Posted on February 21 2023
For the last segment of our Black History Month series, we have Dionne Tweneboah on the blog. We are so excited to feature her and share more about her clothing brand and the non-profit she has created.
ALLY Shoes: Tell us about yourself.
Dionne: My name is Dionne Tweneboah, I am a multi-hyphenated woman. I am a Content Creator, Lawyer, Entrepreneur, Author and Creative Director. I am married with three kids. I live in New York with my family. I love to read, travel and everything fashion.
ALLY Shoes: What inspired you to create Soraya Mèliane?
Dionne: I wanted to see well-made luxury African inspired fashion pieces made more accessible. My inspiration for the brand came as a fusion of my African heritage and my professional career. I want to empower women to be bold, confident and feel fabulous in their outfits. Our pieces are intentionally made from bold hand dyed fabrics, to encourage women to embrace their innate power and all the facets that make them who they are. I want every Soraya Mèlaine item to be like a cape for the woman who wears it. A cape that gives her the energy and fuel she needs to fight for her dream, almost like a superwoman cape.
ALLY Shoes: You also founded your own nonprofit (Nzuri Uhai Foundation). Can you tell us about your mission and current initiatives?
Dionne: I believe my purpose in life is to empower women and girls. The Nzuri Uhai Foundation is the physical manifestation of that. Our mission is to empower women and girls in impoverished communities in Sub Saharan Africa, starting with Ghana. We believe in empowering women mentally and financially. Our goal is to train as many of these women with skills like batik, tie and dye making, soap making, and garment production. Our mission is to empower women to have skills that can translate into income for themselves and their families. I have always had a passion for female empowerment but what ignited the creation of the foundation is an encounter I had:
STORY: I was working as an intern in a law firm in Ghana and a woman approached us in court. The conversation went like this:
- Woman with tears in her eyes: Lawyer, good afternoon, I have a question I need to ask you
- Lawyer: Sure, what’s on your mind?
- Woman: My husband’s brother has defiled my14-year old daughter, what can I do about it?
- Lawyer: Go to the police station, press charges and have him arrested.
- Woman: Thank you very much
The next day the woman met the lawyer and said she wanted to drop all charges against her brother-in-law. I was only an intern and not yet a lawyer then, but I was beyond infuriated. I asked her why, and her answer shook me to the core:
She said, “my husband has threatened to kick me and my five children out if I go ahead with the process. He is the one who takes care of us. If he kicks us out, my children and I have nowhere to go, no way to feed my children or clothe them.”
I tried to convince her not to drop the charges but the look in her eyes made me believe my effort was futile. She believed she was imprisoned due to her lack of financial resources. From that day, it became my mission to never let this be another woman’s reality. I want women to have a choice. To own their power and use that power. But in Ghana, and majority of Sub-Saharan Africa, this is only a dream, since most women are extremely poor. So, we exist to train women in skills that can bridge the income gap and make them empowered to make decisions that are in their best interest and in the best interest of their children. I believe if you empower a woman, you empower not just herself or her family but the community at large. The Nzuri Uhai Foundation was created to remind women of their unlimited potential and greatness, and to inspire them to challenge their status quo. Our next initiative is a training program for women and girls in Kumasi, Ghana. The program is in three tiers. Tier One will train them in soap and batik making. Tier Two will teach them about branding, marketing, and bookkeeping. The goal is for women and girls who complete Tier Two to have access to funds so they can use their skills to start their own businesses.
ALLY Shoes: Feminine Audacity: We were listening to one of your lives and you mentioned that you wanted to be remembered for feminine audacity. Could you tell us more about that?
Dionne: I believe women are extremely powerful but society has done a good job of making women forget this power. Feminine audacity to me is when a woman is courageous enough to create the life she desires and deserves. Most women desire more for themselves. More experiences, income, opportunities, but we’ve been conditioned to be content with what we have. We ask ourselves, "how dare me dream of becoming an entrepreneur, or travel the world?”
We admire or envy people who have the courage to design the life they truly desire. To be honest with themselves about the life they really want to live, the kind of relationship they want, the kind of job, lifestyle. Knowing your passion and purpose and staying true to it. To pursue their ideal self in spite of chaos, judgement, lack of applause. I want women to see me or my brands and say you gave me the push I needed to pursue my dream. I want the answer to the question ”how dare you, who do you think you are?” to be “I AM A WOMAN”
ALLY Shoes: Who is your biggest ally?
Dionne: My ideal self is my biggest ally