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"WHEN YOU SERVE something bigger than
yourself, it's an awesome feeling. I wanted to use
what I studied to make where I was a better
place." Discovering that her training in accounting
and the banality of her 9 to 5 were leaving her
"spiritually malnourished", Akosua Dardaine Ed-
wards decided to make drastic changes in her life.
She undertook an MBA in entrepreneurship and
small business development in London, and set
off on the adventure of a lifetime.
She began her journey in the UK, working with fe-
male refugees and immigrants, especially women
who for cultural and religious reasons were un-
willing or not allowed to mingle outside the home.
"The programme allowed them to become inte-
grated, more a part of the society."
As it turned out, the process of setting these
women up in their own businesses was more
complex than it was on paper. "The books tell you
that you help them with a business plan and then
send them out into the world," she says, but that
proved to be of little help, if the women were un-
able to surmount the constraints of family, duty
"We set up a centre, where they came in so we
could talk to them and hold workshops. There
was a crèche on the compound, so they would
feel comfortable knowing that their kids were
After London, she turned her attention to war-
ravaged Romania, helping women raised in a com-
munist culture to become entrepreneurs. "The
men were either gone or not interested, and the
women wanted to fend for themselves."
As a black, West Indian woman in a country that
has been closed off from the world for decades,
she was quite a curiosity there. She endured with
good humour their frank and open awe. "They
would rub my skin and ask, 'Does this rub off?' or
touch my hair and ask, 'Is this real?'" But the re-
turns in terms of life improvement were tangible.
Inspired by her success, she returned to Trinidad,
where she launched the Enabling Enterprise Proj-
ect, developing a programme called NINA, which
was test-run in several local schools. "It gives
young girls the idea of entrepreneurship as a ca-
reer option, rather than just being an employee."
This worked so well that Bishop Anstey East in-
corporated it into their curriculum, and has since
won six Business scholarships. The programme
also ran in the East Port of Spain community as
a summer programme.
It was not long before Dardaine Edwards ven-
tured to Uganda and South Sudan, which was
suffering the ghastly fallout of Joseph Kony's bru-
tal regime, to develop a gender policy for the agri-
cultural sector. She focused on helping 900
women farmers, who had been forced into mar-
riage or the military as young girls. Now in their
20s and 30s, they were hungering for a better life.
"These are the ones who survived," she says. "The
area was completely devastated."
They had founded an agricultural company, and it
was Dardaine Edwards' job to teach them how to
make it viable and sustainable. That's when every-
"I thought I was going there to help them, but
they helped me. It completely changed my life. I
was lost. I was thinking of material things, being
an achiever. I went to places where there was no
electricity, no TV, no toilets... and they were happy!
They had no war, they had their family, and they
had food. What more could you want?"
She goes on to talk of teaching women under
trees using the most basic tools, women who had
suffered decades of war and yet refused to be vic-
tims. Against the backdrop of a recent divorce
and a re-evaluation of her life's goals, she began
to ask herself, "Who are you as a person?" Not,
"Who are you with all your degrees and posses-
sions?" but "Who are you without these things?"
"That's how I ended up writing my book," she says.
On those TV-less nights, she began putting her
thoughts on paper. The result was a volume called
What Did I Learn Today? Lessons on the Journey
to Unconditional Self-Love. It's available in print
and on Amazon Kindle, and is being launched at
NALIS, Port of Spain on March 12, to land in local
bookstores the next day. It will also be distributed
in East Africa and is already available in the US.
"I want to use my story to empower someone
else, so they can learn from my life. It's about ac-
cepting yourself, and learning to love yourself un-
conditionally. When you look at yourself as a
victim, people will respond to you that way. You
are not a victim. You have power."
Dardaine Edwards can be contacted via Facebook
for more information about her book.
By Roslyn Carrington
Courtesy Akosua Dardaine Edwards
A quick game of football in Uganda
Hanging out after training session on Village Savings in Gulu, northern Uganda.
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