"We simply live life, gain experiences and pursue our dreams"
The female empowerment platform, mOmhead was established in 2015 by university drop-out Amna Akhtar.
By teaming up with her best friend, the two women set out to achieve sustainable change among young women whose ambitions have been restricted by cultural expectation.
Their brand, mOmhead combines, fashion, female empowerment and a fantastic #GirlDreamer initiative to inspire girls between 13 and 16 years old to dream big.
In a special Gupshup with DESIblitz, Amna Akhtar talks about mOmhead, Girl Dreamer and empowering young women.
What is mOmhead and Girl Dreamer?
mOmhead is a platform where we aim to educate, elevate and empower girls and young women through world cultured fashion and our non-profit sister company, Girl Dreamer.
Strange word, we know!
The point of the name is to get you thinking, talking, to ask questions and dig beyond the surface.
The name represents difference. Like us, there are girls out there who don’t ‘fit in’ with the mainstream, those who have bigger dreams.
What inspired you to create Girl Dreamer?
Girl Dreamer started from our desire to enhance the lives of teenage girls in schools to better equip them for life ahead.
We were mentors volunteering in a secondary school where we set up our first after school female empowerment club in 2013.
Coming from South Asian roots ourselves, we understand the struggles of girls of that age and those from similar backgrounds.
How does Girl Dreamer help South Asian women and girls?
Although we work with all women, we adapt some of our programmes for a South Asian female audience.
We hold community events and after school programmes to inspire girls to be confident, realise their potential and to achieve higher.
“Our workshop called Brown Girls Mean Business is all about helping South Asian girls in business from a female and cultural perspective.”
Are there less South Asian women in professional sectors?
We definitely think so. Being in the industries we are, we see a huge lack of South Asian presence in general but especially women.
Why do you think this is?
I think cultural barriers, societal pressures and the lack of self -confidence plays a big part.
There are many expectations on South Asian women to maintain a certain reputation and sense of respectability when thinking about what she wants to do. The “what will others think?” type of mentality is a big issue in this.
From the pressure of marriage to gender inequality to the lack of freedom, Asian women are constantly battling with cultural barriers.
Many of the teenage girls we work with tell us time and time again that it’s hard to break boundaries and be different because there are expectations from their parents and wider South Asian community.
So personal choice isn’t always the only factor when figuring out what they want to do in life.
The sad thing is, so many South Asian women are more than capable of filling these gaps, and I just hope we can start to see an increase in more of us going for what we want.
But through our intensive confidence and aspiration building, we have girls from the most deprived areas, facing personal challenges- that are now studying in industries such as aviation, medical, business, literature, arts and technology.
How is your ‘service’ different from other organisations or platforms?
Between us at mOmhead, we don’t have a degree in business, never studied fashion and didn’t train in workshop development.
We simply live life, gain experiences and pursue our dreams. Through our motivational talks, community events and school programmes we hope to help other girls like us.
#GirlDreamer is about a sisterhood in which we provide girls and young women with the tools to be successful and overcome societal and cultural challenges. Our fashion line represents this freedom and empowerment.
Our online presence allows us to reach women from as many places, backgrounds and circumstances as we can.
You know you have the Jack of all trades type of person? Well, I suppose we’re the Jill of all trades!
What is the purpose of your ‘Girls Night In’ event?
Girls Night In is a chance for young women in similar situations to meet and be inspired by each other.
We provide anything from food, mocktail masterclasses (yes, we double up as bar tenders from time to time, shocks quite a few people to see brown girls mixing and stirring up drinks I must say!), photography workshops, live music, movie nights, card games, dancing, mindful colouring and even temporary tattoos.
You can share stories, show off talents, make new friends and even find the odd business opportunity.
We realised that girls were going to the cinema or for meals on their Friday nights because that’s all that’s available for young women.
Guys have their snooker clubs and casinos to unwind in; we don’t have much in the way of cool, relaxed and fun female spaces.
So since we couldn’t find it in our area, we created it!
What advice would give to girls facing similar problems?
I just want to say, the life you lived is not the life you have to live.
The aunties will talk, your mum will tell you off for stirring up the business world instead of the dhal pot, and your brothers might be out all night whilst you watch X-Factor or Star Plus with your parents.
But these are realities bestowed upon you from those who only know one side of life.
Whenever you are ready to embark upon a journey of change now is the time to do it.
The greatest gift you can give yourself is to follow those instincts and make whatever goes on in your imagination your reality.
Amna Akhtar truly is an inspiring woman for many British Asian women and even non-Asian women. There is no reason why a girl cannot dream.
To find out more about #GirlDreamer and mOmhead or to get involved, please visit Amna’s website here.