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Kulukaya Sadiki is a Malawai-based sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian, and marketer.

For her business talents, she was chosen as a Young African Leader for the ‘Leadership in Business’ cohort by the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a USA program in 2020.

Kulukaya is also the Founder and Chairperson of ‘Ladies of Influence,’ a recognized non-profit organization that focuses on sustainable development in Malawi through humanitarian efforts, with a particular focus on the female child.

Glo-Ray Designs Sustainable Studio, her clothing line, uses recycled and rejected fabric to create timeless trends, delaying disposal and reducing fabric pollution. She works with female fabric providers in the market, encouraging and empowering them with business skills.

She talks about her journey with Women of Rubies in this interview.

Did your childhood prepare you in any way for what you do now , tell us more about your upbringing?

I was born in 1987 and raised in Blantyre, Malawi and I am a Christian.  My father was a creative entrepreneur, sadly he passed away when I was 12. From there on, we were raised by my mom who did the best she could under the circumstances (Bless her always). Both of my sisters are business women so you see, the entrepreneurial route was inevitable for me. I grew up with and around strong women who taught me how to prepare for the world and survive in it. My childhood was normal, I easily made friends and played a lot. The grown up me is naturally an introvert so you will mostly find me at home, if am out am likely surrounded by nature, having one on one deep discussions or simply writing my heart out. My sisters are extroverts so I guess someone had to be the introverted one and that is me. I have an amazing, creative and intelligent daughter who is literally my world, I thank God for her. We are an inseparable team. When my dad was alive, it was great and normal…well close to perfect like every other family. When he passed away, my mom had to take care of everything and that was not easy but she did her best and was strong through it for all of us. I am forever grateful to her for being both parents to us for the past 21 years. I knew I grew up the way I did to make a difference in the world. I knew it but I did not know how I would do it.

What Inspired you to start Gloray-designs?

I know it is ironic but the moment my daughter was born, something was ignited inside of me and I knew I was created for more. I decided right then and there that I would make a difference in everything I do and I decided to pursue only business for purpose. As stated by the Wikipedia, the fashion industry is one of the major water, air and soil polluting industries of the world and the environmental damages increase as the industry grows. Small businesses are the least supported globally and the women entrepreneurs that sell recycled fabric are not recognized and are easily exploited. Fast fashion promotes discarding usable left over, recycled and rejected fabric and almost new clothes which pollutes the earth and it encourages rapid clothes making. This consumes natural resources at production and contributes to taking from nature. The problems associated with the fashion industry and my passion for women empowerment inspired me to open my sustainable studio and to dedicate my life to helping other people in all aspects of my life.

Kulukaya Sadiki

You also founded “Ladies of Influence”, what is the inspiration behind it?

Ladies of Influence(LOI) is a female managed Non-Profit Organization founded in 2017 whose main objective is to contribute to sustainable development in Malawi through humanitarian effort. The organization’s primary focus is to make a difference in the education and health sectors mainly targeting women and the girl child linked to Sustainable Development Goals in order to achieve women empowerment considering that this is a pivotal area in relation to global development. Growing up, I read a lot about organizations like UNDP, UNICEF, USAID, European Union and more on what they did to help humanity. I admired them from a distance but how was I, a young girl from Malawi, Blantyre ever going to make a difference in anyone’s life? That question haunted me through the years and it never let me go until I started to act on it. Purpose literally hunts you down. Ladies of Influence chose me and it is a part of me. I found amazing partners who work with me in the organization to make sure that all objectives are achieved. They dedicate their time and resources to make sure that we succeed. There would be no LOI without these women so I am thankful to each one of them for volunteering to work with me.

 

What makes Gloray designs unique and a stand out brand in Malawi?

We are a fashion brand that is not only focused on financial performance but also making a positive impact in society by using an important aspect of human existence which is clothes. This is done by reducing wastage in our production, working with marginalized groups and using the three pillars of sustainability in all our supply chain. Our Values are transparency, authenticity, women empowerment, environmental protection, Inclusive employment and attention to detail.

 

You are an advocate, and fashion designer, how do you manage it all?

Focus, discipline, determination and resilience are the four words that best describe me. When I commit to a project, I don’t stop until I see it through. I don’t sleep at the normal times, I jog to think and find inspiration, I partner and delegate. I could put it down to a lot but I think the most important aspect of it is God’s grace really. I am no superwoman but when you walk in purpose and aim to serve, God equips you with what you need through the race.

 

How have your ventures impacted women in Malawi, kindly share some testimonies?

