Bahrain’s female residents are well represented in many different fields, from law to art, business and everything in between. To celebrate the awesome woman we all are, Woman this Month is ending 2015 with 12 amazing ladies from 12 distinctive areas. We asked them all the same questions to help you get to know them a little better!
Michelle Bailey is the founder of Feed the Need, the organisation responsible for fridges dotted across the island which volunteers fill with free food for the hungry.
How long have you been in Bahrain, if not Bahraini?
I’m an Australian, I arrived 11 years ago to Bahrain to work in consultancy and a month later met the man who would become my husband.
What are the best things in the Kingdom from your point of view?
The Bahraini people. Their friendliness and love of family reminds me of the small farming community I grew up in and it’s a wonderful place to raise children. Sharing family and food with others over dinner and hearing six different languages spoken but all unified by community and understanding warms my heart.
How did you get started in your field?
About 18 months ago a photo of a refrigerator placed outside a house in Riyadh to offer free food to the needy, went viral on social media. I shared the article and so many people here in Bahrain loved the idea. I said, ‘Lets do it!’ The name “Feed the Need” came instantly.
Our seven-year-old daughter, Layla, donated all her savings to buy the first fridge and gave a talk to several hundred children in her school. We now have over 8,000 members on our Facebook group. There are currently 20 fridges with eight more planned before the end of the year.
What do you like most about what you do?
Getting the children involved and seeing their confidence and community awareness grow is an amazingly rewarding experience. We all want the best for our children; to grow to be caring, valuable adults and this project offers a vehicle to create future leaders, right here in Bahrain.
It’s a simple idea, give food to the hungry; 100 per cent of what’s given is received by someone in need.
Many expat donors thank me for creating a vehicle enablng them to give. People have come from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain just to donate food and be part of this humanitarian project. Visiting grandparents have donated food and shared the idea with friends.
What has been the high point of 2015?
When Feed the Need won the GO-PEEP competition where people voted for their favourite charitable project. The prize was a short film that we can use when giving talks at schools and corporations. Also, the construction of our www.feedtheneedbahrain.com website and the launch of Feed the Need Saudi Arabia in November.
Plans for 2016?
I would love to start a Food Bank in Bahrain. It would be a non-profit organisation which acts as a pantry to the charities and community groups who feed the hungry. Supermarkets could donate stock close to its use-by date. A Food Bank would be a conduit between the food industry’s surplus food and the charity sector’s need. Obviously this is a huge project but with industry leaders behind us, nothing is impossible. Bahrain has a real ‘can do’ attitude to business and charity and this is the next step for us.
Any tips for women wanting to follow in your footsteps?
For those wanting to get involved in a project, I would say volunteer in your community! Be the example you want for your children, for your family and friends and help others where you can. Feed the Need and spread the love.
Contact Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 39627883
Manar W Al-Rayes is brand manager for jewellery giant Sharif Group, a Bahraini woman following in her father’s footsteps.
• I am a born and bred Bahraini.
• The best thing I find in our Kingdom is the simplicity and convenience of living. I am completely in love with our cultural and tourism landmarks that reflect the rich history of our island.
• I started as the third generation in our business right after I completed my bachelor’s degree.
• I love everything about my job, from marketing to taking care of the fashion jewellery department, I get to meet many people in our society and get introduced to the latest fashion trends around the world.
• My highlight of 2015 would be the launch of the Roberto Cavalli by Franck Muller watches in Bahrain, it certainly added a lot of value and thrill to our portfolio.
• My plans for 2016 would be to keep heading towards my goals and objectives and be better and stronger. I wish to introduce more exciting brands to the Bahraini market.
• The tip I give out is to be committed and constantly inspired and to just love your job, it will make the journey a lot more fun.
Perhaps better known as the quintessential Blond in Bahrain, Georgina Jennsen is a blogger who shares her views on all things beautiful, delicious and fashion forward.
• I’ve lived here for almost 18 years.
• I love many things about Bahrain. The food is amazing, both the local traditional tastes and the delicious dishes served in our restaurants. I also like how safe I feel on the island. And, of course, the people. They’re warm, loving and kind, and have always made me feel so welcome.
• I started blogging in 2012 as a new challenge and a creative outlet, and it’s become a wonderful way to tell my story.
• My fellow bloggers – both food and fashion. I love them all.
• There have been a few high points this year. Adding to my furry family with a shihtzu puppy called April has been one. Buying an investment property in Brisbane was another. And the third was spending a wonderfully zen week at a yoga retreat in Turkey, which allowed me to put everything in my life into perspective.
