The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme. This “What is Finnish-ness?” series is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. Today we feature Josephine Atanga, one of the most prominent and inspiring foreign lady in Finland. Josephine is a people’s person with a heart for the community. She is also one of the most positive ladies I have ever met.
Enjoy the interview!
WW: Hello Josephine Atanga! Can you tell us more about yourself?
Josephine Atanga: Hello Wan Wei! Thank you for having me on this meaningful series.
I am Josephine Atanga from the beautiful country of USA. I describe myself as a positive, enthusiastic woman, a musician and a visionary woman. I see possibilities in every situation in which I find myself. I strongly believe in the power of the community and that is why I am a community person—I love people and giving back to society is my heart beat.
I am an American but my roots can be traced back to Cameroon, West Africa. While in the USA, I was involved in many community projects. I also started a talk-show which airs on local TV every Sunday for one hour as a means to expose the African talents in the USA while giving them an opportunity for their skills to be exposed and their voices to be heard.
In addition, I received two citations and recognition from United State senator in USA for my community works with inner city youths and my local talk show —opportunities which I am very grateful for.
I have been in Finland for number of years. I am currently studying Bachelor of Science Nursing program at the Arcada University of Applied Science. With my passion for the community and women in particular, I had the drive to start a women’s empowerment organization in Finland called “Women Designed for Success”.
This is an association registered in Finland and USA with a mission of celebrating the various successes of women, empowering them to live a purpose driven drive, engaging in charitable deeds through supporting girl’s education and recognising their achievement in society through an annual Award gala called Golden Women Awards.
WW: Can you share with us the most important and meaningful event that happened in Finland?
Josephine Atanga: I would like to share with you the Golden Women Awards annual gala. It really is the most important and meaningful event that happened to me in Finland because of the power of appreciation and impacting positively education of girls in third-world countries.
After we registered Women Designed for Success, we really wanted to highlight the power of appreciation. You see, we feel strongly that women, especially international women, need to be appreciated for their contributions in Finland.
So, I called a couple of ladies residing in Finland. I told them that there are so many amazing women doing so many things here in Finland which we should recognize and high light their contribution in the Finnish society. We need to showcase the talents of these ladies because when women are appreciated, they tend to do more. It raises the standard of their work and promotes excellence as well as stimulating other women to do better
In WODESS we believed in the power of collaboration and working together as a team to achieve great event. The Golden Women Awards was birthed out of the power of collaboration with different associations such as SCADAA ry, MONIHELI, CAISA, Jehom Driving school, African women association to mentioned a few not forgetting the many volunteers who sacrificed their time to make sure that women got the best recognition possible .
Doing the Golden Women Awards event was challenging as I had never done an Award Show but I believed that gaining knowledge through reading and research work that it was going to be possible and a huge success.
So I went back to the books to find out how to do an award show, what the most important elements to a successful award show and so on is. It was very important to have high profile judges.
So over the past two Golden Women Awards, we have had diverse high-profile panel of judges from all over the world who worked so hard to make sure they came up with the right nominees and winners after the public nominations. The judges spent their time as volunteers to select the best nominees and eventually went through their work profile to make sure they fulfilled all the necessary criteria to be declared winners.
Let me share with you a story of one of the 2015 Golden Women Awards winner- Cinta Hermo Martin. She is WODESS Woman of the Year and has been living in Finland for 30 years.
I was moved when she said–“I have won many awards from my home country in Spain, but I have never won an award in Finland until in 2015. Finally my contribution to the Finnish society is finally being recognized.” She was very happy about this Award and said it has opened so many doors for her not only in Finland but also to her home country in Spain. Now she wants to do more to impact the lives of younger girls in Finland and around the world with this her Award.
To see our distinguished winners being so happy, appreciated and excited—that gives me so much joy.
Let me share another story with you—a huge success story. There was this other lady who was nominated: She has done great work, an amazing lady with amazing talents. In the category in which she was nominated for, she had not package herself well as a professional comparatively to the other nominees.
After going through some of the works of other nominees in her own category she felt like she needed to upgrade the way she had packaged her works. She sent us an email saying she think she will not win after going through the works of the other nominees. She said that “This award has changed my life completely–because I am now doing things differently in a more professional way. It has helped me to raise the standard of excellence in the way I present my business to the outside world.
She said she is actively showcasing the positive things she is doing in the right professional way so she can come back and be a winner of the Golden Women Awards in future.
This is a success story to us at WODESS as this nominee finally wants to step up to reach to the next level by actively showcasing her skills and talents in a professional way that will give her the edge to be more competitive in the industry standards.
In addition, this award is not solely about flamboyance. It’s also about supporting Girls’ Education in third world countries.
WW: We definitely love your positive attitude! Can you tell us now one challenge you have faced in Finland?
Josephine Atanga: The biggest challenge I face in Finland is the language barrier. I have been studying the language for a while.
I will not say that Finnish is difficult but will rather say it is challenging and it requires hard work.
