By Sujany Baleswaran
Raised in a culture and environment that demeaned the female gender, still trapped in the belief that a woman’s value is only in childbearing and housekeeping, Oma Peters overcame the hurdles, qualifying as a pharmacist in Africa. Facing another series of challenges as an immigrant, woman of colour and mother, Oma qualified as a pharmacist in the UK, rising to the pinnacle of her career. With her adversities in mind, she is the founder of Global Impact Icon, an initiative focusing on helping people of colour to discover, create and grow their wealth and success while optimising their health for ultimate life fulfilment.
Who you become is a function of your psychology and the state of your mental health.
You were raised in the remote countryside of Africa, where a girl’s education was viewed as a taboo issue. How was your childhood, especially as a girl? Was there a specific moment that made you realise that you are more than a homemaker?
I grew up in a little community where everyone looked out for each other. Females were brought up to be homemakers, caring but not daring. Initially, not knowing that a different lifestyle existed anywhere else, life felt good. I was happy, content and carefree.
The visit of an immunisation nurse to the community made a difference. I liked her white outfit and desired to be like her. When I asked how she became a nurse, she told me she first had to go to school. And that was what sparked my resolve to go to school.
Once that bliss of ignorance began to wear off, discontentment set in and along came a strong resolve to break free from that ‘norm’. This experience has shaped me into a caring but determined person.
You broke through these barriers and became a qualified pharmacist in Africa and later a qualified pharmacist in the UK. How did these contrasting homes differ?
The two achievements came with perks and challenges. Although rewarding, neither was a walk in the park. In Africa, I wanted to be that ‘icon of change’ within the community, someone who starts a new, positive, and progressive venture. Relocating to the UK, my strongest ‘why’ was becoming a mother – a determination to be a role model to my kids.
You are currently doing an ongoing PhD in Psychological Therapies and Mental Health. What sparked the decision to focus on this area of health?
Who you become is a function of your psychology and the state of your mental health. Championing a change in a community will require, I believe, an in-depth understanding of these functions.
Depressive and anxiety disorders have increased over the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Have you seen any changes in your studies to accommodate this increase? What changes can the government or the community implement to support those who need help?
Recent research has reported a 28% rise in major depressive disorders and a 26% rise in anxiety disorders globally, post Covid-19. These figures, although believed to be conservative, are projected to rise exponentially in the coming years as the aftermath of Covid-19 continues to eat deeper into the fabric of the economy and the healthcare system. Mental health disorders that have been dubbed ‘the silent pandemic’ need to be given urgent attention with mitigation strategies set up on macro levels (government and decision-makers) and micro levels (the community, workplaces, institutions) for easy accessibility.
Navigating the business industry as a woman comes with its challenges, but for many female entrepreneurs of colour, these challenges are much more intensified. What have your experiences in the business world been like for you as a Black woman?
I would say one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my journey to business success is not having many women who look like me or are from similar backgrounds to me, high up there in business and career, to look up to.
The dual influence of gender and race means that the Black woman generally falls behind Black men, white women, and white men in earnings, prestige, and power in the workplace and wealth.
While many non-Black women start businesses with support and sometimes with generations of wealth, my experience has been a lonely walk, starting from the foundation, from nothing, charting my own course. And without the necessary support and guidance, there were a few trials and errors. I picked up and pursued my goals with adamant determination. While the challenges fuelled my zeal for success, there were times it felt lonely. These experiences, however, spur me on to give my community the support I never had and the opportunity to avoid the many errors and fast track their success.
What inspired you to launch Global Impact Icon?
Tailored to ethnic minority women, Global Impact Icon provides the ‘wealth compass’ for minority ethnic women through culturally sensitive Wealth mentorship programmes based on a deep understanding of the values that shape the wealth psychology of women of this community. Not believing in ‘one-size-fits-all’, the programmes are uniquely crafted to help the woman of colour break boundaries while enabling and empowering her to create wealth.
In the words of Denise Hamilton, ‘we need to ensure that those who provide solutions understand the problems and have an anchor to their communities’. In the course of my practice, I realised that while women generally suffer from issues that limit their success psychology, minority ethnic women suffer from a lot more peculiar psychological issues, deeply rooted in their backgrounds and upbringing. Helping and dealing with these issues successfully require more than training and certification. It takes having a deep understanding of the ideals that define the values and the identity of the Black woman, as ultimately, these are the same things that, when not properly harnessed, pose a disadvantage to her success. Being a Black woman myself and having a personal experience of these issues plays a significant role in the many successful outcomes I achieve.
You are a mother of two – how did you create that work-life balance and ensure that you are present in your children’s lives?
Time management is key. Keeping business activities within school hours and creating memories through special family activities and holidays
What has given you the most fulfilment in your life?
My family: My husband and kids who think the world of me.
Finally, what are three pieces of advice you would give to women who are entering the world of business?
Three essential tools for business success that women must either have before they start a business or acquire early in their business journeys: