Brita Fernandez Schmidt sees bravery every day. Here’s her advice for facing challenge head on and building a sisterhood.
Currently, there are more conflicts going on in the world than ever before. Even in our own country, where there’s no physical war, there isn’t exactly peace. Given this state of unrest in our world, sometimes simply getting through every day requires bravery — but how do we find that?
There’s only one woman who could answer that for us: Brita Fernandez Schmidt, executive director of Women for Women, a charity very close to Stylist’s heart that helps women in countries facing conflict and development. Every day she sees, talks to or hears about the women who have had to face the most challenging of circumstances. “But we should not make assumptions,” Schmidt says. “We live in different circumstances and experience different things but the drive and hope we have is the same.”
At Stylist Live LUXE, Schmidt told the story of the latest of brave women she has met: Kangyang, from northern Nigeria. Her village has been a battle ground for many years, and she lost both her husband and her 11 year old son to the conflict. Left alone with a three month baby, she was brave enough to turn to Women for Women. “We offer what we can, but it’s up to her to take the step. To be brave enough to believe that after the horror she can somehow rebuild her life,” says Schmidt.
That’s a lesson we all need. “To take that step. Even for us, there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but you never get around to it because it takes gut and bravery.”
Here, Schmidt shared the five ingredients she believes everyone needs in order to be brave.
1. HAVE A TRIBE
“Having a tribe can break the isolation,” she explains. Whether that’s the women in North Nigeria who find other people going through the same loss or suffering, or your best friends on your WhatsApp group directing you through a hard time, “it’s easier to be brave when you find your tribe”.
2. GAIN KNOWLEDGE
“Knowledge ignites our power,” says Schmidt. “The more things we learn, the more things we can do, and that becomes our power.” She explained that when Kangyang attended her course with Women for Women, she learnt to grow avocados. Now she feeds her child using the money she makes from selling the fruit. “Not only that, but she learnt to be confident and have drive,” added Schmidt.
“When we know there’s someone who cares, who believes in us, it helps,” she says. Whether that’s you writing a letter to your sponsored woman, or finding someone to help you believe in your own talents, “Extend that sisterhood - everyone can afford solidarity”.
4. FIND INSPIRATION AND INSPIRE
Schmidt spoke of the “boardroom of women” she has in her heart, whose stories she can pick epending on whether she needs strength, creativity or power: “inspiration can not be underestimated”.
5. MAKE AN IMPACT
“Tapping into your own power will help you feel better and make a difference,” Schmidt says. “It gives your life meaning and means you can make change for others. At the end, you are change.”
Image: Women for Women
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).