Morayo, Karina, Kya, Zara, Rukayah, Bianca solo shots smiling

PART 3 - CELEBRATING SOME OF THE EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN IN MANCHESTER FOR #InternationalWomensDay

We've been lucky enough to cross paths with amazing individuals inside our building and around Greater Manchester. To mark #IWD we contacted a selection of fierce women and asked them some questions around how we can all be advocates for equality, and how creativity can help to #BreakTheBias. Check out the three-part blog below to see their responses. 

Morayo Sodipo

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

Hey there, I’m Morayo – a marketing & communications specialist working in the film exhibition sector who is also a self-proclaimed custard cream biscuit ambassador.

TW MORAYO SODIPO

International Women's Day is championing the # BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

Theatre and creativity in general, can be thought of as a mirror of this world and a portal into another; its role, therefore, is to show the world as it is and as it could be. And to do this, it needs to see the world, engage with the world, and understand the world… all of it – as it is. Only then will it be able to access the full range of possibilities on offer.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

Be clear on our values, re-evaluate them often and honour them in every space we are in. And this involves speaking up for ourselves, speaking up for and/or standing beside others, listening, learning, unlearning and taking action.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

Meet people as they are. My work involves nurturing relationships with people and to do that effectively I need to know who they are, where they are, what they like, what they want and how to interact with them respectfully. And understanding how powerful language is and how quickly & slowly it evolves is another key step in creating spaces for us to have meaningful conversations and learn how best I & the company I work for can support our community.

What three top tips would you choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Lean into that soft life from time to time if not all the time
  • Check out and vibe with @itslennnie on IG
  • Be honest with yourself

Tell us about a woman that inspires you?

My sister, Karina. She is incredibly talented, funny and unapologetically true to herself. She is a firm believer in creating spaces that can support her big dreams and meets every challenge that comes her way with grace and tenacity in equal measure, using them as stepping stones to get to where she needs to be. Oh and she rarely ever misses a moment to bring you up with her. She is the fiercest champion to ever be in your corner and will forever tell you as it is and how it could be. I’m blessed to have her in my life.


Karina Sodipo

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

I always refer to myself as a designer first and foremost because design is simply problem-solving and that sums up my work perfectly. The kind of problems I solve, however, sometimes go beyond pixel pushing. My day can involve anything from directing culture-driven fashion editorials with emerging talent from my agency on our media platform VAGUE TOMES, to creating digital assets and experiences for effective brand communication; staging runway shows for independent fashion designers or shaping marketing strategies for film distributors and cultural institutions backed by data and research. On or offline, I’m passionate about creating and curating experiences that are accessible and impactful.

TW KARINA SODIPO

International Women's Day is championing the #BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

With my career stretching across tech, fashion, design, production and editorial, I have found the theatre to be an extremely welcoming space… once people get through the door. I think theatre and the creative industry as a whole can champion the erasure of stereotypes and silencing of prejudices to #BreakTheBias by meeting consciously diverse social groups where they are: working directly with communities and diversifying communication efforts to appeal to a broader audience. Breaking the bias to me should incite excitement about yet another opportunity to do things differently, to move with or even challenge the times away from traditions that were formed when an increasing percentage of our population today didn’t have basic human rights.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

I truly believe education is the answer. In order to effectively be able to empathize with the experiences of people who may not have as much power as we do in that moment, we have to understand the systems within which these experiences and power structures exist and the factors that govern them. With a stronger understanding of the inner workings of our society, and how it has both changed and stayed the same through history, we can all lend our privilege in the many nuanced ways each of us have them in a more dynamic, contextual manner without relying on hard and fast assumptions from our own limited lived experiences.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

My work is inherently user-focused so my process requires a hefty appetite for understanding people’s wants, needs and motivations, both consumers and stakeholders – even the middlemen in between. So I try to apply these principles throughout my life. The first step is always empathy: understanding your audience, ideally by acknowledging and then discarding your assumptions, instead interacting with them directly for the purest insights. And then it’s all about understanding your objectives, your strengths, your service and seeking and optimizing ways for your goals to provide that service to your audience.

What three top tips would you choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • A quote that saw me through the pandemic was “self-care is community care”
  • Be firm in the resources and skills you have first and foremost
  • Bad energy, stay far away

Tell us about a woman that inspires you? 

