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Allied Arts & Media Our Voices

DIVA OF DIVERSE ISSUES

Image of a south asian woman with mid length brown hair in a blue dress. Plants in the background.
Author, activist Farzana Doctor. Keynote at the Equal Futures Network Summit, June 2022. Photo provided.

Farzana Doctor is driven by purpose. This sentiment, that comes from a place deep in her heart, has guided her throughout her adult life. From activism to entrepreneurship, feminism to writing poetry, purpose becomes her sherpa to climbing her Everests. This relentless pursuit to seek and see change is why we will see her on June 7th as the keynote speaker at the the Equal Future’s Network summit in Ottawa, on the evening of June 7th.  She will be talking about one of the issues that has been gnawing at her and many women in her Dawoodi Bohra community – Female Genital mutilation (FGM).

WHY…

Is Doctor’s main goal to include this issue on the agenda as one connected to the whole gender-based violence?

 “Generally, people think FGM is a weird thing happening in a weird country. They think it doesn’t affect them. They think it’s an issue happening over ‘there’. “It’s no different from the rape culture, sexual harassment, women earning less than men, forced sterilizations against indigenous women.” Farzana feels the need to put it in context and make women aware of how common it is. Female genital mutilation takes place in 92 countries, according to Doctor. White, Christian, American survivors are coming forward to talk about it. Until 1977, it was covered by health insurance in the US! She stresses that it’s a world-wide issue used to control sexuality. It’s about policing women and non-binary people’s bodies.  “I feel there are white, Canadian Christians who’ve also suffered this. They just don’t talk about it.” She hopes that by helping women understand it this way, it will cease to be a foreign issue

WHEN…

Did she become a feminist?

“I was a feminist, probably in my teens.”  She was raised in a very patriarchal family. Supported and encouraged, but there was unfairness. she knew as a young girl this was not OK. So she started getting involved, taking up her first job in a woman’s shelter at 18. She then began taking up cudgels against other issues… violence against women, anti-racism, LGBTQ rights.

HOW…

Does she give feminism a platform?

Feminism is embedded in her writing, which has always tackled issues of social justice. Her feminism is also part of her training. Doctor is a part time psychotherapist. “You’re in tune with people’s interiority…it’s easier to think of the emotional issues of the characters. It’s about observing people. Most writers are keen observers.” Her novels mirror this.  6 metres of pavement is a story of redemption that answers a crucial question: How do you get over the worst mistake of your life? She loves these kind of questions. In her novel Seven, where she tackles FGM, her protagonist Sharifa has no memory of what happened to her and therefore travels to India to find out. “I have encountered people with all 3 ways of remembering: People who remember zilch, people who have patchy memories and people who have a memory like a film this is based on reality. Then when it dawns on you, you look back and patch the pieces.”

WHAT…

Drives Doctor who is also an entrepreneur, to get the most out of her day?

She attributes it to meticulous structuring. Mornings are devoted to writing, afternoons and early evenings are reserved for treating clients. Above all,  she relies on self-promotion. Even with a publisher, “You need to be everywhere, if you want to get your books read.”

Her determined efforts have led her to work hard at self-promotion. “I’m very DIY. What’s the point of just being published? People have to see something 5 or 8 times, get engaged, before they start reading.”  She is aware there’s a lot of competition and that some good writers may end up having a smaller readership.  They’re tentative about shining too bright. Not Farzana Doctor. She had CBC, CHCH and the Globe and Mail feature her all in one week!

“Authors have to figure out how to spread the word and have an impact.”

WHICH…

Folks does she rely on to help her publish?

Getting a publisher is still a struggle for her, despite having published 4 novels and one poetry collection. Even with the help of an agent, it took a year to get her poetry collection published. Next on the list is a self-help book. How does she straddle so many genres? She feels more confident and therefore finds it easier to branch out.  She felt good stretching her writing to poetry but discovered it was a lot of hard work. Her collection You still look the same, written in her 40’s, is divided into 4 sections, each beginning with some psychotherapy homework and haiku.

WHERE…

Would she have got her material if she hadn’t suffered the angst of being brown, bullied and brow-beaten by a patriarchal society?

While what she went through gave her organic material, “I’ve seen enough injustice in Canada. So I would have still ended up writing”.

While FGM is an issue she’s been obsessive about, she thinks activism can make you burn out faster.

Maybe, one day, she’d put it aside and focus on someone else’s issues.