• I plan to do as much yoga as possible, and to accomplish pigeon pose in full expression.
• Only start blogging if you have enough time, energy and passion to devote to the digital world. Most blogs last for less than six months, and there’s a very good reason for that. Also remember that your blog is your personal brand. Bahrain is small, everyone knows everyone, and it pays to be nice to people. Nobody likes a whiner!
THE PR PRO
From working in fashion magazines, Leslie Garduque has put her ‘gift of the gab’ to good use and now runs PR and events company Media Circuit Bahrain.
• I came to Bahrain in 2006, so that would be nine years.
• It’s the convenience of life – and how everything seems to be within reach.
• I came from a media and advertising background. My first job in Bahrain was in a fashion magazine. I worked there for several years and it made me realise I have the gift of gab, which I think is very essential in the PR and events business. I did some freelance PR and events works – and voila! Word got out and the next thing I knew, I was contacted for several projects. That’s when I decided I needed to formalise things, so here I am!
• I like the fact that my work involves a lot of creative thinking and a lot of action. I’m the type of person who’d get more exhausted doing a desk job than running around meeting clients or doing errands. I love the various challenges of every project. I like the idea of variety, of not having a routine job.
• There’s a lot! But I think what is significant for me this year is how we are diversifying our services. For the past two years, we’ve been fashion-centric. This year, we managed to tap into other industries and, so far, the response has been great!
• Oh there’re a lot of things lined up! It’s all hush hush for now but it will definitely involve an expansion of our services. We promise that it’s going to be an exciting 2016!
• The key really is to love what you do. Everything else will follow. But most importantly, never quit. There will be a lot of humps along the way – and there will even be a time when you will hit rock bottom. But no matter what, cliché as it may sound, you just need to stand up, hold your head high and say (over and over) ‘I can do this!’. It works like magic every time!
THE HR GURU
As head of human resources, Nacira Ferdjoukh is Citibank’s most senior female staffer in Bahrain, she says learning from every situation is essential.
• I have been living and working in Bahrain for the last four and a half years.
• Rightly so, Bahrain has been ranked amongst the nicest countries to live in for expatriates. The infrastructure, friendliness of the people and the quality of life is commendable.
• I started my career in HR back in France and moved to the UK for several years during which I moved into the banking sector.
• I love my job, not a single day is the same. HR is a very challenging function as it relates to people. The employee value proposition and human capital-related decisions bear an important impact on the organisation. My role is to ensure that all HR aspects respond to the challenges faced by all departments.
• That would be the migration of our Citiphone department [call centre] from the UAE to Bahrain. Over a few months, around 100 people were hired to be part of this critical unit for the franchise in both countries, which was both challenging and successful.
• The plan is to keep the momentum on employee engagement and deliver on the HR strategy.
• Be patient, be focused and learn from all situations.
THE SPA QUEEN
Nawal Joz, managing director of Joz Beauty Division, says you need backbone to succeed.
• Bahraini, so all my life.
• Despite the smallness of the island, the people have a big heart. Bahrain’s history is preserved by its cultural treasures and the consistency and focus on being business-friendly is facilitating the economy’s growth. Whether you’re a homebody or a partygoer, you’ll find something here for you. Best for me is that it’s my home and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
• It’s a father-daughter succession in a family business. After achieving my MBA, I had the opportunity to break new ground. I didn’t do it alone, of course. I built on the work of my dear ones and I was guided by my brilliant and insightful mentor, my father Mohammed Joz.
• In my role as MD of JOZ Group and from the businesses I have worked with, I have learned much about the perseverance and dedication it takes to turn a dream into a business reality and keep a business thriving, despite the challenges. Being a spa owner is one of the most rewarding, exciting, mind-expanding, life enhancing journeys possible! Where else do you have the chance to explore every corner of your creative, leadership and business talents… to make such a difference in the lives of the people you touch, while at the same time living the good life inside the thriving health and beauty phenomenon?
• 2015 has been the most important year of my life as I found my life partner and got married this year – it’s been truly a fantastic year alhumdulillah!
• Our mission for 2016 is to increase profitability by adding more upscale services. To amplify our portfolio adding new innovative treatments in the salons and accumulating more diversified brands. We will also be upgrading two of our salons. The Main Focus of 2016 is to add mobile spa services to the menu.
• You would need backbone to be able take the initial losses and not give up. Many businesses close down because proprietors don’t take into account that it takes three to four years to get out of the red zone [in terms of financial losses] and achieve break-even after five to ten years [depending on the industry]. So unless you’re going in for the long haul, you’re better off at the job that you’re in. Once you decide to take the step, stick through with it.