My older sister, Mo is a huge source of inspiration for me. There’s an ageism pandemic brewing in our generation of creatives that disproportionately affects women in a patriarchal society committed to coupling our value to our youth. So I feel very fortunate to have witnessed her change careers years after uni and walk so fearlessly into the unknown, led by her passions, talent and intuition. It has made me feel infinitely more fearless in my own pursuits: free from external pressures and expectations, driven by my purpose.


Kya Buller

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

I'm Kya Buller, a born and bred Mancunian. I'm the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Aurelia Magazine, an independent publication uplifting the personal stories of marginalised people.

TW KYA BULLER

International Women's Day is championing the # BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

In my creative industry of writing and publishing, we can #BreakTheBias by giving women the space this IWD to tell their own stories the way they want to be told, without expectation or preconceived ideas of what women 'should' be writing about.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

To truly advocate for equality we must show up and protest where we can - by attending vigils, demonstrations, staying informed and holding truth to power. It is no longer enough to sit on the sidelines and wait for a different future. Things don't change unless we do.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

In my community, the steps I take to create an inclusive environment include placing a spotlight on marginalised genders and faiths, and people of colour. My team are all Northern women of colour - proving that creativity and inclusivity does and can thrive outside of London! In order to be truly inclusive, we must shake up the status quo and be willing to pass the mic.

What three top tips would you choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Remain soft - your sensitivity is your power
  • Let yourself feel the full weight of your emotions and let your experiences be the seeds from which you can grow
  • You are just as deserving of opportunity and respect as anybody else

Tell us about a woman that inspires you? 

My Mum, Vilma Buller, is the most inspiring woman I could ever hope to know. She has proven to me that passion, above all, is the most important thing, and that as long as you're proud of yourself, you have done your best.


Zara Street

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

I'm the creator of Keep It Bright; the positive lifestyle brand I started 15 years ago from my tiny bedroom with nothing but a big dream - my aims with Keep It Bright are to uplift, empower & encourage, all through my range of clothing, prints, home decor, books & more! I create daily content on Instagram surrounding these themes, to create a space people can go to when they need a boost. I also recently started The Keep It Bright Podcast to go more in-depth on the topics I usually cover. My mission has always been to help as many people as possible to love themselves more & live happier, more authentic lives.

TW ZARA STREET

International Women's Day is championing the # BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

The creative fields are essential for breaking biases & stereotypes, as voices get to be heard, stories get to be told - hearing different stories is how we learn more about the diversity within people's lives. For example, I'm a British Pakistani woman who grew up on council estates, raised by a single mum, I started my brand at 15 years old after positive thinking saved my life, I've been the sole provider for my family for many years, I'm covered in tattoos, I don't want children - maybe not what a lot of people think of when they think of a British Pakistani woman - but by sharing more peoples realities & stories, it breaks down those stereotypes and unconscious biases we may all have.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

Something I think we can all do on a small level is to just speak up, even in daily conversations when we hear something being said that is stereotypical or discriminatory and question/challenge it! And to call out injustices/prejudices we see happen in our workplaces etc. To show our solidarity. To use our privileges to show up for others.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

With my clothing brand I do my best to be as size-inclusive as possible, to use models of different sizes & ethnicities, to make unisex clothing and also spread messages of unity.

What three top tips would you choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Choose yourself - don't settle for less than you deserve, no more second chances, trust your gut and don't ignore red flags
  • Realise your power & worth and own them
  • Love & accept yourself - life feels so much easier when you're fighting for yourself instead of against yourself

Tell us about a woman that inspires you?

To be honest, ALL women inspire me. With every single thing we face in this world, all the things we go through, in a system that hasn't been set up to nurture, look after or protect us properly; the fact we still get up and get on and achieve and thrive, against all the odds - is so inspiring to me. Women are powerhouses, absolutely incredible.


Rukayah Megeri

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

I am a women’s empowerment advocate. I dedicate my life and work to helping women step into their power. As a Womb Therapist and a Reiki Master, I curate my own specially targeted 1-1 programmes, group retreats, 1-1 Sessions, Sister Circles, Workshops and natural holistic products to guide women on their journey to realising all that they are searching for all ready lies within them. I do this through life coaching encompassing holistic and natural methods to evoke both physical and internal growth.

