“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” – Unknown
March is a celebration of women—from International Women’s Day to Mother’s Day (in the UK). Our chosen Women’s Day cover stars, mother-daughter duo, Natalie Gonthier and Sophie Belle have a special message to all Seychellois women at home and beyond. Cosmocreole also reflects on some of the great advice shared by other amazing Seychellois women we’ve interviewed since we launched in 2020.
We are facing some very tough challenges at the moment, but each and every one of these wonderful women echoed the same thing—lifting each other, self-belief, value of family and community and hope for the future.
As women we are often seen as the weaker sex; doubted, underestimated and sometimes taken for granted. Truly, we sometimes do not have it easy. On this day, as we celebrate women, let us remind ourselves that we are beautiful, strong, worthy, powerful and resilient. Stand proud today, believing in ourselves. Always believe in our strength, beauty and abilities. Be fearless and unapologetic for who we are. We are doing our best, and we are enough. Our best is always good enough.
Let us stand up, not just for ourselves, but for one another. Build each other up, lift each other and empower one another. As Michelle Obama once said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”
Happy Women’s Day
Natalie Gonthier- AirTraffic Controller Assistant & Sophie Belle-Economist, Seychelles
There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise.
“The first person who inspired me was my mother. I believe that we are shaped by the environment in which we grow up, and this is where we learn our values that shape us into who we are today.
“I believe women should constantly share stories of their struggles, how they persevered; their failures and how they overcame these; their successes so that others may get renewed courage. Each story has a message that can ease the path for others along their own daily struggles. It is important that others can relate their own story to that of others. That’s how we are inspired and in return also inspire others. Every human story is one of courage, determination and has a lesson for us. Inspiration is not just from those with official positions, but from everyone.”
Linda Ramkalawan-First Lady of Seychelles
“You actually cannot please everybody, in the real world, this is impossible. The workplace comes with so many different personalities and you would not be able to make everybody happy at the same time. Focus on your job and remember people’s emotions are not your responsibility, just ensure you are as fair as possible. The day I finally came to term with that, it felt like a relief.
“I would like to be always there for my family and grow with them, devote more of my time to them, travel to places together and make more memories together. Wherever the path leads me professionally, I wish I can keep doing it with great love and devotion and keep growing and learning wherever there are growth and learning opportunities.”
Sherin Francis-CEO,Seychelles Tourism Board
“I take a lot of inspiration from people with integrity, determination and who displays the will of helping others and always striving to do better. I also admire women that have made a mark in society through their hard work, good values and shows respect to others.
“I wish I had known that it is okay to have a ´Dolce Far Niente´ moment, an Italian phrase that translates into the sheer ‘sweetness of doing nothing’. I had been so focused from the outset on achieving my goals at work and discharging my responsibility as a mother to my children, I left no or little time for myself. Following a serious car accident resulting in fatigue got me to stop and rethink how best to strike that work-life balance, but also leaving time for myself to either read a book, watch TV, go for a walk, enjoy a massage, practise mindfulness or simply do nothing – allowing me to disconnect from the daily responsibilities that come with the job and parenting.”
Elcia Grandcourt-Director Regional Department (UNWTO), Spain
“Many women are working in the financial sector. To take the example of CBS, women make up around 65 percent of our workforce. I firmly believe in women’s ability to excel in their careers and seize the opportunities that exist to take on leadership roles. As a woman myself, with a 26-year career as a central banker, my advice to other women would be to continue working hard and be willing to learn and accumulate experience, which will undoubtedly build their capabilities and confidence to become great leaders. Leadership can be defined in many ways and requires certain qualities such as being innovative, independent, resilient, embracing change, listening to others, and influencing others to make the best decisions, amongst other traits. Having said that, I believe it is important to stress that being a leader is not only about having a title; everyone should strive to display such qualities in everything that they do.”
Caroline Abel-Governor of Central Bank of Seychelles
“I was amazed at the outpouring of love and support from everyone. It was not easy being so far away from them for so long, but the feeling of helplessness was washed away by the updates of how well my family was doing. I am very grateful to all who helped out and more importantly, I was very proud of my children who matured through this family experience.
