You gave birth to your daughter while you were in prison, how did that happen? I was sent to prison whilst heavily pregnant for a crime I committed when I was around 18 years old. Being pregnant in prison is definitely the most horrific experience for any women. You are constantly hungry and tired. I was working in the kitchen stirring soup that I was not allowed to eat and contact with your family is minimal. After a few weeks inside I gave birth to my daughter in hospital and was later transferred to a mother and baby unit within the prison.

That must have been extremely challenging? Yes, we were in the mother and baby unit for eight weeks, but it felt like eight months. We were not involved with the normal prison regime which meant we had little access to education, the library, books and of course the internet. I was with ten other mothers, mostly all first time mums, and two who didn’t speak English, so we didn’t have much of a clue as what to do if your child was sick or had a random rash, there was no Google. If these things happened on a Friday evening you’d have to wait until Monday to see GP which was the most frightening part of my experience. 

What has happened since your release? I was released from prison in 2015 and I have since made some life changing moves for myself and other women. When I first arrived at Holloway I was inspired by the support I received from two organisations, Birth Companions and Project 507. These women supported me during this tough time with antenatal classes and self development skills that made me wonder why something like this didn’t exist when I was 18 years old. If I had a mentor then I may not have ended up in jail. Somebody would have spotted my talent and my mistakes and hopefully steered me in the right direction. This inside me to launch Mentor MatcHER when my daughter was only a few weeks old. 

Being pregnant in prison is definitely the most horrific experience for any women. You are constantly hungry and tired, and contact with your family is minimal

Tell us about Mentor MatchHER… I launched Mentor MatchHER during international women’s day in March 2016, a powerful day to launch a powerful movement. Our initiative is committed to transforming the lives of women deemed most at risk of becoming marginalised from society by empowering them into enterprise. The mentors and speakers we work with give women hope and purpose to make a substantial shift in their lives, and to create a positive future. We host events in collaboration with brands such as Condè Nast and Burberry to help encourage women into enterprise by connecting them with mentors that will help guide them through talks and one on one speed mentoring sessions.

What does your average day look like? I wake up at 6am. I pray and play uplifting gospel music (yes that early) to get me ready for the day. By 8am I’ve tackled most of my emails and got my daughter ready. If I’m studying that day (I’ve started a degree in business marketing) she will go into nursery as early as 9am. If not I’ll work from my kitchen table till lunch time when I’ll take her into nursery and head to the city for meetings. I get home around 7pm so her dad gets her from nursery and has her ready for bed most evenings which is just the biggest help. As women I don’t think we spend enough time giving men the credit they deserve. With this new female empowerment movement that’s going on there’s a lot of male bashing and maybe not enough male praising. As mothers some of us are raising men so it’s important for them to hear and see us talking and uplifting their fathers. I simply couldn’t do half of what I do without his support as her father. 

How do you spend family time? I am from a typical African family where there are loads of us. I’m very blessed to have a family like mine who have supported me through everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly. They never let me get ahead of myself and will always tell me when I’m wrong which I think is important. We see each other every Sunday and we just cook feasts and share stories. I live for Sunday’s. 

I will teach my children to never ever give up or quit. It’s ok to fail, but keep pushing until something sticks

What kind of mum are you? I don’t really know what that means. I think I can only be one type of mum and that’s the mother to my daughter.. She will never get another biological mother. Which is a privilege, So whatever I do I have to ensure that I am a role model in every respect not just somebody who is a rule maker in my household or even somebody who is a rule breaker. Balance is important with everything. 

What have you found most challenging about motherhood? That anything can happen at anytime. On my way to an important meeting I was wearing a crispy new white shirt. I picked my daughter up to put her in her pram as we where getting ready for the nursery run and she randomly pooped through her clothes and on my new shirt making us both late.she just looked at me and giggled! 

What life lessons and loves do you hope to pass on to your children? I will teach my children to never ever give up or quit. It’s ok to fail, but keep pushing until something sticks. 

For more about Mentor MatchHER see mentormatcher.co.uk

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