Eva Arissani is a remarkable woman whom I was introduced to by a mutual friend. We immediately got along, it’s difficult not to because Eva has a beautiful personality and is full of charisma. She is very outgoing and has a beautiful spirit. We spent a couple of hours talking about our experiences.
I got to know so much about her including what she does and what drives her. What drew me to her was her story which is very similar to many women I have come across, her story touched me and am sure will touch you as you read it. Life is a journey, sometimes we dont have control of what happens around us but we can control how we respond to adversity.
Eva Is the founder of Transcentral Pty Ltd, a company specializing in language services; She Phoenix Femme Phoenix, an NGO aimed at helping teenage girls deal with a daunting range of obstacles, a blog aimed at inspiring and motivating people to unlock their true potential and the Published Author of New Moi New Life: Five Ways to Build a New You and Live an Extraordinary Life. Excerpts.
For the purpose of our readers please tell us what you are currently working on.
Currently am running my company Transcentral Pty Ltd, writing my second book, working on my NGO She Phoenix Femme Phoenix, running Mireille Toulekima Global Organisation South Africa Chapter and blogging. Sometimes I think I bit off more than I could chew but then I remember that our time on earth is limited and it is our duty to make the most of it.
How do you seamlessly make it work with family obligations
Every single day, I make it my responsibility to make work a means rather than an end, I come up with ways to keep the passion alive, stay fun and attentive and maintain healthy communication with my loved ones.
Every single day I pray God strengthens our family bonds and keep us under His protecting shield. I believe in the power of prayer.
As a woman entrepreneur I have the freedom to always attend my kid’s functions at school. I can be their cheerleader. It also gives me the joy to be home for my husband when he comes back from a business trip or from a long and hard day at work. Entrepreneurship allows me to balance work and family although it can be challenging to be one’s own boss.
I operate on 4 principles:
1 – God will never give me more than I can handle
2- My family is everything to me so whatever I do, they are my top priority
3- I keep in mind what is my life purpose.
4- I always think in terms of ‘living a happy balanced life’
Tell us about your life growing up
I was born in Libreville, Gabon. My mother was thrilled to have her first child, my father welcomed his umpteenth child… he had a lot of children so much that we do not all know one another. This did not prevent him from being a good father. My parents were not married but had been living together for many years.
Two years later after my birth, my brother was born. We were very fortunate as our parents at the time were well off.
My father was a diplomat, worked for the ruling party at the time and was CEO of a manganese mining and processing company. As a result, my brother and I got to travel around the world. We went to Canada, USA, France and the United Emirates among other countries.
We got to experience different cultures and lived a sumptuous life. My mother was a fashion guru and would buy our clothes from well-known brands such as Kenzo, Versace to name but a few.
I started school in Libreville, a French private school, every year I would spend a few months in that school and the rest of the year in a primary school in Paris, France, just a few miles away from our building in Boulogne Billancourt. I loved my life and had a lot of friends in Libreville and in Paris.
I had a very active social life and was very sporty and took part in a variety of sports such as ice skating, roller skating, swimming and soccer. I loved France, the culture, the people and the way of life.
Growing up in two different countries was challenging in terms of culture, I preferred and adopted the French way of life, including the language. I was not in touch with my Gabonese roots as I only visited Gabon for short periods of time and was not exposed to my mother tongue as our parents never spoke it.
Unlike many kids of our age, my brother and I never went to our village and never experienced the thrill of stories around a bush fire. My brother and I were spoiled and never lacked anything.
Things were going smoothly until one day mum sat us down and told us we had to return to Gabon. My parents were splitting up.
We left France in a hurry leaving everything we had behind us.
Once in Gabon, High school was a refuge for me. It was not easy but at least I could get away from the poverty that was hitting us hard, the shame of living in a slum, the hurt from losing our father and our home.
