How To Help Others to Use Their Voice to Express and Protect Their Identity

You’ll Find It Has a Domino Effect in Helping Individuals, Collectives, and Communities Achieve Their Potential

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

A Case Study: Mary’s Story

Mary is the Chief Financial Officer at English Heritage. Before joining the organisation, she took a three-month sabbatical, during which time she lived in a small community in remote Africa.

There she worked alongside the local people offering her financial expertise to support them in developing a sustainable business strategy for their community, which allowed them to be self-sufficient in promoting their social enterprise.

But let’s rewind a little to learn what led Mary to do this.

Mary had visited Africa once before — it had been on her honeymoon, when as newlyweds, she and her husband, Clive, had spent three unforgettable weeks on an African Safari adventure. Mary loved the experience, the people, the culture, the land. She vowed to go back one day. When she did, she wanted to go into the heart of the country, where she could meet the people who were at the heart of one of the many small communities.

When she was planning her return, it had been twenty years since she had honeymooned there. During that time, she had followed with great interest positive social change programmes that were driven at community level, which were helping the region’s economy.

Through her research, Mary had learnt that many of the entrepreneurs launching these initiatives were women. She learnt that Africa has the highest concentration of female entrepreneurs, accounting for almost a third of all businesses on the continent. She learnt it is the only region in the world where more women than men choose to become entrepreneurs. According to World Bank figures which show that African women are half as likely as men to hold salaried jobs. She also learnt, despite that, female-led businesses

tend to be smaller, and their owners often struggle to secure financial investment.

Mary felt she could use her financial expertise to help overcome the challenges they were facing. She wasn’t sure how she could do this. This is what she wanted to find out. So she contacted a social enterprise that ran a Beadwork Project, letting them know about her love of their country, her financial background, and her desire to help them. She asked if she could come to meet them, to get to know more about their enterprise, their community, about each of them individually, and also as a collective. She was met with a resounding yes. Please come. We would love to meet you, and we would appreciate your support. Signed by Eunice, Kemi and Vanessa.

And so that’s how Mary ended up in a remote African village for three months.

Learning about the project, Mary came to understand how the skills of the bead workers is equivalent to that of a master craftsperson. Currently, the project generates sustainable income for ten women. The women ranged in age from their early twenty’s through to their sixty’s and had all leant their craft, beginning at a young age. The aspiration for their project is to create greater economic freedom and independence for more women, their families, and their community. Individually and collectively, they want to share their pride in their culture and their skills by reaching a global-wide community with their jewellery range.

To do this, they needed investment. Eunice said it was taking them longer to grow their project because of their gender.

Kemi added that they needed to benefit from the same opportunities as men for their country’s growth and development goals to be achieved.

Vanessa said to do that, they needed to be part of the conversation, but they struggled to have their voices heard.

Mary believed she could help with that. She was aware of a UK investment initiative where investors want to partner with entrepreneurs from African countries. There was a UK-Africa Investment summit taking place in London in three months. Mary believed they needed to have a seat at that table, or rather their feet on that stage, to pitch their social enterprise to a roomful of investors who wanted to help female entrepreneurs deliver positive social change.

So Mary set to work with the women to give voice to their project. Helping them to tell their individual and collective stories. The story of their craft and the vital role it played within their culture and how it represented their identity. She worked with them to prepare financial reports to include in their application to be accepted to attend the event — which was successful. And then the necessary numbers to include in their presentation.

Three months later, as Mary boarded the plane to return to the UK, she was joined by Eunice, Kemi and Venessa, who together were on a mission to secure the investment they needed to launch their project globally.


Together the three women delivered a successful pitch. They secured investment to develop four jewellery ranges each year for export to Europe. To achieve this, they needed to expand their team of ten to a team of twenty. This has made a significant positive impact to the economic circumstances of those involved and to their community. And this is just the beginning. They are working on expanding into more markets.

Words Of Wisdom

Scaling and making women-run businesses profitable helps everyone in our community because it allows us to create impact, create jobs and create ongoing growth and development through a sustainable enterprise. We just need your help to get started. We’ll do all the rest. (An excerpt from their pitch).

Identifying How You Can Help Others to Use Their Voice to Express and Protect Their Identity Assignment

Mary travelled to Africa because she felt she could use her financial expertise to help female entrepreneurs overcome the challenges they were facing in having their voices heard in expressing and protecting their identity.

You don’t need to travel so far, and you don’t need to have the same expertise Mary had. All you need is a willingness and a desire to want to help others to use their voice to express and protect their identity.

To get started in understanding what you can do, ask yourself one simple question:

How can I use what I have to help someone?

Think it through—Journal on it. Do what you need to do to allow the answer to come to you – Sleep on it. Take a bath. Take a walk. – The 3Cs of Creative Thinking – Bed, Bath, Bus (moving in some way). Trust the answer will come to you. Then you just need to follow through with whatever you’ve identified you can to to help someone.

It’s that’s easy. But then the best things in life often are. It doesn’t get much better than knowing you were able to help someone use their voice to express and protect their identity.


As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner and Writer, I create learning programmes and resources to help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLives in good, challenging and bad times.

The focus of my work begins by helping people identify a WorkLife path that’s true to their core values, purpose, and motivation. This is followed through by creating meaningful short and long-term WorkLife plans while enabling self-coaching, self-directing, and self-leadership to drive these plans.

I bring you stories created from questions and answers drawn from WorkLife lessons. What I’m trying to do is to highlight different solutions, to provide you with a pathway so that even if a particular story doesn’t apply to you, you understand there is a path to follow.

Whatever you want to do, there is a clear path to it, and once you understand those steps, it becomes much more intuitive, and hopefully, it motivates you to get started. Because that’s what you need most, the motivation to get started. The motivation to follow your vision.

I created The School Of WorkLife book series to help people continuously fine-tune their learning, development and growth in the areas most important to them. Click on the series to see all the books available and previews of what’s inside each book.

How To Use Your Voice To Express and Protect Your Identity is book 6 in the series. Click on the title to see a preview of what’s inside the book.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.