Voices of Positive Change: “You can’t be what you can’t see” – Marian Wright Edelman
Zahara's Dream Interview with Hillary Barry, Founder LadyAgri
1. What was your dream as a young girl?
My dream was to travel the World. At the age of 3, I lived in Saudi Arabia with my Mum and Dad so at a young age I was already exposed and attracted to new cultures and diversity. This curiosity was promoted throughout my education by my parents and at the age of 17, I went to live in Ghana. My Father told me if I could learn something and expand my horizons that he was okay for me to take a gap year and start University year later. That experience left such a mark on me that it orientated my choice of studies and put me on the career pathway I have followed since.
2. What does Empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment for me means having choices, being able to choose for oneself, finding one’s voice and making sure you create a ‘rising tide’ for others. As women we have a responsibility to bring others with us.
3. What does equal opportunity for women look like to you?
Opportunity is a door to the next level in everyone’s personal journey. But opportunities can come and go it takes courage to take the ‘risk’ to open that door. I believe you can create opportunities by ensuring you are ready for them when they arise. Equal opportunity for me for women and girls is all about having access. Access to education, health, networking opportunities, finance to seize the opportunity if she wishes.
4. How do you start your day to achieve the objectives you have set for yourself?
I wake every morning by giving thanks for what I have and by praying for the courage and astuteness to make the ‘best decisions’ I need to make throughout the day.
5. How can mentoring benefit young women and girls?
My goodness it's so important. I have been so lucky because from a very young age I was guided by strong mentors; courageous women like my Mum and Grandmother and open-minded men, all generous to share their knowledge and life experience with me. I was often surrounded with older people than myself and people from different cultures and walks of life. Within LadyAgri, I also see how much we can learn from the new generation of young women and I cherish their ideas, their enthusiasm and ‘don’t take no for an answer’ attitude. Mentoring is a two-way street and both mentor and mentee can learn a lot from one another. The key is to stay curious; we never stop learning.
6. What would be a piece of advice for young women overcoming social and economic adversity?
I believe there are no obstacles greater than the ones we create for ourselves. It is so important to stay ‘Master of our own Destiny’ and not remain in a victim mentality. Those who succeed are not those who have faced less adversity but rather have ‘refused’ to let it stop them on their journey. The greatest gift any young woman can have is ‘tenacity’ and that fire in your belly which tells you to ‘just keep going. I believe we are all ‘phoenixes’ and can rise from the ashes of any obstacle life throws at us. Life is not a rehearsal this is the real show
7. How do you manage disruptors/toxicity in your journey?
I have been faced by quiet a few. Taking a step back and observing their motives, often their behavior helped me to understand they were often driven by jealousy, their own insecurities and quests for power. Toxicity is like a black cloud that can shut out all the light, affecting your health and wellbeing and does not just affect you but your loved ones. The best option for me was to ‘move on’ and invest my energy and talent in something good and positive for me and for others.
8. How did you survive your greatest fear?
My greatest fear, as perhaps for many, was losing my loved ones. My father died when I was 21, it was 4 weeks before my final exams at University. He was only 50 years of age and my best friend. My whole world collapsed however the night he died my Mum said, “Hilary you need to keep going… do your exams and make him proud’. I got through my exams with the help of my best friends. I cherish their friendship ever since. When you are faced with this loss at an early age, it puts everything else into perspective.
9. How do you turn fear and failure into strength and opportunity?
You take time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and take stock of why you failed. If you can learn you will not repeat the same mistake. As Oprah and Dr. Maya Angelou remind us, “When you know better you do better.”
10. What is the best career advice you were given?
Find your tribe! Don’t compromise on your ethics and values. No boss or promotion is worth it. Stay true to yourself and listen to your ‘intuition’.
11.What is your personal motto?
Carpe Diem ….Seize the day.
12.What would you tell your younger self if you were to meet her now?
Be more confident, don’t care so much about what others say. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
13. What is your advice for young women and young people worldwide?
Be optimistic, be the ‘decision maker’ in your own life, don’t let others decide for you. Raise your voice we all have something to say.
14. How do we address patriarchy within our society?
By understanding that it was an ‘era’ and that it is on its way out. There is no going back. Every generation of women paves the way for the next and we owe it to our grandmothers, mothers, and daughters to do the very best we can to ‘move the dial’ forward towards positive change.
15. What vision of the future do you see/hold for young women?
I’m optimistic because I have to be as a mother and a leader. I have my own daughter, two wonderful stepdaughters and a great team of young women under my wings at LadyAgri. I hope that they have lives whereby they have all the options and opportunities they desire, but whereby they have balance and feel fulfilled. Balance is the key to happiness.