"Whilst in Togo the one thing that stuck with me was the strength of the community. Women in the community."

“How I turned my lightbulb moment into a business idea.”

Taking inspiration from young women in Togo driving change in their communities, Imani Clough launched her own mentoring scheme for young women in the UK.

I was born and raised in Birmingham and went on to study Youth Justice at Nottingham Trent University. Throughout my time studying and more recently; I have mentored in schools, with charities, volunteered with the Youth Offending Team and more recently worked within Children’s Services. Working with young people and particularly young women is something I’ve always known I wanted to do and I am passionate about.

Once I graduated I didn’t want to get straight into work. The idea of volunteering always appealed to me, but I didn’t want to take a gap year and I didn’t feel particularly confident to just up and leave and explore on my own for a year.

But once I graduated I felt like I was in limbo. I wasn’t sure whether I was coming or going. Whilst working on a summer programme NCS (National Citizen Service) with young people, a colleague and I were talking, she had also not long graduated and she mentioned she was going to volunteer in Bangladesh for three months, in the hope on her return she would be a lot clear about finding work. Three months away from home, volunteering, sounded doable to me. I went home that evening and looked into International Citizen Service (ICS), filled out the application and two days later I had a phone call inviting me to an assessment day. Fast forward two weeks later…I had a placement to volunteer in Togo to work with in-country volunteers to tackle poverty.

Whilst in Togo the one thing that stuck with me was the strength of the community. Women in the community. Despite some of the gender based issues they were dealing with, they were doing so much for the community and particularly the girls and young women around them. They were amazing role models, inspiring, uplifting and empowering a generation of girls and young women daily. I was inspired by them to do more in my own community in Birmingham.

I had a light bulb moment! I felt all the mentoring skills and international experience I had acquired, my appreciation and understanding of different cultures, along with my passion for wanting to empower women needed to be put to good use. I decided I was going to bite the bullet and stop sitting on my business idea and start putting things into action.

Imani

After funding, support from my community and a series of pilot workshops and focus groups in Birmingham; Imani Academy was launched, a female empowerment enterprise. Imani means faith and Academy means a place of study training and or society. Combined Imani Academy offers life learning and character building. I feel through faith a better world can be created for women now and in the future. With Imani Academy, I hope to support girls and young women to be their personal best, to inspire, uplift and empower girls and young women and remind them that despite life’s challenges they are phenomenal 365 days a year!

Imani Academy provides an on and offline platform for girls and young women, to offer positive and healthy coping strategies to deal with personal, social and emotional challenges. We deliver 1-1 mentoring and deliver I Am Phenomenal 365 workshops with girls and young women 12-18 years old and 18-30 years old.

Find out more about the Imani Academy: www.imaniacdemy.weebly.com

Are you interested in volunteering overseas to boost your skills and your CV? Apply for the International Citizen Service here.