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I Am Somebody’s Child Soldier: Charities and the Law – Shirah Mansaray – S6E14

It is quite an achievement to say that you’ve founded an international charity that has worked with local communities in northern Uganda to enhance the lives of over 1000 war-affected individuals and formerly abducted children. It’s even more impressive to be able to say that you’ve been a part of raising over £400,000 to support this too!

Well, this week’s guest has done *just* that! We’ve been chatting with multilingual lawyer, Shiah Mansaray.  Shirah is the CEO of ‘I am Somebody’s Child Soldier’, an international charity working with rescued child soldiers and child victims of war.

Shirah has a Master’s degree in Development, Technology and Innovation Policy, and is currently undergoing her PhD studies at University College London. In the humanitarian field for over 15 years, Shirah has worked with the United Nations and the Council of Europe.

As well as this, Shirah sits on the board of Amnesty International, utilising her legal training to assist board rooms and is passionate about human rights, the charity sector and policy.

𝐒𝐨, 𝐰𝐡𝐲 𝐞𝐥𝐬𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐛𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐧?

You can hear our Rob and Shirah talk about all things:

  • Career history and how Shirah’s humanitarian journey started
  • The charities Shirah has worked with and the lessons shes learned
  • All about Shirah’s international charity, ‘I Am Somebody’s Child Soldier’
  • The steps that the government and educational institutions should take to combat social stigma in Africa
  • What Psychotherapy is and how it supports in various ways
  • Shirah’s future plans for Uganda’s health policy
  • Advice to those who are interested in starting a charity for good

Transcript

00:08 Rob Hanna:

Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast.

00:11 Rob Hanna:

You are now listening to Season 6 of the show.

00:14 Rob Hanna:

I’m your host Rob Hanna. This week I’m delighted to be joined by the wonderful Shirah Mansaray. Shirah is the CEO of ‘I am Somebody’s Child Soldier’, an international charity working with rescue child soldiers and child victims of war. Shirah has a Master’s Degree in development technology and innovation policy, and is currently undergoing her PhD studies at the UCL. In the humanitarian field for over 15 years, Shirah has worked with the United Nations and the Council of Europe. She sits on the board of the Amnesty International, utilising her legal training to assist boardrooms internationally. A multilingual lawyer, Shirah is passionate about human rights, the charity sector, law and policy. So a very, very warm welcome.

01:03 Shirah Mansaray:

Thank you very much for that introduction. Really excited to be here.

01:07 Rob Hanna:

Oh, it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Before we dive into all your amazing projects experiences, we do have a customary icebreaker question here on the Legally Speaking Podcast, which is, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very real, what would you rate the hit TV series Suits in terms of its reality of the law?

01:29 Shirah Mansaray:

I think I would err on the side of caution and maybe rate it as a 5. I feel like it sort of glamorised as the law, and the law is fun and interesting and exciting, but I definitely wouldn’t say as much as Suits.

01:42 Rob Hanna:

Well, I in previous shows, when I’ve been on a podcast, I gave it a 5 as well. So we’re aligned. And with that we’ll move swiftly on to talk about all about you. So to begin with Shirah, would you mind just telling us a little bit more about your your background and journey?

01:55 Shirah Mansaray:

Yeah, so I come from a legal background, but also an academic background. I managed to finish law school, sort of feels like quite a while ago, and after law school, I decided I wanted to take on some experiences working internationally. So I had the opportunity to work with the Council of Europe in Strasburg. And I conducted some research around micro-finance and loans. And that informed my decision to go into the humanitarian sector. And I set up my charity that works with rescue child soldiers in northern Uganda. And I would say my legal training actually equipped me quite well in terms of being able to set up the charity, but also to understand the policies, the governance, the infrastructure needs, and how we can have an impact on the ground through the power of communication, advocacy and campaigning. So that’s sort of my background in the charity part. But as an academic, I’ve always been interested in critiquing ideas, and I am naturally very curious. So I went back to do a Master’s on development technology and innovation policy at University College London. And after that Master’s, I was fortunate enough to secure a scholarship to study a PhD, again at UCL, and my PhD is on policies that advance healthcare practices, especially around how we build hospitals and settings that promote mental well-being as well as sustainable practices. So a very sort of, you know, trotted background, but it just shows my breadth of interest and my passion for testing out new challenges.