TW RUKAYAH MEGARI 1

International Women's Day is championing the # BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

I think theatre and creativity have a special way of bringing people from every background together in a way that moves people, lowers people’s guards, invokes emotion and tells a story because of this it’s the perfect tool to use to spread a message. It makes us feel instead of just listen.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

We start small. Initially, we openly question our own thoughts and behaviours around inequality which inspires those around us to do the same and it creates a domino effect into our circles and our communities. We speak up and we see another woman’s injustice as our own injustice. What starts as a small change in our own communities eventually leads to change on a larger scale.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

The whole ethos behind the work I do is for women from every walk of life to feel at ease in my space. I ensure this by listening and never judging, by welcoming all and if there was ever a time I witnessed any judgment or exclusion within the group work that would be challenged without hesitation.

What three top tips would you choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Believe in yourself and if that feels difficult, look at where the root of that disbelief started because if you don’t it will hold you back for the rest of your life
  • Learn to see the woman standing beside you as a sister and not a competitor. There is nothing like a group of women helping each other to the top
  • Speak up! Share your truth! No matter how difficult it may feel at first the world needs your voice!

Tell us about a woman that inspires you? 

The woman that most inspires me is my mother. As I’ve grown so has she. Over the years I’ve watched her let go of a generational way of thinking. She’s let go of what she once thought to be true and completely opened herself up to listen and learn. She has created a safe space in our relationship to express our rawest emotions which has challenged us both to grow. I know not everyone has the luxury of a woman like this in their lives and though our relationship may have not always been this way, through growth and her courage to have difficult conversations it is now, which shows the possibility is there for so many others.


Bianca Danielle

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

I do all sorts! I'm a real all-round creative soul - but today I will say I am a freelance Arts Marketing Specialist, Content Creator, Events Producer, with an unhealthy addiction to Spicy Pot Noodles...

BIANCA DANIELLE

International Women's Day is championing the #BreakTheBias – how do you think theatre/creativity can help to do that?

Theatres need to speak up loudly. Be transparent. We all know that behind the big institutions there are real humans with thoughts and feelings and I think we need to hear the voices of these venues much more.

Creatively I see so many of my peers making work that is overtly tackling bias in many forms and I'm here for it. I love it because much needed conversations are starting because art isn't just on a theatre stage or in a museum, it's in Instagram Reels, it's on Spotify music - now that we are in such a heavy digital age, we have much more control and ownership in getting seen and heard, narrating our own experiences, creating our own narratives.

What can we all do more of to advocate for equality?

Have hard conversations. It's great having training, working groups and voicing hopes and dreams in work meetings or with friends. But following up with check-ins and evaluating openly with staff and each other asking "did that work?", "is it time to try a new approach?" "do we need outside help?" is never a bad thing.

What steps do you take to help you to create an inclusive environment in your work/school/community?

In my workplaces I join the various working groups, I am vocal in all meetings, I ask for explanations and evaluations instead of just following processes blindly. All because inclusivity takes work. It takes patience. It takes time. But more than that - it takes people who won't just settle.

Inclusivity is layered, it's vast, it's not something one meeting or one person can accomplish. This is why I am really proud of Melanin Markets. This is am events company that I have co-created with my friend Kelly, and it is a vehicle to address inclusivity - it actively creates spaces for equality, it champions inclusivity in numerous ways, but not quietly - WE ARE LOUD and unapologetic.

What three top tips would you choose to pass on to other women so that they can get the most out of 2022?

  • Give yourself grace and set your own pace. We've been through so many traumatic life events in the past few years that it's ok to not be firing on all cylinders, ticking off goals and showing out like what social media may have you believe everyone is doing.
  • Not taking things personally and returning to your joy, is always a power move.
  • Social media can be a distraction, or a tool, or a CV/portfolio, or a catalyst, or even an escape. Get clear on why you're spending time on these platforms - then utilise it.

Tell us about a woman that inspires you? 

Shonda Rhimes has been a long time inspiration for me. She didn't just write and produce one show and say 'ok I'm done now'. She wrote and produced multiple and had them airing all together on ABC taking over their entire prime time AND she implemented Black women as the protagonists. Black women who were not just strong, but they were also beautiful, vulnerable, versatile, multifaceted beings. Absolutely magical.


 

Enjoyed these interviews?

Have a read of Part 1 and Part 2 here.

You might recognise some more of these extraordinary women with important things to say.