Like a phoenix, Ebony King is rising from the ashes of adversity and inspiring others to do so through her story. A Youth advocate, community leader, and mental health first aider, Ebony is the founder of Elevate Her UK, a non-profit organisation that provides support to vulnerable teenage girls and young women from disadvantaged backgrounds, where they are mentored, offered skill-based empowerment workshops and outreach.
British-born, with Nigerian ethnicity, she was brought up in a broken home, as her parents divorced when she was a child. During her teenage years she witnessed various traumatic events, which led her to rebel. Ebony was negatively labelled and eventually got pregnant at 18.
There was a huge stigma during that time and being a teenage mother out of wedlock, without a university degree and being from a Nigerian background, came with a huge amount of pressure and gossip. However, she managed to stay strong and fought gallantly with the bit of support she could get to make herself a better person. She turned a pain to purpose by supporting other teenage girls and young women battling with the same or similar challenges she had faced.
Since the establishment of Elevate Her UK, she has been able to raise a fully qualified and trained team who, through their life experiences, provide mental health support, inspiring empowerment workshops and outreach, enhancing entrepreneurship and employability skills in young people. In 2021, the Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement in Barking and Dagenham, Magaret Mullane, invited Ebony to discuss how they can make the streets safer together and how she can offer her support to the organisation.
The BSc. Hons Psychology and Counselling studies graduate was nominated Female Volunteer of the Year for Barking and Dagenham Women Empowerment Awards alongside her organisation. This was a milestone achievement for the organisation and Ebony King in person, making them stand out from other non-profits in their local area. She has gained much recognition from people empowered and politicians in the borough. She is under the Citizens UK Alliance, a people power community organising alliance across the UK.
Ebony who also delivers motivational assemblies and youth safety workshops in secondary schools to educate and engage with the youth, shares her inspiring story in this exclusive interview with ESTHER IJEWERE.
GROWING up in a one-parent household from the age of 6, being in the middle of a court child contact battle for years and being labelled as a problem child during my teenage years definitely prepared me in various ways for the work that I am doing now. It made me resilient.
Inspiration Behind Elevate Her Uk
Becoming a teenage single mother, growing up fast, engaging in activities I had no business in and witnessing so many traumatising things, with a lack of emotional support or recovery; I always told myself that when I am older, and I have the resources, I will help other vulnerable girls that were in the same or similar situations as me.
What Motivated Me To Kick Off #Protecther
The #ProtectHer campaign was a much-needed project that had to be put out as soon as possible. The street harassment, violence against women and girls, gang grooming… peer-to-peer abuse cases in the UK keeps increasing every year. I also spotted things on social media from countries all over the world.
The young girls I support would share certain experiences with me and I was just shocked that these things were still happening. I was even more disgusted when I found out these things were happening in schools and children were not being safeguarded enough. When I was younger, older men harassed my friends and me, so I was able to understand how frustrated my beneficiaries were.
The Journey So Far
The journey so far has had highs and lows. However, I must say that one of the main challenges was finding out that there are certain organisations in the same field that could see you as a competitor, because they have been doing this for a lot longer than you, but they are not getting the attention or recognition that you are getting. They can bad-mouth you to sponsors or potential partners, something that I would never do as I keep it professional.
My creativity and unique way of doing things is getting Elevate Her UK noticed. I started this organisation with an open and positive mind; I didn’t know that not everyone’s intentions are the same. I’m doing it for genuine passion and my lived experiences. The young people requesting my services and leaving positive feedback is what motivates me to continue helping.
My Work Getting The Attention Of A Cabinet Member And Its Impact
My work getting noticed by policy makers was shocking at first, because I didn’t even know that the #ProtectHer campaign would be featured on TV or Newspapers, let alone for British politicians to share it on their social media platforms and invite me to their office.
I was happy, because my voice and all the vulnerable girls that I support were finally being heard.