03:33 Rob Hanna:

And it shows that your your kindness, your empathy, the values that you uphold, and I just want to say on behalf of all of us on the Legally Speaking Podcast, thank you for your work, and particularly for promoting mental health as somebody who’s lost family members, it’s something that’s very dear to me. So it’s great that you’re investing that time and wishing the best of luck with all of your PhD and congratulations on the scholarship. But I want to dig in because the lot to unpack there. And so you touched on it briefly, but where did your sort of interest further stem for from the sort of humanitarian field? And was it from your own experiences from volunteering abroad?

04:06 Shirah Mansaray:

And yeah, so actually, before I answer that, my empathy and my sentiments go out to you Rob and to all those who are dealing with a mental health or any mental illness because it is something that is very close to my heart, me as topical at the moment, and I do always extend that space for us to be able to encourage people to seek help where they need it. So just thought I’ve mentioned that and not step over that. In terms of your question. You’re welcome. In terms of your question around how my interests arose, I must say through my lived experience, as somebody who was born in Uganda, I spent a few years there before I did come to the UK to continue my studies here. And it wasn’t when, it was only when I went back as a teenager, that I got to understand the injustices that were unfolding, and I also got to appreciate that having grown up here, I was actually fortunate to have an understanding of human rights you know, basic human rights like access to food and education, but for me fundamentally, it was the access to safe space and access to the right not to be butchered or harmed. And as some of you might know, some people in your audience might know, in Uganda and a few other countries around the global South, there is a tendency to pain and to cause harm to students. And it’s built on maybe cultural practices, but also some of the practices that have been embedded through colonial legacies. So when I witnessed this level of injustice, I did speak up. And that ability to speak up when I saw people perpetuating injustices has followed me through my career. And that’s how I’ve ended up setting up a charity that works with rescue child soldiers, and supports these child soldiers to access human rights and mental health and rehabilitation and education, because I believe in the power of championing causes, especially where we’ve seen a lack of such cause, we can actually be the change makers we want to see in the world.

06:00 Rob Hanna: 

And we need leaders like you to make that change. And we’re definitely going to deep dive more into that work, because it’s so important. And thank you once again. And you had a wonderful career and you are a multilingual lawyer, which I think is impressive in itself. You spent time with Bates Well LLP as well, advising charities and not-for-profit organisations. So what advice were you giving during that time and what charities did you work with?

06:22 Shirah Mansaray:

So it was really interesting being able to work with Bates Wells because I’ve always wanted to hone my legal skills within a commercial firm that predominantly works with charity clients, but also has clients who aren’t from the charity sector. I think 2 instances for me really stood out. 1 of them was being able to advise on a charity that was going through a restructuring and helping the charity understand what it meant to work both in the UK and internationally. And also the challenges that we’re dealing with in today’s climate. We’re dealing with, you know, challenges around diversity and equity and inclusion, but also supplier contracts and having transparency in how you bring staff into your organisation and your charity. So there are quite a few different issues there. And these stem from my own experiences, either through my work as CEO of I am Somebody’s Child Soldier, but also being able to sit in on some of those client meetings at Bates Wells, and provide some of that advice. Going back on the EDI front I think it’s a really important topic for us, especially now where we have organisations that are redesigning their EDI strategies and EDI policies. For me it’s understanding the action plans that sit behind these strategies, because for so many years, we have had, you know, good inverted commas, EDI policies, but actually in practice these don’t translate into actions. So for me it’s about critiquing the action plans, that the networks that have been formed, the events that are happening to promote EDI within organisations, you know, really topical conversations, but ensuring that they are coming from a legal foundation and a governance foundation as well.

