Member Spotlight | Sarifa Alonto Younes
Founding Member WomenH2H, International Keynote Speaker, Best-Selling Author, Edupreneur
Sarifa Alonto Younes is an advocate for education, women empowerment and leadership. She is a multiple award winner. She is a nominee for Telstra Business Women Award of the Year and the winner of Australia 2018 AusMumpreneur Multicultural Business Excellence Award. She resides in Melbourne Australia with her husband, Hassan, and her four children.
Sarifa is the President and Founder of the International Academy of Marawi (I AM), Philippines; Director and Co-Founder of Training College of Australia; CEO and Founder of Arndell Park Early Childhood Learning Centre and Global Director of Speakers Tribe Women, Australia.
Sarifa holds a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, a Master's Degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and another Master’s Degree in Education and Training, which made her a strong voice on the international stage: speaking on education, organizational change, women empowerment, leadership, and management.
Her book "Love your Obstacles" sheds light on how we can grow and overcome our challenges and turn them into opportunities.
When it comes to the role of women at work today, what inspires you and keeps you up at night?
What inspires me is seeing more educated women breaking through barriers that they themselves thought were impossible to break. And in doing so they can destroy the glass ceiling and show that women can lead and build sustainable communities.
What keeps you up at night?
When I see women go through different forms of obstacles and become disadvantaged by their circumstances. They do not push through to rise above, instead, they let their hardships and failures discourage or even exhaust them. This makes me think about how could I share my stories with those women so they get educated and inspired to learn my strategy of overcoming challenges and hurdles so they can turn them into opportunities.
What’s your goal around that and why is it important to you? Why is that a priority for you right now?
My goal is to see women and young generations get proper education to break through and succeed in what they love and are interested to do, so they can continue to pave the way for our future women leaders.
Right now, is the right time, more than ever to support and encourage young women to push through to become more sustainable so they can help themselves succeed, and likewise, help and support future young generations pave their way.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve personally had as a woman at work? How did you try to overcome them?
My biggest personal challenge, when I suddenly started to work as a director without any prior experience and as a woman, was that most of the people around me didn’t have confidence or faith in me. They thought I was incompetent and an ineffective leader. I proved them wrong through my undeniable performance. I may be small and quiet but I am a talent in the organization and that was evident.
Who or what would have made it easier? What do you wish you would have done then?
It is my husband’s unconditional love, care, and support that keeps me going. What has made it easier for me would be my TALL principle which is an acronym for Trust, Acknowledge, Listen, and Love.
I TRUST that I have the ability and capability to lead an organization. I likewise trust them that they are the right people that I need to work with.
Then I ACKNOWLEDGE my strengths, weaknesses, and limitations and capitalize on my strengths. Areas that I am not good at, I delegate to those people around me to do them. There is no point in wasting my time doing a task that I am not good at. Acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of our staff members helps the organization grow and develop accordingly.
I LISTEN to myself and to my staff members. I listen to understand what is going on as they are my eyes and they see things that I do not see. I know they care and they are concerned, which is why it is vital for me to recognize their contribution. I give them the required time and attention when they talk to me.
Lastly, I LOVE them because I feel that they are like my family members. Our workplace is a second home for all of us. People who work from their heart treat their workplaces with care and respect. So, they deserve to be loved and respected, which allows them to feel motivated and inspired to come to work. In return, they perform with so much love and appreciation.
Without Trust, nothing begins. Without Love, everything ends.
Something I wish I had, would be a community of women to support and coach each other through both hardship and success, especially when starting our businesses as an inexperienced and confused director.
Without a strong support system, besides my husband who had a full-time job, I had to rely on only myself and my intuition for the success of our kindergarten and childcare center and other academic institutions.
Many women are overwhelmed by the constant changes at work, frustrated with conflicts or disheartened by office politics, drama, and draining emotions. What have you done in the past to help you get through such moments?
When I lost both my parents at a very tender young age of 10, I discovered how to overcome different forms of obstacles indirectly using the ADD formula (Accept, Decide, and Dream). For me, when I go through the moment of ups and downs, the first thing I do is ACCEPT that obstacles or challenges are a natural path of life. I do accept that some challenges are beyond our control and I neither let those obstacles hold me back nor cripple my future. I let those obstacles and challenges strengthen, shape, and define me in this way. I find meanings and reasons in every challenge that I encounter to grow, develop, and succeed. For me, Acceptance is a very powerful tool to overcome any form of obstacle in life. Through acceptance it allows me to DECIDE to move forward and chase mine DREAMS.
Also, the nature of my work inspires me to help prepare young women at work to develop their skills and talents so they can intelligently participate in decision making at home and workplace, regardless of any dramas and draining emotions that are happening.
I draw my strength and inspiration when I train and mentor young women at our workplace to help them realise their potential and make them accountable and responsible for what they do.
Being in a position to promote and train some of our young employees to C-Suite positions is a blessing for me and more than enough to be thankful and grateful.