After a 30-year career in business, Gaye Bentham has taken her joint passions for photography and travel to the next level to produce stunning prints which saw her stage her first solo show this year.
• I have been in living in Bahrain for over 30 years. I originally came out here from Athens, Greece with Citibank, subsequently working for Investcorp and then Arcapita. I retired seven years ago.
• There has been a lot of development and Bahrain is a lot bigger, there are so many more choices of entertainment and it was wonderful when the law was passed allowing expatriates to purchase property in certain areas. The one thing that has not changed is the hospitality and friendliness of the Bahraini people, and I think that is the thing that I love about living here. I also enjoy living in a multi-cultural society.
• When I retired, I decided to take a course in photography – it was something I had always been interested in. I bought a Canon DSLR camera and took an online Open University course to learn the basics. A couple of years later, I travelled to Cambodia for a photography holiday, that changed my life in so many ways.
• I love that, now I am retired, I have time to combine my two passions – travel and photography. I particularly like to get off the beaten track and endeavour to take photographs that truly reflect the life in the countries I visit – as opposed to just ‘holiday snaps’.
• 2015 was a great year for me. I had the opportunity to showcase my work in a solo exhibition. Travel wise, I packed a lot in. A trip to Kerala, India; an amazing safari in some fairly remote areas in Tanzania and Zanzibar and I am now getting ready for a trip to Kenya in December.
• In 2016, I plan more travel! And to keep working at improving my photography skills. I would like to push the boundaries and take a Photoshop course and learn more about low light and night photography, which I haven’t attempted yet.
• The way I started certainly worked for me. If you have a strong interest in photography, first of all learn the basics then join a photography group or take a workshop/holiday. But really, the best way to learn is just to get out there with your camera and practise, practise, practise.
Pregnant and seeking information, Ghada Salem set up Mums in Bahrain. The rest, as they say, is history.
• I moved to Bahrain in March 2007 from Malaysia, I am originally Egyptian.
• The friendly people, kids’ activities, food! And the weather in winter and spring!
• When I moved to Bahrain, I was expecting my first son. I was online searching for tips, recommendations for hospitals in Bahrain and events to socialise with other mums and expectant mums! That was when I thought to start a website listing activities for kids, recipes, hospitals, salons, etc. Later in the year I started the social media channels of MIB where an online forum for mums was launched at Facebook and another page for classifieds so mums got the chance to buy and sell second hand items.
• The best thing about being a mum [which is what Ghada is most known for] is the unconditional love I get from my boys.
• Meeting my school friends by chance in Bahrain. How small is the world! That brought lots of good memories.
• Studying photography and children’s nutrition in order to produce more content for the websites I am involved in. On the family side my plan is to get my boys to learn a new language: Spanish.
• Be patient, and try to have at least one day every month where you pamper yourself. Read every day to your child, I found out this is a great way to have a conversation with my kids, build up their vocabulary and learn a lot.
THE FITNESS TRAINER
At the age of 38 Gill Hamblin, of Reps Fitness Studios, took a leap of faith and retrained for a new career and she has never looked back.
• I came to Bahrain in February 2008 to open a global fitness chain.
• One reason I came to the island was for the weather and to experience a new lifestyle. The community and the culture are the main reasons I am still here, I have some of the closest friends from all over the world.
• From a small girl living in the country I have always been active. I used to go with my mum to aerobics in the church hall, went to the gym and classes, eventually progressing to middle-distance running and joining in Les Mills classes. My career was in textiles until I was 38 but my passion was always the gym. Finally I took a huge leap of faith and decided to study to be a personal trainer and sports massage therapist. It’s the best decision I ever made.
• Every day is different, every client brings something different and every class has new highs. Imagine having five or maybe eight one-on-one meetings every day where you have the opportunity to make a difference or a change eventually leading to them [clients] having a more productive or healthier life.
• Watching the Reps Studios reach our one-year anniversary and also seeing some of those I have known since coming to Bahrain be inspired enough to go on and train and become certified in the Les Mills programmes they first attended with us, and for them to teach alongside me.
• In 2016 I want to, hopefully, grow the Reps Studios further and personally, look at adding maybe two more Les Mills programmes to my certifications and travel.
• It’s a tough career, prepare for unsocial hours with lots of time on the computer planning and learning so make sure to take time for yourself. If you want to do something you are passionate about then go for it whatever your age, don’t be afraid that it won’t work out, it’s never too late!”
Lucy Wozniak loved teaching but felt there was something missing. Working with a child with special needs showed her what, leading her to train for a specialised role.
• I have been in Bahrain since 2009 but have lived in the GCC region since the age of seven.