08:03 Rob Hanna: 

And really well said and I absolutely agree with you. I think it’s great to have the policies and the words, but it’s only half of it. It’s like with knowledge, you know, knowledge is not power, applied knowledge is power and taking that action. So yeah, thank you for sharing that. And as I mentioned in the introduction, obviously you do a lot of work. You’re, you’re a long standing supporter of Amnesty International, and you’ve fundraised for them during your time at university, you now sit on the board for them. So what is your role involved with there? Tell us more?

08:30 Shirah Mansaray:

So Amnesty is a charity that’s very close to my heart. And like I said, when I went to Uganda, I was very aware of human rights and the rights that I have. And it’s through the campaigns that Amnesty would do in schools and through their campaigns that Amnesty would do in local communities. So I grew up with that brand and that awareness of Amnesty International’s work. So interestingly my first job was as a fundraiser for Amnesty International. And I remember speaking to individuals on the streets, in markets, in shopping malls, and really conveying the passion for human rights. And then obviously, it’s Amnesty, but for me it was always making sure that people were clear that we are advocating for fundamental human rights, the right to safety, the right to not be tortured, you know, really important rights, that when you’re in a Western country you perhaps sometimes underestimate the importance of it, as opposed to when you’re in a country that doesn’t have these basic human rights, and you see injustices prevailing on a day-to-day basis. So I think after fundraising for Amnesty International, I wanted to be a human rights lawyer. I wanted to go away and save the world and make a difference. But I think my experience at the Council of Europe quickly informed me that there were other ways that I can make a difference. And I actually wanted to be immersed with the beneficiaries and in the communities, and really seeing what the beneficiaries needed and my breadth of knowledge and curiosity as well meant that I could think of different ways to have an impact and not just as a human rights lawyer. So, being able to progress into Amnesty International when the opportunity arose, I jumped in and I was like that will be incredible being able to sit on the board of 1 of my favourite charities in the world. And in July last year I joined the board. And some of the activities I’ve been involved with has been around EDI, because for those who are Amnesty supporters, you would have seen that in the past we have had some instances of race, racist allegations, as well, as we’ve had a report produced that identifies the culture and the practices there. And my passion is to support Amnesty through this period because I firmly believe that if we as an organisation can put down some good practices, you know, roadmap to how we navigate this new scene in this new territory, then that is an important lesson for other charities, but also other organisations who are dealing in grappling with racial injustice and lack of embedding EDI practices into their culture. So I think, you know, fundamentally, it’s that EDI lens, but also having a legal background and having lived experience of injustices, I bring that to the conversation, and I challenge the narrative and the conversations that are happening because it’s important to appreciate that when you’re on a board and you’re sitting in that space, you have to occupy that space, you have to be part of those conversations. There’s no point you know, being a board member or being a senior executive, and your voice isn’t heard or your ideas or your you know, your critique is not felt. So for me, I remember reading something that said, if you’re going to be in the room, be in the room and made me realise that if I’m going to sit on that table, even though I might be you know, 1 of the youngest or the only female of colour, it’s just I need to ensure that there’s value added there. And that I leave each conversation feeling like I’ve had an impact, and I’ve made a contribution to that debate. Yeah, I think that kind of sums up my experience, I’m very passionate about as you can tell, and I could probably keep talking at that for a while.

11:58 Rob Hanna:

Well I’m hearing the passion who’s through and there’s so many nuggets there, because, yeah, my mentors say to me, don’t just show up, show up and be present. And you know, and I learned from Dr. Demartini just the other day actually about, you know, I love the fact that you’re challenging. And he said, because so many people don’t be due to fear. You know, fear is your friend, you know, and I think that’s really you know, the way sometimes I encourage people to look at things. Time for a short break from the show. Are you looking for a way to get your firm working more efficiently and profitably, while ensuring a better work life balance for your team? Well, if you haven’t considered our sponsor Clio, I’m here to strongly recommend that you do. I absolutely love working with Clio. Not only is it the world’s leading legal practice management and legal client relationship management software, it also has a really solid core mission, to transform the legal experience for all. Something I personally support. What sets Clio apart for me, it’s their dedication to customer success and support. There are lots of legal software’s out there, but I know from talking to Clio users that their support offering is miles ahead of the rest with their 24-5 availability by email, in app chat and over the phone. Yes, you can actually call in and speak to someone. Clio is also the G2 Crowd leader in legal practice management, in comparison to 130 legal practice management software’s and has been for the last 14 consecutive quarters. G2 Crowd is the world’s leading business solutions review website. You can check Clio’s full list of features and pricing at www dot Clio dot com forward slash Legally dash Speaking. That’s www dot C L I O dot com forward slash Legally dash Speaking. Now back to the show. I guess we need to continue talking about other things that you’ve been involved with, because you also had the opportunity to work with the United Nations, Financial Ombudsman Service and the Economic Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. So what were your experiences in each of those organisations and what did you learn?