I do believe that with more effort in grasping the Finnish language the sky will be my limit in Finland! Well, it is just a matter of time I do believe to overcome this challenge. You see, I have the power, and I am generally a positive person. With a positive attitude and hard work nothing is impossible to achieve.
I am so determined to make a difference in the language that I told myself–why don’t I become a translator of the Finnish language one day at the United Nations. Hahaha!
WW: You have also started a multicultural magazine for Women in Finland– the WODESS Magazine! What motivated you to do that?
Josephine Atanga: We started the first multicultural magazine in Finland in 2015 with the launch issue. The second edition of about 180 pages with high quality glossy pictures will be launched in spring 2017. The WODESS Magazine is a hard copy lifestyle magazine for the everyday woman.
What inspired me to come up with this magazine in English was the realisation that there are many international Women in Finland who are highly talented at various levels. So we wanted to come up with a magazine for the common women who are doing extraordinary things. Our goal was to have the magazine in language spoken by many at the international level which happens to be the English language.
By so doing we are giving their businesses international exposures that will benefit them in the long run. We wanted to use the magazine to create more job opportunities and to impact their business positively. Our magazine is a lifestyle magazine with the aim to educate, entertain, inspire and impact what these great international women are doing in Finland.
So you can pick up our magazine and see for yourself what amazing work foreigners are doing in Finland.
It’s not just about women—we also have articles about men. Therefore, this magazine is a way to promote talents in Finland and show case them to the rest of the world.
The reason why we chose it to be in English is because this magazine is global. We are in UK and US as well. Therefore, the women we feature in the magazines also benefit from international exposure, leading to the flourishing of their businesses. This magazine is never about money—it is about the wing beneath the wings of multicultural women here in Finland.
This magazine is truly the Finnish ebony! ☺ We do things out of our hearts and not out of selfish reasons.
WW: What are the three things or traits that you would consider to be uniquely Finnish?
The first trait I would consider as “uniquely Finnish” is humility. The Finns are really humble people.
The second trait I would consider as “Finnish” is “honesty”. If I drop something in my school, I can come back after two days, go to the front desk, and would find it there. It is no doubt that Finland continue to top the list of being one of the best countries in good governance.
The third trait I would consider as “Finnish” is perhaps the lack of openness. I think Finns keep to themselves a lot.
Let me give you an example—you see, I do a lot of walking and exercise. When I was exercising in parks in the USA, I normally greet people with a hearty “Good morning! How are you?” You see, such greetings bring out life in people!
In Finland however, there has never been a day when I get a response by saying “Hello!” or “Huomenta!” Nobody talks to you. It’s probably the Finnish culture not to be friendly—so it probably just the culture, and we have to accept it.
This is probably a pity. You see, when you are closed, you are like a lake. It is always good to have an outlet to express yourself—Express yourself! Fly like a bird; just express it! And you will be happier! ☺
WW: What are some of the dreams and hopes you have for the future of Finland?
Josephine Atanga: I really love for Finns to be more open and welcoming to foreigners.
Foreigners are nice people. I think Finland is doing great now in welcoming foreigners but I think more can still be done. I am sure it is just a matter of time that I see it happening.
You see, I do not have a Finnish friend. I will love to have one. Yet, how do I have one?
Ha ha ha of course I can go out looking for a Finnish friend! “Do you want to be my Finnish friend?”
WW: What are your hopes for Finland?
Josephine Atanga: I hope to see more international women in Finland become more successful and start mentoring the younger ones to reach their highest level of potential.
I also hope that the Finnish media can become more involved with what foreigners are doing—for instance, give them more press coverage or even some time on Finnish television channels on the positive activities of internationals. I would love to see them appreciate the contribution of the international women in the Finnish society by giving us some coverage with the Golden Women Awards.
I hope the Finnish media can one day finally see how much of positive and constructive building blocks our initiatives have on Finnish society.
WW: Finland will turn 100 years old this year!! What is the one wish you have for Finland’s 100th birthday?
Josephine Atanga: I want to wish Finland a Happy Birthday, and I want to thank the country for giving me free education. Nelson Mandela said that you can use education to change the world and that it is through education that the son of a peasant can one day become a president.
The free education in Finland is one thing I am really grateful to Finland for. I hope free education will continue in Finland. Who knows one day may be I will create a TV from the education I have gained and will continue to gain from Finland.
I will love to say that on the 100 years celebration of Finland’s independence, I am not looking at what I can get from Finland but what I can give back or do to make the next 100 years of Finland a memorable one for the younger generations. I would love to thank Finland for giving me the opportunity to soar like an eagle as I have been able to use my talent to impact positively.
I never thought I will one day be the founder of a hard copy life style prestigious WODESS magazine that sits amongst other magazines in the library at the Women’s resource centre at the University of Estonia. I am able to change the world through the free education and knowledge I have gained in Finland.
Thank you to Finland for educating me and welcoming me. Happy Birthday Finland! One Love.
The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme: What is “Finnish-ness”? endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. We hope you have enjoyed reading this interview as much as we did!