Last night we held an RTÉ Hourglass Series live podcast in the intimate setting of RTÉ Studio 1, with Director-General of RTÉ Dee Forbes, PWC accountant and activist Deborah Somorin and presenter and designer Brendan Courtney.
Held on the eve of International Women's Day and hosted by our own Taragh Loughrey-Grant the event celebrated resilience and hard work, probed the need for greater opportunities for women and how we should seek out and create them, and explored how men are involved in the discussions around gender equality and how to better engage them.
Deborah Somorin shared her inspiring story of resilience and ambition, having moved from Nigeria to Naas as a 10-year-old, falling into homelessness at just 13, becoming pregnant at 14 and going on to complete her education at university, and later with a master's degree.
Today, Deborah is the charming, upbeat and passionate mother to Liam, an accountant at PWC and the brains behind Empower the Family, her charity that aims to support single parents in education through accommodation and other resources.
Her conversation with Taragh covered everything from fitting in as a young black girl in Naas, going to buy makeup with her friends only to see that "there's nothing that comes close to your skin tone", to the turgid relationship with her mother and abuse that lead to her entering care at age 11.
"I'd spent a really long time hoping that somebody would take me away from that. I remember I used to call Childline and things like that. I just wanted to be safe."
Deborah was able to continue her education with the help of workers with Focus Ireland - which was the charity that last night's event raised money for - and because of this her focus is on giving back through education and working to keep vulnerable people in school.
Pregnant at 14 and scared of moving into a State-run mother and baby home, as the law required, the care home that Deborah was staying in and happy at changed the rules to allow her to stay with them so that they could support her through her education and pregnancy.
"It wasn't just bending the rules. It was literally 'over my dead body is she leaving this house!'
"Those are the people who raised me. Seeing people go out of their way like that, go above and beyond, put themselves on the line, of course I was always going to turn out to be someone who wanted to give that back."
From completing her Leaving Cert and entering DCU through the Access Programme, to completing her master's degree and taking on a job as an accountant with PWC, Deborah's story is a stirring example of resilience and support leading to astounding achievements, and the very spirit of International Women's Day.
As she prepares to launch her charity, her story will no doubt improve the lives of many people like her in Ireland.
Listen to the International Women's Day podcast with Deborah in full by clicking on the video above!
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