• Bahrain is truly a magical place in the Gulf, it has a unique feeling that I haven’t experienced in any of the other GCC countries I have lived in. It could be due to the size or simply that I feel it has kept its traditions and roots alive compared to the neighboring cities which have grown a lot more rapidly.
• My interest in working with children began after I volunteered with the Make a Wish Foundation and Sheikh Maktoum Special Olympics Foundation. I qualified as a teacher and throughly enjoyed teaching at ‘mainstream’ schools but I knew something was missing after I taught a child with special educational needs. I knew I had to pursue further training and learn more about the challenges these children face developmentally and cognitively. I returned to studying and am currently completing a masters in child development and psychology.
• Seeing the children I teach grow and develop, it doesn’t matter how big or small these milestones may be, knowing that you have made a difference to that child’s development is the most rewarding feeling in the world.
• Beginning training in British and Arabic sign language, it is a beautiful language. The smile you receive when a deaf or language-impaired individual knows you can understand them and communicate back, is an indescribable feeling!
• I hope to be able continue to teach and support children with special educational needs in Bahrain and also that my studies and research will be able to make a difference.
• Working with children is definitely not a normal 9-5 job, you really give your heart and soul to your profession and are constantly developing yourself professionally and learning every day.
THE LEGAL EAGLE
After starting the year exploring the wilds of South America, Paula Boast returned to the island to become a partner in international law firm Charles Russell Speechlys.
• I’m originally from Northern Ireland. I started working on Bahrain projects from London in 2006 and moved here permanently in 2008.
• From a business perspective the best thing is the fact that peoples’ doors are always open. It makes business development much easier. It allows you to build relationships with people more quickly. As a lawyer, it goes without saying, I am always glad to see developments in Bahraini law and legislation coming through. Improving and developing the law is vitally important.
• I studied law at university for three years, followed by a year at law school, before training for two years and then qualifying as a solicitor, eventually, in 2003.
• The thing I like most about my job is the challenge. As lawyers we are basically just problem solvers. But every day we see an array of different business problems arising in a multitude of different ways. I also enjoy that my job allows me to become part of the business community itself. I do that through my role as the vice chairperson of the Bahrain British Business Forum.
• Moving law firms. Choosing to move along in your professional life is always a tough very decision. Never ever one to be taken lightly. Deciding to stay in Bahrain to achieve that new move was just as important.
• On the business side in 2016 I will be focusing on building my construction, engineering and projects practice, meeting more people and building more relationships. On the personal side, I will probably go on a mountaineering trip in the Himalayas and fit in some scuba diving along the way.
• Forget about gender – just believe in your own ability. Be as ambitious and as driven as you want to be – but always be courteous and kind to people. Stay balanced and look after yourself – stress will get you nowhere and no one will ever thank you for it. Start your networking and business development skills base early, keep practising – in the end it will become your core skill to help build your business.
Singer and make-up artist Josephine Ellul returned to the island in 2015 bringing her band The Noise back to their spiritual home at JJ’s.
• I performed my first show here for JJ’s Irish Restaurant in 2009 for the 10th birthday, then started a residency there in March 2012. I took a year out last year and have been back since August 2015.
• The best thing about Bahrain is the people, for me this feels like home now. There is such an eclectic mix of people and cultures and everyone has been so welcoming. I feel safe and at ease here. Also there is good support here for people with ideas and a good work ethic. If you want to do well, you can.
• I’m a self-taught singer and have learnt the business over 20 years of performing. If I didn’t know how to do something I found out. So now I create and handle everything. I manage and promote the band, act as agent, negotiate all contracts, and sing.
The make up artistry was a natural progression from performing and I trained in Hong Kong on my year out to advance my knowledge and practise my skills.
• The best thing about my job is making people happy. My trade is happiness, be it by connecting with an audience via the band or making someone see a beauty in themselves, they hadn’t seen before.
There is nothing comparable to the buzz I feel on stage or from witnessing a person grow in confidence from a little makeup.
• I loved living in Hong Kong for a while and learning a new skill was great but, for me, returning to JJ’s has been the high point of 2015.
• For the future, I plan to establish myself more as a make-up artist and carry on singing as it’s my passion.
• It sounds corny but stay true to yourself. Be wary of agents and venues selling bands on the female contingency; don’t be told what to wear or how to act.
Always be yourself, audiences can tell when something is forced or fake. Make sure you know your rights with regards to contracts and always have a contract in place.
Continually work to improve your knowledge and craft. Respect those around you. Finally don’t give up! People will tell you to find a ‘proper’ job. This is my job and I love it!