Through ladies of influence we have managed to donate hospital equipment to 2 public hospitals that is helping people up to now. In 2017 we donated food and cash items to an orphanage and disability center owned by a woman in one of the townships in the country. We have a sponsorship and mentorship program currently sponsoring 8 girl children with all important educational needs because we believe in the saying that; ‘when you educate a girl child, you educate a village’.

Through Glo-Ray Designs we have managed to work with a few women who sell fabric at the markets and by becoming friends with them we have been able to share business ideas and I have helped to contribute to their businesses by being a referral and buying from them. My aim is to bring them with me throughout my growth and the chain would not be complete without them.

The clothes that I make bring out the confidence in a woman or a man. I make things that make the personality and authenticity shine through the people wearing them. I want people to be comfortable being themselves and not anybody else. I have received a lot of great reviews for my work and this is how I know that we are on the right track. My contribution to body image, acceptance and satisfaction is what makes me happy.

 

What are some of the challenges of your work?

My own fear of failure was my greatest challenge but with every step I took and the realization that fear is nothing but a feeling I can control, it grew smaller and smaller. Getting my clients, suppliers and customers to understand my sustainable business model is a work in progress but we are slowly getting there. Getting everyone to understand why we should help the less privileged in the society is still a process that is getting better each day. Patience, acceptance, resilience and understanding helps me to get by.

 

Tell us about your other projects and activities?

I am one of the Mandela Washington Fellows of 2021 and through this program, I am learning a lot to do with leadership. We are currently working on forming a fashion council in Malawi and I am the chairperson of the grouping. I am a marketer and one of the shareholders of a housing cooperative in Malawi making sure that people have access to housing facilities and I am a member of the Global Women’s Network. I love to write and motivate so I usually do that in my free time.

 

Mention 3 women who inspire you and why

Dr. Joyce Banda who was the first female president of Malawi for her bravery, she is an educator and a grassroots women’s rights activist. I admire her confidence and sense of purpose in her work.

 

Michelle Obama for her women and girl child empowerment.

 

Maya Angelou for using her wisdom and voice to reach out to people.

 

Could you share some nuggets on how to be a successful fashion designer & humanitarian?

As a fashion designer you have to be authentic in all you do, what you make and in your connection with customers, suppliers and employees.  Be crystal clear about what success means to you and draw your personal mission statement so you do not chase other peoples dreams. because when things get hard, you will go back to why you started in the first place and focus on the goal.

To be a humanitarian, you have to search within yourself and find what makes you happy at the core… for me it was the discovery that making a difference in the world and my community gives me a sense of satisfaction that I don’t feel doing anything else. It is service leadership and this requires a lot of sacrifice and looking beyond yourself and one’s immediate circle. One must have a sense of Ubuntu in them to take on such a humbling role.

 

What makes you a Woman of Rubies?

I am me, I am different from anyone else and they are different from me. My ability to love beyond pain, to work through distractions and to hold on to my values makes me me.

She is a two time Amazon bestselling author of five books public speaker and trainer.
In an interview with Women of rubies below, she shares her story;
Victoria

Childhood Influence

While growing up as a child, I always knew I wanted to be influential. I was very agile and active as a child.
As little as I was in primary school I knew I wanted to study accounting.
I never fancied other professions like being a doctor, lawyer, nurse etc. People said it was because my dad is an accountant… Maybe.

While n secondary school, I was so good at writing. English was my best subject. I loved talking so it wasn’t any news I joined the press club.
Fast forward to my SS1 my junior secondary English teacher Mrs Obimma having heard I was going to the commercial arm called me alongside two other teachers. She was heartbroken that I decided to pursue accounting. Why not law? Mass communication? What is wrong with you? I want to talk to your parents!
Blah blah blah! My mind was made up a long time ago… As regards profession it was only accounting I saw.
Just to inform you though I never liked maths or account! So what was the biggie? Why the interest in accounting?
Let’s reverse to my primary/early secondary school days.
I love(d) talking and writing. I had the voice and the aura while presenting speeches.
I remember I always picked my dad’s newspaper and pretended to be the newscaster…Oh how I enjoyed it!
I remember holding my hands as the mic and introducing my self. I just spoke(whether it made sense or not but I’m sure it did make sense😉) I hosted all the events at my children church, I anchored news in my school.