14:19 Shirah Mansaray:

Yeah, so at the United Nations, it’s interesting because I always had that as the pinnacle for me in terms of career and you know, it is still an organisation I aspire to work at in a senior capacity. But when I did have the opportunity to go there, it was through a training program where they were up-skilling policy makers and policy advisors, and being a CEO of a charity that works in Uganda as well as is registered here, I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity extended to me. And 3 things for me stood out from that training. Number 1 was to allow organisations and local grassroot charities on the ground, in the global South, to tell us what their problems were and what their solutions could be. So moving away from that stereotype of West is best, or let’s translate knowledge from the global North to the global South. It that really challenged that way of working and encouraged us as leaders to ensure that we were co-creating solutions and that we were embedding a participatory approach in our interventions. And the second thing I learned is to allow children to flourish in a safe space and to expose them to opportunities that involve and promoted technology. So you know, in the global West again, in the global North sorry, we have access to technology, to laptops to you know, all kinds of digital interventions and infrastructure. But unfortunately, in rural villages and rural communities in the global South, children don’t have that. So this training initiative was around ensuring that we were providing access in a safe way and that we were creating a sense of empowerment from these technology, and not just coming in there with these tools, and not up-skilling or helping these children and these communities with their capacity building. And then number 3 was ensuring that we were sustainable practices, and that we had exit plans. And that’s something that I sort of picked up in the conversations, it wasn’t specifically echoed in the resources and the training material, but the conversations that we had outside of the training sessions with other leaders was around okay, at which point does a charity actually exit and move away from that community and stop creating dependency because there is a pattern where, and you know very well intentioned and well-meaning charities, move into communities, they create dependency, they are always being part of that solution and not doing that capacity building, or not involved in the community and not translating those interventions into the community so that they can leave after that community has up has been uplifted and is flourishing. So it was really important for me to understand, you know, what does our exit strategy look like as a charity. At which point do we know that we have had the impact in this community and we can move on to another community and then have a ripple effect that way as opposed to staying in 1 space and perhaps even overstaying your welcome. So, you know, 3 very important lessons for me through the United Nations experience. I’ll touch very briefly on the Financial Ombudsman Service and the European Economic Affairs Committee. So the Financial Ombudsman Service, it was doing a lot of the adjudicating work, it was around the mis-selling of PPI, payment protection insurance for those who are not familiar with acronym, and really again, being the person who can advance a sense of justice for those who have had an injustice done to them. And it was really important work for me because it helped me understand the nuances of financial products and selling financial products, but also ensuring that customers are brought on that journey, and they’re very aware of the products that they’re purchasing. And then with my experience, in the Economic Affairs Committee at the Council of Europe, it was around micro loans and ensuring that countries in Eastern Europe had access to financial opportunities that were going to help them come out of poverty and come out of the injustices that the country had had witnessed around the financial crash. As you can see some themes around you know, finance and, and injustice, but also looking at sustainability and promoting a sense of well-being within communities.

18:23 Rob Hanna:

And it’s you know, it’s such a meaningful and fulfilling work that you’re you’re doing. So it’s amazing that you managed to get involved in so many different organisations. And I guess that leads very nicely on to the present day where you are the CEO of I am Somebody’s Child Soldier, IamSCS you know, the charity works with rescued child soldiers and child victims of war to provide access to mental health. You know, I believe the objectives are to empower, rehabilitate, enhance and relief. And you know, I wanted to ask, do you have an ultimate goal? And if so, would you mind sharing that with us? And just tell us a little bit more about the charity.