Who do you follow these subjects? Are there authors, influencers, leaders, sites, blogs you follow?
Starting our businesses, I did not follow anyone as I was just so busy with my own little world, trying to make a difference in my own way. Only from a couple of years ago when I was nominated and won the Australia 2018 AusMumpreneur Multicultural Business Excellence Award, I realized that I could help, educate and inspire more disadvantaged women and young generations if I connect within the proximity of dynamic and empowered women in the community. Then, just a month later after I received my award, I met Dr. Tererai Trent (through Peace Mitchell, the founder of AusMumpreneur) at Crown Melbourne. Dr. Tererai Trent is a very inspiring author of The Awakened Woman, Oprah’s “all-time favourite guest”. I was influenced and inspired by her dynamism to write my book, Love Your Obstacles. From then I started following her and she became a dear friend and close to my heart.
Do you participate in other women groups or communities? What have you seen work in such communities and what was missing for you?
My participation with women groups started only in 2018. However, since 2008 my husband and I have been helping disadvantaged women, children, and orphans with addressing their basic needs and education. I believe that in order to have peaceful and progressive communities we need a well-educated population. As an orphan at a tender young age, it was education that paved the way to where I am now. That is why I see education as a very powerful tool for growth, development and a means to eradicate poverty and violence.
The power of women communities is in collaboration, networking and the strong collective support. Women are naturally good in nurturing and motivating each other.
What was I missing? I wish I had connected with communities of empowered women earlier.
If I had done it a few years ago, I would have helped so many disadvantaged women, young generations, and orphans across the globe. I am still thankful that it is not too late to connect, collaborate, and network with those amazing women who are making a difference.
Why is it important for women to be surrounded by other women and what is the role we play in each other’s lives?
When we are surrounded by other women, we get the strength to uplift, inspire and empower each other, and we experience collective success.
Empowered women have the ability to empower disadvantaged women to grow and develop the necessary skills and knowledge that they require to succeed and achieve their dreams. We can coach, mentor, and shadow each other.
According to UNESCO research, there are more than 500 million illiterate women across the globe and more than 253 million orphans who are suffering from illiteracy, violence, and poverty. Moreover, there are more than 617 million adolescents who are lacking basic numeracy and literacy skills. Imagine what kind of life and challenges they will go through 10, 20, or 30 years from now if we fail to address this issue?
Hopefully, we women can play a great role to address this issue with our collective efforts we can make a significant difference and change so many lives in the future.
What activities could we do so that we master together how to get back our zest, thrive on change, lead with grace and confidence, and co-create the beautiful workplaces we all long for?
Regular brainstorming and meaningful discussions to delve into the brilliant minds of our genius women will give us the courage and confidence to understand the best ways and practices we could adopt to strive for change and a better future of women.
Networking, collaboration, mentoring, coaching, conducting conferences/summit, trainings and workshops are all required for women to attain the skills and knowledge so they are more equipped and confident to perform tasks that they are interested in, love, and are comfortable to participate in. It means leveling up or upskilling them and providing quality education.
Education is empowerment. Through education, women’s skills are enhanced and equipped with the ability to learn to acquire other skills that allow them to progress.
Education is the foundation on which future generations of women will build so they can lead with grace and confidence and co-create the beautiful workplaces we all long for.
When you are in a position to employ women and mentor them so they get a chance to climb up to an organisational ladder, do so. Encourage them not to shy away and advise them to take any opportunity that knocks on their door.
How do you see your role in building this community? And is there anything else you want to add that you think would be helpful for us to know as we are building this community?
Each of us have a role to play and its important that we know and understand our strengths so we can contribute to build a sustainable community as per our strengths.
Some of the following are examples of ways to build a strong sustainable community:
First, leading by example is one way to inspire a new generation of female leaders. Hiring and developing female talent are both essential steps to promote female leadership if you are in a position to do so.
In my own little way, I’ve been trying to create more job opportunities for women since 2004 by establishing educational institutions here in Australia and in the Philippines. This allows me to employ and train more women to C-suite levels. Then mentoring and coaching them so they acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their jobs effectively. I believe that leading by example is needed to help and support women as they are integral for shaping the world. Likewise, we are integral for shaping the world for them.
When we create more opportunities, we become part of the solution.
Creating new pathways may not be easy. But things will not change unless we are willing to put ourselves out there and pave our way. When we do that, female leaders of the next generation are free to follow us.
Second, women need to avoid “Queen Bee” Syndrome.
The Queen Bee phenomenon is all about competition. But it is not women versus men. Instead, you will see senior management-level women creating distance from women who are their junior.
A dedicated space for women creates an area to share and celebrate each other. Bringing people together creates a sense of unity and improves the flow of information. It lets women know, “We are all in this together”.
When this happens, that’s when we start to build a strong sustainable community where we stop seeing problems that are specific. Instead, these problems turn into collective challenges where women can support and help each other