To celebrate International Women's Day and this year's theme of #BreakTheBias, we spoke to the founder of Akola, an inspiring, woman-owned brand creating beautiful jewelry to lift up and champion women around the world.
What inspired you to take the first step to create Akola? It was 2004, I was 19 years old and I found myself in a shack outside of Uganda's capital city, Kampala, owned by a woman named Sarah. Sarah was only a few years older, but lived her life with great meaning and purpose, sacrificing everything she had to care for her 24 children who slept on her floor. The story of my life changed that day and out of Sarah's story, Akola, which means 'she works' was born. Although most people know Akola as a jewelry brand, it is much more. It is a pathway of radical empowerment and transformation for women on the margins and beyond. The women of Akola taught me what it really means to be a woman and to unlock power from within. Over the years I have learned that empowerment is not an ascent; it's a descant. It only starts once we let go, reach within, reach out, and come together. In this process, we are all changed.
What does "breaking the bias" mean to you? Breaking the bias requires action. Our entire company was designed to break the bias and level the playing field to benefit women in marginalized communities. The manufacturing industry is very male-dominated, and Akola has worked for 15 years to change this. We exclusively train, equip, and employ women on the margins in east Africa so they can generate income to transform their families. Over the past decade, the women of Akola have emerged as the future female leaders of their communities.
How will you embrace the words Brave & Glow? Being brave is to take risks to transform the lives of others. Throughout my journey with Akola I have had to go beyond what I think I am capable of to meet the needs of others. When you use your bravery on behalf of others you begin to glow and radiate from a light within. This light lives inside you, and grows as you pour it out and give it to others.
- Brittany Merrill Underwood, founder of Akola