Marson.

Four distinguished and inspirational women spoke movingly of their own experiences on the panel: the mayor of Croydon, HRH Princess Deun Adedoyin-Solarin, HRH Muzvare-Princess Betty Makoni and Vee Roberts. Their inspirational stories were told with the same intent as Magdalene’s: to encourage and empower. Having experienced extreme abuse, poverty, exclusion from education and shaming as a child in Zimbabwe, HRH Muzvare-Princess Betty Makoni founded the Girl Child Network Worldwide, working with 350,000 girls over the course of a decade and campaigning against FGM, winning her awards such as CNN Hero. HRH Princess Deun Adedoyin-Solarin, who overcame domestic violence, is a highly esteemed, award-winning broadcaster and a trustee of the Girl Child Network Worldwide. Vee Roberts, also a survivor of domestic violence, is a ‘mumpreneur of 4’ running Insight2Marketing.

As the Igbo and Yoruba proverb says, it takes a whole village to raise a child

The issues surrounding gender equality are vast and far-reaching. People of all genders deserve respect, safety and dignity in their personal relationships. As the Igbo and Yoruba proverb says, it takes a whole village to raise a child. Our communities must take care of our young people so that they can enjoy healthy, happy relationships. Another speaker at the event, Frederick Clarke, founder of Mighty Men of Valour, is working to support young men to gain the personal and professional skills they need in life, with a focus on taking responsibility as fathers.

The power of the story-telling and the intent listening of those who attended testified to a commitment at this event to transforming our communities for the better. Magdalene’s bravery enabled us all to share an uplifting evening of creativity, dialogue and reflection. Whilst the obstacles may be great and the traumas many, her story testifies that we can all move from shame to strength, and that in the resounding words of HRH Muzvare-Princess Betty Makoni: “We are not victims, we are victorious“.

From Shame to Strength may be ordered here. Find out more about Magdalene’s work at Music Relief, and tune into her Deep Truths radio show on Croydon Radio.

Katie Rose

Katie Rose

Katie Rose - Singer, Composer, Conductor, Writer - Katie loves singing and helping people sing. Described by the Guardian as a 'fine singer' and by fRoots magazine as an 'eye (and ear) opener,' she has released three albums. Committed to creating uplifting, inclusive experiences of singing, Katie has led singing sessions in hospitals, hospices, festivals and community choirs across London. Convinced of the power of music to make waves in the world she has conducted mass choral events for Sing for Water and is directing Croydon's first Festival of Peace 2018. For more information visit www.therosewindow.org

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