18:59 Shirah Mansaray:

Yes. So our ultimate goal is to empower individuals. And it’s a really, you know, interesting vision that we have, because we want our beneficiaries, our stakeholders, the people who are part of our projects, and part of our community to really walk away with something new, either a new skill, a new way of thinking, a new resource, is grounded in the empowerment philosophy. And on that, it’s ensuring that our projects have definitive outcomes and we are very clear that it’s a project. So our interventions are usually project based and that way we’re able to do the pilot study, make sure that we’re utilising research, you know, the academic in me always asks for research before we go into a project or community. And that evidence base allows us to tackle problems in a very interesting way because we’re leveraging insights of other academics who’ve researched this area, but also we have interviews with our beneficiaries and the communities and we capture those case studies and we produce thought leadership pieces and articles so that at the end of our projects, we can test the initial research literature with what we’ve been able to deliver from the project base, and also what we’ve been able to write up as a result of our project. And then we’re adding value to the academic debate and academic discourse, but also to that community, because we then have a way that we can show them how to move forward with it. So it’s, it’s almost like you’re packaging them with some tools and resources in a write up, so any other organisation that wanted to take that project forward, or wanted to come in and pick up from where we left off, has some reference points. So that’s the empowerment part. I think the key objective for us is to ensure that we empower students. So we work through a very clear model where we partner with a school in northern Uganda, and the school has a large number of former child soldiers and victims of war and children born in conflict, women who have suffered violence in conflict and young girls who have suffered violence in conflict. I do say women because a number of child of former child soldiers, by the time they returned back home they are approaching either teenagehood or early adulthood. And these schools are very important because they provide an access to that knowledge base that they have missed out on, due to being in the war or being away from school. So by partnering with schools we’re able to have a centre for our work and we’re able to monitor students as they progress through that school. And then also deliver interventions that support students access education, but also see where they are from a mental health perspective, see where they are from a psychosocial support perspective, and bring in their caregivers and their teachers into that intervention. And by embedding it that way in the community again, it’s thinking about the sustainability model, and how we move forward at the end of that project, and where we had the impact and the lasting legacy as well.

21:53 Rob Hanna:

No, and that’s such a great word to use at the end, because it is a legacy. And you know, I love that you’re providing this platform and is clearly a process and everything you’re thinking about to ensure this, this is sustainable. It’s not just another thing that’s happening and cropped up and will go away, this, you know, and I can hear just the richness in your, in your voice, how much this means to you. And as you’ve touched on there, the charity also focuses on that raising awareness attached to mental health across Africa. Umm but also, I wanted to ask, what action do you think the education institutions or the government needs to be taking to challenge the social stigma in Africa?

22:27 Shirah Mansaray:

Brilliant question Rob. I think for me, it partnering with other institutions in Africa and global South, I think there is a lot of richness to be had from these co-creation models and partnering students together. So interestingly, our charity has just finished a university’s challenge, where we had students from University College London, where I’m based, and students from 3 universities in Uganda all work together to create solutions to 4 global challenges that we identified. And these 4 global challenges were food security, electricity, education, and economy. And by having 4 clear challenges, we paired students into groups of 8, we had over 200 students sign up for the challenge, it goes to show you how much students are very passionate about creating solutions for themselves. And because they were Master level, actually, if you Undergrad level students as well ensured that there was a breadth of expertise that was coming through, and it was all done online. So we had to up-skill them on how to use Zoom, how to create PowerPoints, how to share resources, Miro, you know all these really brilliant interventions and resources that we’ve been privileged to have access to in the West because we’ve had to transition to learning online. But we realised that students in different universities across Uganda hadn’t built that confidence of online learning. And if the world is transitioning to a lot of online learning and online presentations, we wanted to support these students to build their skills and competencies that way. So through this university’s challenge, students were able to come up with a solution in only 1 week. And we were really impressed with the results that came out. There was a winner. The winning team did manage to walk away with a headset and a microphone and you know, just some really interesting gadgets so that they could progress in their learning, but also, they can really access the beauty of online learning and collaborating. So back to your question around what universities and governments could do. I think it’s really encouraging the collaborative aspects and working together, but letting the younger generation take the lead in the innovations and the interventions. Because for those of you that might know, we’re going through a youth dividend where in Africa, the large portion of the, of the large proportion of the population is the younger generation, and that means we really need to up-skill them, we really need to give them the mic and we need to ensure that interventions are grounded with their knowledge and their buying, because they’re the ones that can take it forward. And back to that piece of legacy, you know, they are the legacy.