My Nomination As Female Volunteer Of The Year
For the Barking and Dagenham Council Women’s Empowerment 2022 Awards in March, I was nominated as female volunteer of the year and Elevate Her UK was also given a nomination for our work in our local community. This was amazing, because prior to this, we had only delivered 1 year of frontline work to young people since the pandemic. This showed us that we are making an impact.
Other Projects And Activities
We have a Youth Safety campaign working with Transport for London (TFL) to allow students to feel safer travelling to and from school; this was featured on BBC News recently. We also deliver free skill-based empowerment workshops to young girls teaching them how to do things such as hair, nails, lashes, self-defence, first aid, driving and more. We do this to promote entrepreneurship and improve their employability skills. We are partnered with secondary schools in the UK and Nigeria to deliver youth safety awareness assemblies and one to one mentoring sessions to inspire, motivate and uplift.
Due to my past experience of being a teenage mum in emergency accommodation, we often do outreach in mother and baby hostels within the UK and Atlanta, Georgia. We distribute feminine hygiene products and baby wipes and nappies.
Our Partnership With ASDA, Empowerment And Giveaways
In March 2022, women’s empowerment month, Elevate Her partnered with ASDA, a popular supermarket in the community. ASDA provided sanitary towels and feminine hygiene products to give to homeless teenage girls and young women. Also, Elevate Her UK partnered with a few British public figures such as female rappers Ivorian Doll and Br3nya, very much loved by the youths, to boost its empowerment workshops.
Among the numerous giveaways by Elevate Her UK to disadvantaged and low-income families, in January 2022, we did a school uniform, feminine hygiene products, shoes and goody bags giveaway. The likes of Toyin Abraham, a top Nollywood Producer and star Actress, were present to grace the event financially and physically. We have been able to organise several empowerment workshops and partnered with various prominent organisations in the UK. The first series of delivery workshops took place immediately after the first lockdown in the UK. It was done in partnership with Future Youth Zone.
We plan to organise a project to get young people to start thinking more about global warming and climate change and do more things to save the planet. We also want to establish a sister arm in October 2022, Elevate Her Africa, where they would be reaching out to teenage girls and young women in Africa. This will be replicated in the UK.
The project is anticipated to kick off in Nigeria being my place of origin. I also anticipate writing a book to motivate teenage girls and young women struggling mentally and emotionally.
To Young Women Living Through My Life Experience
Don’t allow anyone’s negative judgement affect your mind-set; be positive and believe in yourself. If you don’t know what you want to do with yourself, go and do some research; you are never too old to learn.
Say no to peer pressure, do not copy others; stay in your lane. Listen to your parents and do not rush to be an adult. If you want to live a comfortable life in future, do not be lazy. Refrain from depending on others; anybody can let you down at any point no matter how long you’ve known them, prepare for the worst and you will be disappointed less.
What I Enjoy Most About My Job
The fact that I can put a smile on young people’s faces, especially the ones that lose hope or purpose in life. They can see that in my life, I changed negatives to positives, so they are motivated. I like helping people; if I can’t do it directly, I will refer someone else that can help them.
Three women who inspire me and why
Firstly, my mother’s hardworking drive is a big inspiration to me, because as a single mum, she actually tried. I have seen her overcome so many things that I do not have the patience or understanding for.
Secondly, I am inspired by all women that are able to face reality and pick themselves up from their struggles and change it around to succeed; someone like Oprah Winfrey. Lastly, all women that stand up boldly for their rights are also an inspiration to me. It’s not easy going against the norm to fight for what is right.
To People Who Stigmatise Teenage Mums
Stop judging! Everybody is going through things behind closed doors. Being a teenage parent is not the end of the world as long as they turn their lives around and get back on track.
There are many successful teenage parents nowadays; many of them birthed superstars worldwide. Identify the reason why they got there and find solutions for them. They need support not stigma!
One Thing I Wish To Change In The World
I would remove all the toxic things and judgemental people so that everyone else can focus on what really matters in life, Peace and Happiness.
Being A Woman Of Rubies
The fact that I can make a positive impact on other girls and women from disadvantaged backgrounds.