But I still wanted accounting as a profession! It was the perfect profession I thought. I didn’t want to put on white coats like the doctors, or wear a robe like the lawyers, and gloves like the engineers. I wanted to wear suit! As little as I was I admired great ladies and knew I could be one, I termed it as ‘boss lady’

I have lost counts of how many times I imagined myself in an executive office. Ngozi Okonji was one of my models.
So despite my not so strong love for maths I opted for accounting because of my childhood desire to be a boss(well as a child I thought bankers and accountants were cool😂😂)

But! I also wanted to talk! Be on TV, inspire people… When I got to secondary school I always wanted to see YOUths do things right, I was Miss adviser.

It’s amazing how far I have come from my desires and dream as a child till now.
How by bits I have started playing out my dreams.
Clarity isn’t gotten in a day! I stand in awe each day and a lot about what I only thought as a child without even knowing how is coming to play.
My dreams are valid, Rome wasn’t built in a day so I will keep moving.

Yes,this is me VICTORIA NWANNA, an ‘accountant by profession’ but a ‘boss lady’ by inherent nature with or without the accounting profession, inspiring others and living purpose. It’s all adding up! Also,I don’t believe I have wasted four years studying accounting it is all instrumental to my build up (although I ‘might’ not use this certificate)Please don’t tell my dad Godwin Nwanna (hahaha) My childhood dreams and plays is all turning out for real. In my book Life’s colour I shared some practical steps I took in turning my dreams to reality https://thevictorianwanna.com/shop/

GET UP YOUTH AFRICA and Life As An Executive Director 

Get Up Youth Africa is a non-profit youth organisation focused on building a generation of changemakers and African leaders who would champion sustainable growth in Africa. Via our three-fold mandate (to Inspire, Ignite Imagination and Provoke Right Action for sustainable nation building), we are establishing avenues for young people to proactively engage in personal and community development to fight unemployment through Quality Education (SDG4), create a positive environment for Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG8) and End Poverty (SDG1).

Vic

We have executed several projects, the project pad a girl, our girl child empowerment where we trained over 1500 young girls on purpose passion, sex education and financial literacy. We have also taught 700 of them on digital skills in partnership with girl lead Africa and other facilitators in Benin City. We launched the skill Up Academy Last year where we empowered over 700 youths in relevant digital skills like website design, presentation and communication, brand communication, project management and 12 more skills, we partnered with facebook and JCI. Recently we launched our secondary school tour Not Too Young To Make Sense project -This programme is committed to crusading and championing self and purpose discovery, intentional career choices. It is designed to provide the teenagers with the knowledge, skills and network required to effectively lead their lives at young age through our mentorship, career fair,discussion sessions and distribution of books(personal development, business and career books). We cannot afford to allow these kids to be kicked (by whatever reason) into becoming the adults they won’t be proud of so we arm them with the right war tools now for life’s battle.

As A Professional Master Of Ceremony 

Our event is as good as your host. Naturally I am energetic and people wonder how I take on a lot but my skill and experience as an MC has also helped me in achieving certain results.

 My Expectations.

I expect the older generation to create a conducive environment for growth, there is no competition. If the youths are not properly allowed to grow in years from now when the older generations are no longer on the scene what will sustain our dear nation?
Also according to Alvin Toffler ‘For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.”
I expect that brands increase the active participation and partnership with young people. The more comprehensively brands work with us as service partners, the more we all increase our public value to the entire community because Nigeria need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. 

Challenges As A Youth Driver.

A lot of challenges and one major challenge is our value system especially in this part of the world.
It is disheartening that many times youth developmental projects lack funding while heavy funding goes into supporting a brand that sells short of decency and the values we should upload as a nation. I grew up to this fact, hardly do we have good sponsors for value adding events or projects. In my university days huge sum are spent on beauty pageantry and all the sort but hardly on conferences. What we are thereby communicating is that ‘we are ‘only’ interested in the financial returns than the investment on good values and this has affected so many aspects of our lives as a society.
Also I have heard many people say we aren’t loud enough and while sometimes it is important to put our work out there, I personally think it changes the essence of what we stand for if all I am committed to doing is ensuring I am ‘loud’ enough for awards, recognition etc. By loud I mean just vanity metrics. My point is this, while it is great to invest in a good PR when that becomes the focus of all that we do we truly lose the meaning in the long run.

Plans About Unemployment through Skill Up Academy 

It absolutely makes sense to skill up. In present days emphasis is laid on performance not just certificate. We are interested in your ability to do, not just in saying you know and this is where skilling up comes in. Our educational system is faulty to an extent, real life skills and even practical relevant skills are not taught but it is our responsibility as youths to take charge of our life and create what we want.
My coach always says your competition isn’t your neighbours or village person but global. If we must stand tall in the global stage then we must level up in terms of relevant 21st century skills.