Right now, FGM is still mission unaccomplished.

WHO

Is Farzana Doctor? she is the Tkaronto-based author of 4 critically acclaimed novels. Her debut poetry collection – You still look the same (available on Amazon and indie bookstores) encapsulates her feisty forties. It has, unsurprisingly, received a lot of love. Farzana has been raising her voice against Female Genital Mutilation (FGMC) for seven years; even dedicating her book Seven to this explosive subject. She has also written on social work and diversity-related topics. All this, while being a part time psychotherapist.


Publisher’s Note:  To hear Farzana Doctor speak about her book Seven, and her writing process, check out this episode of the THE FINE PRINT.  Also check out Doctor’s review of  Lauren McKeon’s book, No More Nice Girls here. 

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Our Voices

The OPS Collective – One Woman’s Vision, Many People’s Opportunities.

Image of young black woman with long hair sitting on an off white couch. She is wearing off white sweater.
Nana Moore, founder, The Ops Collective-Photo by Sevven at Mint Studios.

Nana Moore loves being creative.

However, her Ghanaian upbringing compelled her to do something more ‘traditional and stable’. Now as a CPA and professional finance director, her ‘traditional’ work couldn’t be further from creativity.

But once afflicted with the creative itch, it stays there, eager to resurface at the slightest opportunity. So it should come as no surprise that Nana found a way to channel her creative energy by starting her own enterprise. That  was a nerve-racking and scary decision for this thirty-something year-old sole proprietor.

 The Ops Collective, founded in 2016, is an online, virtual business management and marketing services company that helps build brands via the creation and management of high impact content for social media. Their specialty? Creating content and amplifying brands on Instagram and TikTok.  “Even though I have held big leadership roles for corporations, I’ve always been behind the scenes,” says Moore. Now that she has found an outlet for her creative energy, she feels more alive. Her own business allows her to socialize with others on a different level than in her current role as finance director.  Plus, creating virtual enterprise is relatively easy. “The Internet has changed the way you can build your business. “The internet has changed the way you can build your business. It’s no longer about just handing out flyers or posting random billboards. Businesses with a zero-marketing budget can now build an online following of loyal customers through social media and brand influencers.”

Minimum overheads, maximum reach

For Moore, keeping overheads down by designing and implementing a frictionless, flow-based business model and finding clients are critical factors for a successful business. Moore launched her virtual business management enterprise on Facebook and found it was a fast and easy way to line up clients and find exceptional contract talent, no matter where either lived in the world. ““Fortunately, an online service business doesn’t need much money upfront”, says Ms. Moore. “I’ve never taken out a loan or brought in investors. I’ve used the money earned from my corporate roles to fund my business and continually reinvest revenue generating back into the company.”

 The Ops Collective is based on horizontal leadership, empowered by the collective energies and talents of its core team. To ensure everyone operates on the same page, Moore makes sure they are clear on the mission, vision, operating values and work ethic expected of them. When there is a spike in the workload, she takes on additional operational, financial and leadership work.

Moore also reaches out to her peers for support. This includes participating in coffee chats with other online business managers, exchanging insider information about onboarding talent, setting up proposals and hiring business coaches.

Women helping women 

Moore works to provide income opportunities for other women whenever possible. She is clear in her definition of feminism—for me it’s about the ability to be financially independent. “I run my own business, many of my clients are women and I hire other women.” The majority of her women clients came to her through referrals. “When you do good work your clients will tell other people about you.” Moore also works with talented women lawyers who have introduced her to their networks, opening new doors for her. Her clientele is almost entirely based in the U.S.

Managing Growth

As the company took off, she realized early on that she was holding the company back because everything came back to her, slowing down the entire process. She was overwhelmed with client calls, strategizing, dealing with subcontractors and liaising with various people. She realized she needed to reassess how she wanted her business to run. So, she applied to-and was accepted-by Canada’s first feminist accelerator program for women in digital media operated by the Canadian Film Centre. Mentors at Fifth Wave helped her pivot to design a more sustainable model. She also focuses more on strategy and creative vision as a founder—no more micro-managing. “This year was all about spreading the autonomy, re-pivoting and changing the business model.”

Moore’s lived experience and background in finance and operations sets her apart from other service providers in this space. This enables her to look at the big picture, while also being detail oriented. Further, The Ops Collective doesn’t only look at social media opportunities for clients; they also identify gaps and suggest ways to improve operations across the entire ecosystem of a company.

