Fadia Williams, facilitator of the Ellevate Yourself, Ellevate Your Business workshop, asked a participant, “What would you do if I gave you R200?” and the participant replied, “Get food.”
Another woman was asked, “what about R2000?” and she suggested shopping, “and what about R20 000?” to which someone responded with, “hmmm, pay off some debt.”
And then “2 million?”
“Well that’s easy,” someone said confidently, “I would invest it into my business.”
I remember Fadia standing there and saying, “We hear millions and think investment, but we hear R2 and we think ‘spend’.”
Where does this come from? Why are we easily giving money away? Losing money?
I was at the Workshop as a Woman of Waqf (WOW) representative to face our finances. At least, this is what I thought as I walked into the beautiful Rosebank venue, lit by the vibrant tones of light, warmth and the smell of coffee- and how wrong I was. Fadia was there in her thrifty fifties flower-patterned dress, ready to take us through what I would consider “the most” financially. I have participated in a few business workshops and I have been told the same thing by all “get your finances right for your business needs to be met.” But very few of these had given me very clear instructions to attend the workshop with a printed three month bank statement. I remember saying to Fadia that I would prefer to look at WOW’s finances thus far. Immediately Fadia had silenced me and gave me clear instructions to print my personal finances for the past three months. The truth is we all feel a bit uncomfortable expressing ourselves when it comes to our personal finances. The cooperate world has conditioned us to keep to ourselves what our financial situations are. I don’t think I have ever, contractually so, been able to discuss openly my finances. Regardless of “sharing” or being “open” when it comes to finances, I have a bad habit of avoiding my financial track record, for the reason (just as a large majority could relate to) that I simply do not want to see how much money I actually spend and how much, given some hard choices, I could actually be saving.
I had always had a very negative opinion of my finances- that, I was someone who was not really going to make millions or earn what let’s say an engineer would earn. I’m an artist/activist- can you blame that kind of thinking? More than this, I am a Muslim woman and being extremely wealthy was not something I had always thought about as “having.” I mean, we grow up in a madressah system/social system built for us to understand that the duty of the man is to provide financially and this may be the reality of many women but sometimes, it really is not the case. For example, in South Africa even a double income-earning household cannot meet their financial deadlines. I had only later learnt that whatever the woman earns is for herself and whatever she offers into the household counts as her sadaqah. Secondly, we don’t grow up thinking about generational-wealth or notions or rather goals of owning something, like property. We do though, know the narrative of Hazrat Khadija (RA) and various other women like Fatima al-Fihri, the first woman to establish a University in Morocco.
Though Fadia’s workshop is not focused on the above, it is something I took away as a Muslim woman growing in a business such as the NGO I am a co-founder of WOW, Women of Waqf.
Ellevate is focused on the financial growth of a business, she does this through a very personal process- looking at your own finances. One could simply call her a financial-Sufi, because I didn’t realise until that morning, in her divine-presence, that actually whatever is happening on the inside with me is a reflection of how I will understand the finances of my own business. The point that she was making is that money is consciousness- it is energy and it is Duaa.
Money is something that can come and go but it is how you choose to spend is that is the energy and stream of consciousness that you will for yourself through the Permission of Allah. The point is- we as Muslim women, do not need to think of money as something that we don’t deserve or shouldn’t care about, because money is simply energy and as women, Muslim women or women of colour, we need to start changing our opions on how we will money into our lives. I left with the feeling of contentment for wanting to make money or for having it.
This is why zakat is set up, this is why sadaqat is set up, this is why Waqf is set up… so that we do not become too consumed with keeping all of that money to ourselves- that the money moves. Fadia said it best “money needs to move, money needs to grow, it needs to be fluid, it needs to adapt and change. This is energy.”
The Workshop started from a point of the women who had attended speaking about their businesses or who they are. Women are DOING THINGS… WOW. From a cupcake business, to online cooking classes, to free coding skills and placement, to apps for black businesses, to NGOS, Madressahs, Natural Hair Products… and so much more. Women are attracting so much into their lives, but here is where Fadia comes in to give us that financial shake we all need. To gain money is important but to understand what your business needs from others is equally important and often neglected (by others…me included). How often are we spending a little bit extra on local businesses owned by women? A woman literally found a problem with using unnatural products on her own hair and created an entire business selling luscious hair products, all organic… why are we not buying her products monthly? So this is a part of the consciousness and energy Fadia is speaking about. Women need to support at least three other women-owned/led businesses in order to create collective-consciousness. That is on us. We must take that responsibility upon ourselves. That is part of healing, growth and women empowerment.
Now for the difficult part of the workshop: facing our finances.
We then sat with our finances and literally, painfully, hysterically calculated our expenses. Let’s just say I spent way too much on food (Woolworths can be the Devil- hello Middle-class privileges eating my bank account). The workshop then went even deeper into the financial state of our personal lives, where we quote literally documented the processes of our cashflow- in percentages, dedicating certain percentages to ourselves and for ourselves (because self-love always) and then the percentages of investment, saving and cutting out. The point is- we don’t need to continue many debit orders that we don’t really need. Life lesson- really.
But here is why Fadia is not just a financial/business coach (because actually she refers to herself as a companion)- it is how she begins her workshop and how she ends. We began with exercise and we ended with a question (one we often forget to ask ourselves in the midst of financial stress)
When last did you have a good day?
“Have them, in fact- write them into your calendar now and make sure- you don’t miss them.”
Says Fadia on a parting note.