“This chapter of my life will forever remind me that family is the illumination and connection of your heart, mind and soul and growing together, and supporting one another through all the ups and downs life will present. My family is now stronger than ever. The bonds that we share have strengthened. It also taught me that family is also a community coming together, to get you through tough times. To be truly happy, you need to put the virtue of selflessness into action, in order to help other people benefit positively from your energy, efforts and kindness without asking for anything in return.
Patricia Watts-Organ Donor, Speech and Language Pathologist, USA
“Change gets us to think differently, invites different people to join the conversation, allows us to do things differently, forces us to venture outside familiar and comfortable zones. Whether the outcome of change is not a positive one, the journey of change is one that allows us to grow and to make progress.
“Our country has always needed us, and contributing to it is something which we have all been doing in one way or another. We have far more things in common than differences, and that in itself is, and has always been enough, for us to always be united. Love and light to all my country people.”
Marie-France Watson-Media Consultant, Seychelles
“I am often the youngest in meetings. Sometimes perceived for thinking too long-term—perhaps, it’s my training on climate change—and occasionally criticised for wanting to run before I walk, or the use of ‘the young CEO’ to undermine my views, or making reference to my appearance. I think wisdom and imagination work best, so I make it a point to reflect on some of these comments and adjust if I feel it will improve my leadership and contributions.
“I feel confident to be a disruptor and challenge the views of my older colleagues. I see it as pushing the envelope to get things moving in the right direction. I also think when you are young you are energetic and driven by truly trying to make a difference.
“My advice to young women wanting to climb up a corporate ladder? Work hard, prove yourself, but build your network and reach out to female CEOs and ask for advice. Most of us would be happy to help.”
Angelique Pouponneau– CEO, Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT)
“ In life, you have to push yourself even out of your comfort zone to keep growing. Never let anyone or anything stop you from turning something you love into a business. As long as you have a positive mindset, you can achieve anything. If you want to start a business or you have a great idea, do your research. Think about whether there is a gap in the market or could you create something better? Also, read a lot of books, watch YouTube videos and talk to people in that field. It’s never easy starting your own business, it requires a lot of perseverance and patience. Stay focused on your dreams and never give up on it.
“I have a really great co-parenting relationship with my son’s father, so I am able to get all my work done in the week as well as spend quality time with him. I am grateful that I am able to grow my business and be a mother at the same time.”
Annabelle Giselle-Entrepreneur, Founder of Mahe Candles, UK
“I observed the devotion that my mum had to raise us and knew then that it was not easy for her. I admired her, but there were moments of hardships that made me vow to work hard and grow into an independent woman.
“I am very close with my foster parents and I make time for them every now and then and make them happy. My foster mum, Marie Ange, gave me the necessary support for me to focus on my studies. I am forever thankful to God for making provision so that I could have a more conducive environment to live in although the separation from my siblings was tough. It was my obedience and personal commitment that pushed me further into attaining my goals.
“Unique Foundation is my way of giving back to my country and my people whom I love dearly, especially the children of Praslin where I moved since 1998. The children who I and the other members of Unique serve are the future of Seychelles and we need a caring and loving future.”
Farida Camille– Founder of Unique Foundation, Seychelles
“I started out by performing in the community. That experience grounded me and showed me how important it is to stay true to who you are and where you come from. It was important for me to stay authentic. Initially, I wasn’t really sure of my direction musically. But with time, maturity, growth and experience in the industry, you develop your own voice and stance. I am a supporter of community advocacy and as a Seychellois-Australian involved with the Seychelles community here in Perth, my role is an extension of who I really am as a human being.
“Build your network and team of people who share a similar vision to you. Don’t be afraid, but be passionate and fearless. Be prepared to make mistakes. That’s how we learn and grow. Keep your integrity intact. The music industry is one of the toughest industries to work in and it can be ruthless, but it is also rewarding and inspiring. Humility is important and we need to stay grounded. Reach out to other fellow female artists doing it and connect, not just with Seychellois female artists.
“Be kind and look after yourself. As women in music business, it can get competitive and it comes with its challenges. Don’t let that discourage you. I think it’s a beautiful thing to see women from different cultures taking music from their birthplace to a new height. That is powerful.”