High school gave me the opportunity to be someone I was not in real life. I lacked self-confidence and self-esteem but I knew that I was beautiful. I was happy when one of the popular guys in high school asked me out. I did not hesitate to say yes. He was handsome and 4 years older than I was.
We were both in Grade 10, I was in love with him and felt like I had found treasure that gave meaning to my life.
His family was well-off compared to mine (after my parent’s separation) and I loved spending time at his place.
At school things were great, I spent most of the time with my boyfriend, He reminded me of France, he was half Gabonese half French and we had a lot in common.
We shared similar interests and often spoke about the things we did in France. I felt that he was my soulmate.
One day as we spent time together in school a friend of his joined us, we were talking about nothing in particular until he asked us if we had ‘done it’. We looked at each other a bit embarrassed. We both mumbled “No, we have not”. His friend started laughing and told us that we were not ‘in’ and we should be ashamed of ourselves. He told us that we had to do ‘it’. We were very embarrassed and changed the topic.
But from that day forward, nothing was the same anymore. We did not look at each other with the same innocent eyes. We fell into the trap of fitting in and we not mature to resist it.
I willingly crossed the line and changed the pattern of the relationship. I did not realize how having sex was going to change our lives forever.
I preferred it better when we were just hanging out innocently, It was not what I had imagined it to be and felt disappointed, but at the time, I felt that I was fitting in and had something to talk about with my girlfriends.
4 months later I felt sick and my stomach was very firm to the touch. I told my friends about it and they told me that I could be pregnant. This had not occurred to me I felt dizzy, as if I was going to faint.
I was scared, I thought about how my mother was going to react and I thought about my future. I was only 14. “What will become of me?” I thought, I did not know what to do. I called my boyfriend and informed him of the situation. He was speechless, mumbled something I can’t recall and hanged up the phone. That night I went back home scared, confused and lost. I worked out the number of weeks and guessed that I was about 4 months pregnant. I was so lost, I decided to hide it from my mother until I had figured out something. I knew she would freak out and would be very angry.
Things didn’t go as planned, one evening my mom came straight to me and touched my belly. She knew instantly that I was pregnant. That night was one of the longest and painful night I had ever lived.
I was deeply ashamed and remorseful. I wished I could turn back the hands of time, pressed rewind, pause and erase that time of my life. I wished I had not had sex simply to fit in. I wished I had the backbone to stand up for myself and keep our relationship the way it was. I wished I was not pregnant.
The following day, my mom contacted my boyfriend and his family. They came home and unlike what I thought, they blatantly denied the pregnancy. “This is not my son’s child”.
My head started spinning. Tears rolled out of my eyes and my hands were shaking. I could not believe he would deny the pregnancy but it was worse to believe that I was that kind of girl. I felt deeply hurt and insulted and my heart broke. I felt betrayed, I told him “remember that we did not use a condom, I did not sleep around, I love you even after your rejection, I still love you”….He turned away from me. I felt that I had been judged and condemned guilty of an act that required the consent of 2 people. I was alone with an unborn child in my tummy. I thought of my mother and I thought of the terrible night we had just spent. I was scared and sick to my stomach…
His mother was still spitting out insults at my mom. I turned around and headed straight to the kitchen. I reached the cupboard where we kept all our medicine. I found a box full of pills my mom was taking to sleep at night. I think I took about fifty of those pills, I thought of my mother and the pain and shame I had caused; I thought leaving this world would be a relief for everybody, it would spare the unborn child a life of misery and, spare my family from the shame and spare me the humiliation and pain of being called names because of what I did. I thought I would never succeed in life and would be condemned to a life of suffering. I thought of the hatred I saw in his mother’s eyes and I remembered the acute pain I felt when he denied the pregnancy and turned his back on me.
I was the one who had messed it up and I had to disappear to fix things. I did not think about what I was doing, I was scared of the present and even more of the future. I felt that leaving this world would be the only way out for me. Everybody would be better off without me.