I always ask the youths I have been honoured to speak with, What skills do you have that you can be paid for?
What skills do you have that can upscale your business? What skills do you have that can be an extra source of income?What skills do you have that can add value to your employee? What skill do you have that can make you a better person and extra buck of money?
The challenges just like any worthy movement is real. One major challenge is getting to partner with organisations that can provide job(full time or contract based) opportunities to our students to use the skills learnt. We also are running on a snail pace instead of on a jet speed because we do not have the support from many yet. Most of our projects are self funded, which isn’t really sustainable in the long run. Project that are focused on human capital development is really capital intensive.
Despite the seeming challenge, Get Up Youth Africa in line with the SDG 8 aims at promoting development-oriented projects that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises.
We are ready to take immediate and effective measure towards dealing with unemployment. Step by step we will get there. We refuse to allow the process mapping cripple our present efforts however little.

The consequences of high unemployment rate in Nigeria affects each and everyone of us as members of the Nigerian Society. The rate of crime…

This is a fight we are interested in engaging in at Get Up Youth Africa and we do hope more people join us in this fight.

As a two time Amazon bestselling author, I want you to know this
Don’t be in a hurry to just blow focus more on growing than blowing, growth is sustainable, ‘blowing’ is fickle. Commit to Process!

Would I consider a Senatorial/ House of Rep position 

I have always been ‘interested’ in politics as a child, and I just have this special love for my country,I want us to get this right ..
But, my involvement in politics so far hasn’t been an active one in terms of taking ‘positions’. I want to be a leader in my own right who influences certain decisions for the good of my country but I am not sure yet if it is via the active political platform.

As a Woman of Rubies
First of all I appreciate this platform for celebrating, inspiring and being a sounding board to many women.
I am a woman of rubies because I understand that I was not created as an experiment,I was not created as a test to see if I would function/work properly or not. The moment I realised who I am the game changed, I am a detail oriented being creating with every specificity only I possess and this has empowered my many actions. I am committed to being the best version of myself per time and act with the conciousness that lives are connected to me, my failure to raise and live my beet best is and hindrance to those lives. So this isn’t just about Victoria, but the generation tied to my existence.

5 women who inspire me to be better and why?
Udo Okonjo. She has built a business…a successful one, is committed to investing in others as well and her relationship with God remaining unshaken. I am glad to know a successful woman can balance it all…I actually believe in having it all.

Esther Ijewere…she is fierce in a good way! She is the definition of support and even though I really don’t know any toxic person in my corner I am aware there are lots of them out there, having a woman who doesn’t hold back in helping is really commendable.

Dr Yolanda(Aunt Landa) for a long time right from my child hood this woman was my woman crush back to back. Her outreaches are amazing , she is in fact love personified! She daily shows that love is an action word. To think of it now, maybe this unconciously influenced my community actions.

Oprah Winifred and Michelle Obama. No way would I leave them out of this hahaha. Sweetly enough we are January born and I look forward to hosting them to a diner event sometime in the future(January). These women are epitome of strength and more, they operate at a dimension I marvel at and this all the more makes my dreams look possible and valid! If they can grow into a delight we all applaud I sure can too. I shouldn’t be the one to say this but allow me toot my own…Let’s watch out for Victoria Nwanna.

Final word for young female change makers 
I know while starting out it could be overwhelming trying to balance a lot and prove a point, the need to always do is heavy. Hello hero, learn to pull down your mountains one step at a time. Be careful of analysis paralysis, yes drafting out a full plan is great but sometimes you can not see the next turn until you make the move. It is also important to understand the place of being and not just doing (Low current no dey carry iron). You can’t give what you don’t have, grow, learn, volunteer. You can be a change maker not necessarily by starting out your NGO, sometimes by working with someone’s vision too you are part of the solution. It is an honorable thing to be a midwife birthing others babies and so the title of executive director or CEO shouldn’t be the motivation. Be careful not to be the problem you are trying to solve for others. In this journey called life it is you and your assignment, no one before you or after you. Finally God has left the creation process to you, you have been given the power to create the reality you want on your life. Life is by design not fate…live as such god! You are the real deal…unapologetically so.

Further information 

Get Up Youth Africa is open to collaboration, partners and sponsors for our projects. We are dealing with the seeds (Teenagers and Youths) of our country and so investment must be made in their lives. We are planning skill up Academy again but this time a physical one and this would cost a lot financially and getting experts. We trust that you can come in and help on skilling up the youths of our dear country.
www.thevictorianwanna.com
getupyouthmovement@gmail.com