Activism makes for better business

Due to the pandemic, domestic violence and homelessness have been on the rise. “As a brand we have a critical role to play in tackling domestic abuse and homelessness in Toronto. I want us to be known as a company focused on creating educational programs with a heavy emphasis on community building.”  

Currently, she is working on a course which will allow her to offer virtual assistance to women in shelters and help them make money online. “Often women who experience domestic violence can’t leave because of money. If we can show them how to manage their money, it can help them in their dark times.” She wants to use the profits generated for programs and sponsorships for abused and homeless women. “That’s the reason why I started the company. My calling is to help people and impact lives on a more meaningful and deeper level than my corporate roles permit.”

As a mother with a young son, Moore also wants to support programs for boys because she believes that young boys can get lost in today’s world and are in urgent need of mentorship. 

She believes today’s youth look for instant gratification, making patience a much-needed virtue for this demographic.  What is her advice to restless Gen Z? “Just start. Try to avoid the comparison trap. Believe that you are worthy of achieving great things. From there, just keep providing value year after year. Keep at it. Persist. You’ll get to where you’re looking to go.”

Her own life lessons came from her mother, whom she considers to be her biggest influence and inspiration. Her mother’s advice has been invaluable: “When confronted with animosity, don’t fight evil with evil” and “You can’t be the same as your White counterparts; you need to be better. You need to be perfect.”

However, life has taught Nana that the relentless pursuit of perfectionism can slow you down, and she wants to change that. “The need for everything to be perfect holds you back,” she says. However, she will continue to pursue excellence.  Being black, she was raised to have a sense of excellence. This has compelled her to work harder and learn more. “I used my multifaceted ethnic and cultural background to my advantage”.

The future is packed with plans

Topping the to-do-list is the need to market intensely to bring in more clients. She also wants to bring in more freelancers to work on a consistent basis and provide them a better contract and higher rates. Plan No. 2 is to put her finance background to better use by starting courses to help others get a better understand of finances. Metrics are important to her, so she will measure the number of women participating in free programs along with the dollar amounts collected and donated to community initiatives like women’s shelters.”

“I’m a busy brain person,” says Nana. Yet, she also realizes you can’t get better at something when pulled in different directions. “This year, I am also thinking about how to further build our own online presence. The business has thrived for years off referrals but to take it to the next level we’ll need to be more proactive in marketing the brand online – like we do for our own clients.”

She also makes time to read. A book she highly recommends is Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work by Steven Kotler. She’s also trying to find time to read the other two books currently vying for her attention: Venture Deals and Traction. Despite her vigorous schedule, she’ll make the time. No doubt. 

Follow @OpsCollective on Instagram. 


Publishers Note: The OPS Collective is a part of the Fifth Wave, a year-round program offered by CFC Media Lab and its partners to support the growth and development of women entrepreneurs in the digital media sector in southern Ontario. All enterprise founders in the Fifth Wave community are selected for both their potential and commitment toward weaving intersectional feminist ideals of equity and fairness into sustainable and scalable business growth strategies. Fifth Wave Initiative is committed to 30% participation by members of underrepresented groups. The Fifth Wave is a LiisBeth ally sponsor at the Lighthouse level. Applications for Cohort 4 are open.  Apply her

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Feminist Practices

The One Party You Shouldn’t Miss

A mature white woman with brown hair and glasses sits in a backyard, smiling and cupping her head in her hand.
Mazarine Treyz, creator and founder of Party at the End of Patriarchy, a conference for feminist changemakers.

Much buzz currently surrounds the online The Party at the End of the Patriarchy conference currently underway from Oct 25th, 27th and 29th 2021.

Organized by Mazarine Treyz and sponsored by LiisBeth, this 3-day event invites feminists to move, create and dream about what a world free from the patriarchy would look and feel like.

LiisBeth chatted with Mazarine to find out more about the event that promises to challenge feminists, question current structures and expand our radical imagination.

LiisBeth:  Why did you create this event?

MT: I believe we have an obligation to come together. No matter how bad things get, it always makes it better when we come together and cultivate our radical imaginations towards a better world.

LiisBeth: What can people expect from the event

MT: It’s a time for networking, and the sessions will help cultivate our radical imaginations. Why do we need more imagination? Because the first person who made an airplane had never seen an airplane [before], and the first person who had a car hadn’t seen it [before] either. What we’re trying to do is build our own airplane. We don’t want to be extractive.

