Creatrix: Sulafa Silim
I meet with Sulafa Silim in the jungle room against the backdrop of a lush, imaginary rainforest I can only dream of exploring. Sulafa has been hunkered down in this space for almost five hours without moving, filling her role as Project Manager for a Digital and Social agency based in BC. She chomps at an apple, “I think I forgot to eat lunch!” she declares. Like most women here, describing Sulafa as hardworking is an understatement.
We get to talking about self-care and the importance of listening to your body, a conversation I find common in this beautiful space. Caring for the self, and others is at the core of Sulafa’s other gig as Founder of DAWA Apothecary. With DAWA (derived from the Swahili word for medicine) Sulafa runs health and wellness events and workshops for women of colour in Toronto and abroad.
These workshops are centred around the idea that we have 3 ways of engaging: conversation, moments (moving, doing something, dance etc), and connections (creating community). Read my interview with Sulafa below.
By Annisha Lashand
What identities do you inhabit?
I identify as a Black, Arab African woman
What is your work in the world?
My work has brought me into the forefront of my life’s purpose in bringing women of colour to be noticed and being valued as worthy of love, care and understanding. This work has really allowed me to unpack how I identify, how I can build on this journey and be aware of my own feelings, ambitions and needs – again making myself aware that I am worthy of love, care and understanding.
Tell us about the “WHY” that drives your business.
DAWA is 5 months old, but has been in utero for 5 years. The story started in the UK where I used to live with a roommate, both of us working in the field of outreach with young people and teaching resilience. Living in a big city you start to realize there are not a lot of spaces for women of colour to unpack the things they were going through.
Part of it was body inclusivity was lacking, we all straddle different identities there, for me it was a conscious decision to bring forth some of the intersections we exist in. Not as simple as race and gender, there’s also cultural ties. That kind of venn diagram is something that makes up a lot of women of colour’s experiences. I would say race is something you experience on the street, but in the household it’s culture. When it comes to holding space for these things in community, it was a question of access, but access is not only whether you can afford to do it, but also do you feel welcome?
Whether you’ve experienced being the “other”, or the “token”, a lot of these self-care, healing spaces replicate those experiences even though they are supposed to be a space that is healing me. It eliminates the ability to be honest and vulnerable and have real conversations.
DAWA was originally going to be a brick and mortar space, but has evolved into more of a community. It’s a safe space where people can have conversations about the real challenges they’re experiencing. Talking about anti-black oppression, or shadism within people of colour. Talking about perceptions of each other. We’re having those hard hitting conversations.
What does being a feminist entrepreneur mean to you?
Being a feminist means that I root equity throughout my work – it means that I center empathy and access to building capacity within women. It means that I am committed to improving my peers’ lives but also being a conduit to the conversation about women of colour in the context of feminism
Tell us about a collaboration, connection or experience Shecosystem has facilitated for you…
Shecosystem has allowed me to feel sisterhood in a new way – it has opened relationships and support that I haven’t expected from women/identifying who are on similar journeys.
What is the one tool you can’t live without?
Meetingbird! Allows me to auto creates meeting invites from emails.
Celebrating Black History Month this month, what is meaningful to you that you’d want to share about being a black, female entrepreneur or black woman in wellness?
Being a black women entrepreneur working in wellness is important to me because it is focused on improving access and opportunities and showcasing that we have dynamic stories and needs. We are not a monolith.
DAWA Apothecary has a calendar full of events and workshops leading right up to the summer, if you’re curious check them out here.
CREATRIX is a blog from Shecosystem highlighting the people in our coworking community who are giving life to new ideas and innovative businesses. We are the authors of our own identity. Each of us draws from deep, generative wellsprings of inspiration, and we have wisdom to share.
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