I went back to the living room where his mother was still insulting my mother and once in the room my mom gave me a terrible look, but I was already under the effect of the pills I had taken and by the time my ex-boyfriend and his mom had left, I was not myself anymore. I lost consciousness.
I survived the suicide attempt and I decided to take full responsibility for my life and the baby I was carrying. I vowed to become successful and against all odds, I made it. Today I am a successful entrepreneur, I am an achieved woman, I am happily married and mother to 3 girls. My oldest daughter is doing her honours degree next year in one of the best universities of South Africa. I learned that I had to go through everything I experienced to become the person I am today and to empower young girls, women, individuals. God rose me up and it is my duty to pay it forward. From my life experience, I can say that whatever one may be going through, however hard and painful it may seem, suicide is NOT the solution. If someone had told my young self-years ago I would be living such a happy and peaceful life, I would probably not have believed it. I thank God every day for saving me and for giving me another chance. I also discovered that self-confidence / self-esteem is key. If I had more self-confidence / self-esteem, I would probably not have fell in the trap and would not have gone so far.
What made you start the NGO she phoenix femme phoenix?
A need to empower young girls, to pay it forward, to play a positive role in society. A belief that each one of us is unique and that my life purpose is linked to my life story. I see myself as a She Phoenix Femme Phoenix. Why a Phoenix? I love the fact that it is a legendary bird that rises out of its ashes. That’s how I see myself. I came out of my ashes. I am born again. I am a New Moi and I have so much to give. I will not stop until I have given it my all. We live in a society where we are more of our limitations than our greatness. We have to be strong to climb our daily mountains. As a young girl, it is difficult especially when she does don’t have any self-esteem.
In your experience what causes low self-esteem in teenagers?
I believe that there are many forces at play. I would say that causes are interwoven. They could stem from childhood trauma, social interaction, poverty among other things.
How do you address it?
That’s an interesting question and it is something I deal with in my second book. One of my recommendations is to empower these teenagers. We must re-programme their mindset. They need to know, hear and believe that they have an identity of their own. They need to accept their uniqueness and learn to speak their mind. We need more mentors especially at school. I think that we need to redefine what it means to ‘fit in’.
What’s the toughest thing you had to overcome?
There are so many… But I would say, waking up on that hospital bed, after my suicide attempt and realizing that I had to make it work. I would also say forgiving my younger self for trying to commit suicide.
What drives you?
A strong belief that my story has the power to save many lives and to empower many young girls. A strong belief that I am here for a purpose and that it is my duty to be of service to others.
What has been to date the most exhilarating experience for you?
My wedding day, it was a dream come true. I was over the moon and many years later, still is.
Who inspires you and why?
My Lord, My God, My Everything. Why? Because He worked miracles in my life. He rose me up and gave me everything I ever dreamed of. He is with me, He speaks through me, He protects me, He listens to me, He gave me the power to overcome any obstacle.
My mom because despite everything she went through, she helped me raise the child and allowed me to continue with my studies.
My husband, My love, My sweetheart, My confident, My rock why? Because He took me as I was, he helped me get back on my feet, he gave me love, he saw beauty in me when I did not see anything else but pain, he helped me regain confidence and helped me become the achieved and self-confident woman I am today.
My sister and mentor Mireille Toulekima who believes in me and encourages me to step into my greatness. She opened up a lot of doors to me…For instance, I met you through her and it is simply priceless. I learn a lot from her and truly value our relationship.
Today, I can truly say that I love Eva and I just can’t wait to see what is in store for her.
What’s next for you?
Watch this space…My second book will be coming out soon. It will be inspiring, motivating, emotional and captivating. My NGO is still in its inception phase but we are excited as we will soon start with our activities.
Eva Arissani Nkoulou Ella
Contributor (Her Story Matters), Published Author, Translation expert, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Female Civility Ambassador, Greatness Engineering Ambassador, Girl Child’s Champion, Accredited Webfluential Creator