LiisBeth: What makes a conference extractive?

MT: It’s treating people like ATMs and robots, jamming in as many sessions as you can. [It’s] when presenters are rushed and people are not getting fairly compensated.

There’s no acknowledgement of the fact that we’re living through multiple extinction events that are extremely stressful and depressing. So we have a grief expert, Kierra Sunae Taplin, for a session on Pandemic Grief. I wanted to create something that’s feminist-focused; more acknowledging of our own humanity, [to] give people time to breathe. Capitalism is built on tamping down on emotions and trying to get pleasure from extracting whatever you can from the environment around you.

Liisbeth: How did you choose your speakers?

MT: I chose them based on the fact that we have to do things differently now and because of the unique perspectives and skills they bring to the conversation. A couple of speakers will talk about online fundraising—how to ask for a major gifts over Zoom for instance.

LiisBeth: What makes this conference feminist?

MT: All speakers are women. It’s also feminist because of [how] we leveraged feminist principles when we designed the event experience, and the kinds of topics we explore. For example, Veronica Garcia will focus on the idea of wealth reclamation. From the Global South to [Global] North there’s been a great transfer of wealth [to the north] over the last 200 years of capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy. She’s asking us to think about how we can work in ways that help [facilitate the] transfer of wealth towards the Global South. We also talk about [ideas like] the discipline of hope.

LiisBeth: What is the discipline of hope?

MT: Edison failed the first 100 times before he made the light bulb. But he had discipline of hope. It’s about cultivating a radical imagination towards a vision. That’s why it is important to come together as a community.

LiisBeth: What can feminist entrepreneurs expect to take away from this conference?

We will talk about how to run a flourishing, feminist principles-informed enterprise. This includes how to lift other women of color towards their goals; how to expand the opportunities available to them. The conference is a platform for generating new ways of thinking and acting. People will get ideas of how they could do little things every day or every week to help other women and still make money.

LiisBeth: What does a post-capitalist world look like to you?

MT: It would be a world where women could afford to leave abusive home situations. It would be a world where we took care of the most vulnerable elders, disabled people, and children first, and always centered them in every decision we make on a systems level. One policy decision we could make around this is [introducing] universal basic income. This is one idea towards the development of a post-capitalist economy. How would we afford it? TAX THE RICH! Someday, we’re going to move beyond money. I think a lot more of us would be feminist entrepreneurs and post-capitalist entrepreneurs if we didn’t have to worry about this system eating us alive.  

LiisBeth: What is radical imagination and why is it important to cultivate one?

MT: Think about it: we have only had this version of capitalism for the last 100 years. Before that we had feudalism and the divine right of kings in Europe. We thought [those] would last forever too! People saw this system break down because of the Black Plague.

This last year it was easy to sink into despair and grief. We can’t ignore the [ongoing genocide of] Indigenous women disappearing all over Canada, the Black Lives Matter movement, [or the] climate crisis. In our city, Portland, OR, we [saw] open fascism—people getting snatched off the street by police and federal officers. We know these current systems can be torn down and rebuilt.

We can imagine a world where we all get more than enough to live on. Where we have free healthcare, free education and free housing. Where we have systems that have more humane and ecologically-focused metrics that center the earth, women, children, the elderly, and disabled folks. We can move from a profit-based extractive economy to a restorative economy. This is what we want the new world to look like. We have to exist in capitalism until we change the world.

LiisBeth: How do you cultivate your own radical imagination?

MT: You have to surround yourself with proof [of what is] happening. So I have books that I carry with me. Like Kai Cheng Thom’s ‘I Hope We Choose Love’, Nora Samaran’s ‘Turn This World Inside Out,’ ‘Belly of the Beast’ by Da’Shaun Harrison and ‘Capitalist Realism’ by Mark Fisher. I want people to come to this conference and see that this world is coming. [I want them to] be a part of shaping it.”

LiisBeth: What topics do you expect will dominate our collective discourse in the near future?

MT: We’re going to look at the quality of our movements and ask how we can be more supportive and less divisive. We need to work together to make this new world. We must look at what our systems are based on and how we [can] concretely fight white supremacists inside our organizations. Do we tear it all down?  Maybe we have more coalition building, and I hope we do that.

Join the party! Check out the amazing speaker lineup and conference program and then register for the conference today. There is still time!


Note: This interview was edited for clarity and length. 

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