25:09 Rob Hanna:

And they absolutely are. And thank you so much for highlighting that and just giving us some some more context. It’s been a fascinating discussion, I just wanted to ask, could you explain what is psychotherapy support, please? And, you know, why is psychotherapy a part of IamSCS?

25:26 Shirah Mansaray:

Yeah, so with our psychotherapy interventions, we utilise different models. And it’s again, ensuring that we are utilising models that are suitable to the local context. So we do group sessions where children can talk to each other, we do storytelling circles. And storytelling circles are a really interesting intervention because they create a safe space. But they are told in a way that students can tell their experiences in form of a story. So that child doesn’t feel like they’re talking about themselves. And so they’re that 1step removed. But it also gives us as facilitators of those stories circles and insight into what that child might be dealing with. And then we can refer them on to specialist interventions and specialist care. 1 story I can share from story circles is that by encouraging students to have story circles with teachers listening in, or if and we do them in quite small numbers, a lot more than 10 group, 10 students per circle, we were able to empower a teacher to actually share his story and how he was a former child soldier. And his students never knew that. And it’s because of that stigma that’s associated with being a former child soldier. So by the teacher seeing the bravery in some of these children in their, in their experiences, and how other students were empathetic and compassionate, this teacher also had the courage and bravery to share his experiences. And that really connected the students and the teachers. And, you know, moving on from that, it just creates this safe space where you’re able to discuss the challenges that you went through, but you’re able to think of the future and what the future holds. So for us, psychotherapy is embedded in a lot of our practices, because we appreciate that wholeness of an individual’s experience is not just the academics or the physical health, or the financial security, it’s making sure that your your mind and your mental health is also prioritised.

27:23 Rob Hanna:

Yeah. And again, such meaningful, powerful words that you know, absolutely support on the Legally Speaking Podcast. So again, thank you so much for sort of articulating that and just explaining, you know, the works that are done. I did want to ask, before we look to wrap up, you know, in your interview with the Women Economic Forum, you outline “I wish to ensure that IamSCS acts as a vehicle for successful analysis and implementation of health policy in Uganda”. So what are the future plans that you have for IamSCS?

27:56 Shirah Mansaray:

Brilliant question again. I think for me, it’s understanding the power of academia, and how we can create knowledge output and research and progress the academic discourse in this space, because, you know, the health policies that are currently in effect in Uganda are sometimes heavily embedded in Western principles. So for me it’s understanding how my academic research as a PhD scholar can inform these health policies, and how I bring together the evidence base to perhaps even challenge some of the existing policies, not from a space of breaking down the good word, but advancing that and critiquing that I’m pulling together where resources can be plugged in to address the gap. So the future for I am Somebody’s Child Soldier is ensuring that we’re contributing knowledge outputs from an academic lens, but also from our policies and our interventions, and then working in collaboration with universities and governments to bring this knowledge to them, and to support them in how they translate that into interventions, and further policies as well.

29:05 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, and thank you again, because it’s, it’s so true, what you’re, you’re saying, and I can just see the journey, and I can see how you’re going to continue to make a roaring success and such meaningful work with this. So thank you once again. So you know, finally, I would want to ask, you know, what advice would you give to those who are interested in starting maybe their own charity, or wanting to support mental health charities?

