Just one month ago, one of my biggest dreams literally came to life through GirlDreamer. I co-created the opportunity to take other women of colour down to the South West of the UK to a town called Newquay, where we spent 4 days living together in what was called ‘the house of dreams’, watching movies in the cinema room, cooking pasta bake in the super chic kitchen, soaking at night in the hot tub, sharing stories and experiences about being women of colour over a candle-lit, rustic wooden table that housed all 14 of us! Wow. It was everything I imagined and then some. I never ever went to stuff like this as a child, kid, teen OR even adult, but here I was creating everything I ever wanted but, for others and it felt even better to experience it that way. Oh and did I mention we went surfing twice a day at the gorgeous Fistral Beach and took on the Atlantic waves?!
A bit of context
When I was younger, like a young kid (to be more specific), I would always watch the sun go down through my bedroom window or sometimes from the garden – the vibrant colours and calm silence in the sky would instantly draw me in. During that silent time, I would always imagine being somewhere really warm where the sun would always be shining and I could do this every evening, somewhere where you wouldn’t need to worry about a random outburs
t of rain or heavy clouds. Just sun, sun and more sun. I would also think about seeing the sunset on a beach and about things you would normally do on a beach like sunbathe, build sandcastles, jog, have a picnic… or surf.
I don’t know how or from where I had these thoughts because I didn’t watch that much TV and let’s be real, the few times I visited British beaches such as Blackpool and Rhyl, there really weren’t any surfers out there ripping through the waves with their stereotyped shoulder length curls and chiseled surf-dude bodies! That’s right, I never really associated surfing with women, just white dudes with blonde hair, bare feet, mellow Californian accents and a big friendly smile.
When I reached my teens, I was still drawn to the idea of being a surfer girl, ‘but where Amna?!’ would be my instant response. Followed by ‘have you seen how grey UK beaches are and… you don’t even live by the beach?!’ I soon began to learn that in fact, girls do surf and I was all ‘YESSSS!’ But then my next worrying thought was ‘Mum and Dad would never ever let me wear a bikini and that’s what you have to wear to surf. Just stop liking these things you can’t have and aren’t made for you Amna – be a NORMAL Pakistani girl from the inner city streets of Birmingham’ (whatever that means). I was just so frustrated, because I wanted to try, learn, begin and pursue all these different things in my head which were not accessible for me or even available in this country!
Providing the best
Since launching GirlDreamer, I made it my personal mission to make this country more fun AND accessible for young women of colour! Not just that, but I wanted to show women of colour through my own experiences, that you don’t need to be somewhere else to have a good time or pursue/learn something new. I applied that mentality and instantly my thinking changed. Blue water beaches? I’m going to find it. Bougie accommodation? We’re going to stay in it. A cinematic vibe? I’m going to create it! Attention to detail? We’re going to provide it. . .Because why can’t we have the best?
We don’t work by halves at GirlDreamer. We put soul into everything we do and serve up 100. When it came to providing this opportunity, we opened it up nationwide and that’s something we’ve never done before. It was quite overwhelming to receive applications from Bradford, Leeds, Nottingham, Leicester, London, Colchester and places we’ve never heard or been to before. Suddenly, all these other women were reaching out to GirlDreamer and wanted to be a part of something we had created.
The Actual Surfing
Seeing all 10 women in the Atlantic ocean was such a liberating and exhilarating emotion. Knowing that all these different women, from different walks of life and experiences are brought together and are taking on the currents of the Atlantic ocean was a whole other feeling! Some took to it straight away, others needed a few more hours to get used to being in the sea, the wetsuit, the concept of surfing, the balance, the resilience, the endurance – there were so many factors! Some days it was blue skies and the sun was bouncing off the waves, other days it was torrential rain and stormy skies with aggressive waves just waiting to push the GirlDreamer’s off their boards but, they didn’t let these factors stop them! The resilience amongst the group was incredible. Everyone gave it their all and the encouragement between each other is what makes spaces like this needed. It makes all the difference to be amongst other women of colour – learning, growing and supporting each other throughout the process.
My wish is for more women of colour to feel as though they can be their authentic selves no matter where they are, literally or figuratively, in life. I hope women of colour can feel confident in themselves knowing that they can be and do absolutely anything they set their minds to and I hope my organisation can play a major part in making that a reality. We want to shape the way women of colour see themselves and how they engage with the world around them because quite frankly, we are so underrated in this world and that needs to change.