Expert guidance is one thing, but nothing replaces personal experience when to comes to building trust and giving inspiration to other people facing the same issues you once faced.
Jasmine Mbye was at a loss as to what to do when she faced returning to work after being made redundant and then having a baby.
She attended an event organised by Luton Borough Council called Women Like Me in 2018 and was so impressed by its success that she determined to run the event the following year. That was the beginning of The Like Me CIC, a not-for-profit personal development and employability organisation that organises courses and events that aim to empower and inspire women and girls.
The Community Interest Company is particularly aimed at those who are vulnerable and want to develop the confidence and courage to transform their lives.
Jasmine said: “Our focus is what we call the Double P Approach – professional expertise but backed up with personal experience. So, take my situation, for instance. I was working in training and coaching when I was made redundant and then I had my daughter and took time off with her until she was around six months old and I decided I needed to get back into work.
“I was lost as to what I could do, and what I wanted to do, and the Women Like Me event inspired me. The first one was organised by Luton Borough Council but they said that they didn’t want to carry on organising it, they wanted someone to step in to take over the running of it, and suddenly I knew what I had to do.
“For the first time ever I was unemployed, so I was visiting the job centre, and that’s how I found out about the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA), and eventually we were granted funding from Near Neighbours that helped to make things happen. So, when I organise events to help people develop themselves and have the confidence to move forward, I’m using my personal experience, not just my professional skills.
“Our first conference was in 2019, then we had to go online last year because of coronavirus restrictions, and we’re hoping that this year the event will be a hybrid, with some of us getting together while at the same time having a virtual event that anyone can join in with, wherever they are.”
Other than the annual conference, which this year has as its theme Rising From The Ashes, The Like Me CIC runs courses in wellbeing, self-development, empowerment and employability, as well as guest speaker events and workshops. Typically, those turning to The Like Me CIC, which runs courses for women and girls, have low self-worth and may have endured abuse, bullying, exploitation, family conflict and violence and common health disorders such as anxiety, depression and stress.
“Through our courses and our speakers, we aim to give women the confidence to grow and celebrate themselves and achieve their goals,” said Jasmine. “Almost every woman you speak to has been through some issue that they have had to learn to deal with, either in their private life or their professional life, and if they can talk about their achievements and success, then they can inspire others.
“But we also tell people that a moment of inspiration has to be followed by perspiration, and so we help them to build on what they have learned and focus on what they want to do and hopefully help them get there.”
Sponsors are being invited to get involved with this year’s conference. Despite the fact that last year’s was somewhat curtailed by social distancing regulations, the benefits of staging a virtual alternative have paid off for The Like Me CIC as the reach of the organisation has gone far beyond Bedfordshire, with women nationwide able to join in.
How the roadmap out of the pandemic works out will determine how this year’s conference, on Saturday, June 26, will look but even when it’s possible for group events again, Jasmine is hopeful that the national audience will stay with her.
“It’s been such a tough year for so many people, particularly women, and a lot are struggling and we’re hoping to get as many people involved as possible, including those who want to support us with sponsorship,” she said. “I’m really excited about this year’s event and seeing what it will look like. In the past we’ve done talks, poetry sessions, workshops, self-defence, had live vocalists, all kinds of things and we are looking forward to introducing new things.
“Although it will be nice for us all to meet in person again, I don’t think we’ll ever go back to how we were. We want to stay open so women all over the UK can get together to face up to their issues, in a safe space where they don’t feel any shame or negativity and where they will be listened to and helped.”
Details of the Rising From The Ashes event will be available soon, along with ticket information here where you can register your interest. Details of sponsorship opportunities are available from firstname.lastname@example.org, while full details of the organisation and its work can be found at the website.