It's been over two years since I left Atlanta, took a leap of faith and moved back to Africa (now based in Senegal) with a goal to travel and tell dynamic stories that keep Africans at the center of their narrative. In that time, I have experienced euphoric highs (swimming in the Devil's pool, spending a night under the stars in the Sahara, and exploring glorious places like Zanzibar) devastating lows (getting so close to running out of money that I couldn't even buy myself a cup of coffee, the crippling isolation and loneliness that comes from being away from almost all your friends and loved ones, and countless sleepless nights on the floors of more than a airports around the world), and somehow still continuing to keep one foot in front of the other. Has it been challenging? Of course. Has it been worth it? Most definitely!
Driven by my desire to document and dignify the places and cultures I seek to expose myself to, while working to establish a creative and entrepreneurial path for myself, I have spent a large part of my time documenting people in various countries in Africa - particularly women - in ways I hope will empower them. So when Uber asked me about how I highlight the voices of the underrepresented in my community, it was a no brainer to share more about how I hope my photography and travels create visibility and representation for those in my community as well as highlight other women I admire who are also doing amazing work to empower women.
VISIBILITY + REPRESENTATION
Living a creative and unconventional life, documenting my travels through regions that have long since been disregarded by Western media, focusing on creating aspirational and dignifying portraiture that keep the people in the communities I visit at the center of their own narratives...this is how I strive to empower. My hope is that by capturing the women and young girls I encounter in underrepresented communities in aspirational ways as well as using myself as a reference, seeds of curiosity and action will be sparked within others who look like me and come from similar cultural background to live a purpose driven life. It is important to me that women and young girls in marginalized communities feel celebrated and see themselves in ways that are aspirational.
OTHER empowering WOMEN TO KNOW
Because I travel full, I wanted to also include some other amazing women whose focus is to empower the women in their communities directly in Dakar, Senegal.
In the Start Up Space: Laissa Mouen is the Founder and Managing Partner of Kinaya Lab, a startup acceleration and open innovation platform. Though she works and operates in various business and creative spaces, one of her most dynamic initiatives is the Women's Editions Spring Fellowship. A program dedicated to accelerating businesses led by women in francophone Africa with a mission to propel emerging innovators and leaders in tech with the skills and capacity to develop their businesses idea and create more impact.
In the Digital and ICT Space: As Head of Digital Ecosystem Relations at Sonatel in Dakar, Rokhaya Solange Ndir also leads the Mwomen program, which aims to make digital a tool for economic, social and women's empowerment throughout Senegal. Through her various lwomen's associations (Her genuine personal commitment. In addition to her professional activities, Rokhaya has a genuine personal commitment to the advancement of women through associations. She is the Vice-president of FESTIC: association of Senegalese women in the ICT sector, a member of the Board Directors of the International Network of Women Engineers and Science (INWES) and an Ambassador for Senegal of the Women In Africa Initiative
In the Advocacy Space: Rokhaya Ngom, founder of Utamu, focuses on creating access through advocacy, motivation, and education to women in rural areas of Senegal. Utamu, which means sweetness in Swahili, stands to denounce injustice irrespective of gender, religion or race.
Much like myself, Uber's Women at Uber initiative has a mission to promote the advancement of women by building a global community, accelerating professional development, and partnering across the company to attract & retain top talent. With an ultimate goal to increase the representation of women in leadership roles at Uber globally.
Photography by yours truly