29:27 Shirah Mansaray:

Yes, I think it’s important that we have individuals, you know, young or old, doing this work in the charity sector or not-for-profit sector. But 1 thing I’ve come to realise is there is power in collaborating, and there’s power in not duplicating. A critique I have and it’s a personally held critique is that there is a lot of duplication in the charity sector. I really do echo the need for us to collaborate. So if there was individuals who were looking to set up charities, my first piece of advice would be maybe go and research and see if there are other charities out there that are doing some of the brilliant work you want to do. And if there are other charities doing this work, see how you can come in and add value, either through volunteering, or consulting, or coming in and raising funds, raising awareness. There’s so many different ways that individuals can contribute to the challenges that we’re facing in the world, but also that charities are dealing with. And then the second piece of advice is to have local interventions, that sometimes we want to set up these grand big international projects and international charities, but there is still so much that can be done locally. So whether you’re living, you know, in London or anywhere in the world, see what needs to be done at home within your community. And that way, you can see that intervention, you can have direct interactions, and you can really be the advocate for change. And then number 3 for me is, moving away from the mindset that we can go into these spaces and inverted commas save people. So you know, I am an avid critique of charities that go in with the white saviour mentality, because we need to be very present to how this legacy has affected communities and created that dependency and actually perpetuated poverty, and perpetuated the inequalities and lack of access to resources. So my critique is always understanding that these individuals have agency, they have autonomy, they know what they need, they know what they can and can’t do. The best thing you can do for them is work with them to understand what the problem is and what the solutions can be. And that might not necessarily mean you set up a charity, or that you go into that space with your idea of, you know, saviourism. So I think on the charity, right, that’s my top top 3 points of advice. From the mental health perspective, it’s really important to reach out to other mental health charities, because in that collaboration, and that coalescing of efforts is when we can have a bigger impact, and de- stigmatising mental health. So you know, locked down and covid has done significant work in de- stigmatising mental health and even your podcast Rob is brilliant in me being able to come into this space and speak freely. I perhaps wouldn’t have felt as confident a couple of years ago, but knowing that I have this space where I can speak freely about mental health and mental illnesses that individuals are dealing with, is really important. So creating more safe spaces where people can speak about mental illnesses, and having different resources and touch points for staff or colleagues, senior leaders as well. You know, there is this undertone that senior leaders are very strong and resilient. Yes, we are, but we are human, and we do have moments of weakness and moments of dealing with our own mental illness. So it’s really important that senior leaders and board members, you know, any anyone has the space and the bravery to speak about their mental illness and seek help.

33:09 Rob Hanna:

And it’s such powerful words once again, and thank you for sharing that because we all have a mental health, you know, we all have a health and you know that that’s so important, you know, it’s the thing we have to cherish and look after. And I love those those days sort of piece of advice you shared and how you broke that down. I also love the sort of collaborate, don’t duplicate, that really landed with me because I talk a lot about collaboration over competition. And absolutely here we want to create safe spaces, at Legally Speaking Podcast, we do a number of diverse topics connected to law and people doing meaningful projects and giving back and helping and educating, entertaining, supporting and inspiring, and you absolutely tick that box as a phenomenal guest today. And as we close, if our listeners which I’m sure they will, would like to learn more about I am Somebody’s Child Soldier or even volunteer, what’s the best way for them to contact you. Please also feel free to shout out any social media or website links will also share them with this episode for you too.

34:01 Shirah Mansaray:

Yes, best way to contact to us Instagram which is very simple. It’s at I am Somebody’s Child Soldier. Our website as well is www dot I am Somebody’s Child Soldier dot org. Anyone who wants to reach out to me personally, my LinkedIn is Shirah Z Mansaray. And I do make an effort to set up calls, at least 15-minute calls with everyone that I connect with. So definitely do reach out.

34:26 Rob Hanna:

Well, thank you so so much Shirah, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. So from all of us on the Legally Speaking Podcast, wishing you lots of continued success with your career and of course future pursuits. But for now, over and out.

34:41 Shirah Mansaray:

Thank you very much Rob. It’s been an absolute pleasure. And thank you very much to your audience for listening.

34:55 Rob Hanna:

Thank you for listening to this week’s episode. If you liked the content here, why not check out our world leading content and collaboration hub, the Legally Speaking Club over on Discord. Go to our website www dot Legally Speaking Podcast dot com for the link to join our community there. Over and out.

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