Ebony King is a Youth Advocate, Community Leader and Youth Mental Health First Aider. British-born, England, North London precisely, with a Nigerian ethnicity. Ebony is a BSc Hons Psychology and Counselling studies graduate. She is the founder of Elevate Her UK, a non-profit organisation that provides support to vulnerable teenage girls and young women from disadvantaged backgrounds. Services offered are mentoring, skill based empowerment workshops and outreach. Elevate Her UK is a registered charity in England and Wales.
Before founding Elevate Her UK, Ebony was brought up in a broken home as her parents divorced when she was a child. During her teenage years she witnessed various traumatic events which led her to rebel. Ebony was negatively labelled and eventually got pregnant at 18. There was a huge stigma during that time and being a teenage mother out of wedlock, without a university degree and being from a Nigerian background came with a huge amount of pressure and gossip.
Ebony lacked mental health support and faced many challenges as a teenage parent. However, she managed to stay strong and fought gallantly with the bit of support she could get to make herself a better person. Her outreach to homeless hostels and community volunteering made her realise that many teenage girls and young women are battling with the same or similar challenges she had faced. This birthed the inspiration that spurred her to create the platform, Elevate Her UK, where she can extend a helping hand to the teenage girls and young women who need to be supported mentally and physically.
So far, Elevate Her UK, since its establishment, has been able to raise a fully qualified and trained team who, through their life experiences, provide mental health support, inspiring empowerment workshops and outreach. The Elevate Her UK team is dedicated to boosting mental health, promoting entrepreneurship and enhancing employability skills in young people.
Through her “Elevate Her UK”, Ebony King kickstarted a girl’s safety campaign on the 25th of August, 2021, tagged #ProtectHer, targeted to raise awareness of peer-to-peer abuse, street harassment, gang grooming, and exploitation. The campaign was featured on several media outlets within the UK and got the attention of many, including top politicians in the community. The YouTube campaign video got featured on ITV News, BBC Radio London, Metro Newspaper, MyLondon News, and Barking and Dagenham Post, a local newspaper.
Councillor Darren Rodwell, Council Leader of Barking and Dagenham noticed the campaign and shared the video on his official FaceBook page, which boosted its awareness and led to the rapid growth of Elevate Her UK.
On the 26th of August 2021, after the campaign, the Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement in Barking and Dagenham, Magaret Mullane, invited the founder of Elevate Her UK, Ebony King, to discuss how they can make the streets safer together and how she can offer her support to the organisation.
The organisation successfully hosted a Youth Safety Campaign in partnership with Newham Citizens asking Transport for London to allow students on the bus even if they forget or lose their Oyster cards to ensure they get to and from school safely. This campaign was featured on BBC News. Elevate Her UK has been able to organise several empowerment workshops and partnered with various prominent organisations in the UK. The first series of delivery workshops took place immediately after the first lockdown in the UK. It was done in partnership with Future Youth Zone.
Among the numerous giveaways by Elevate Her UK to disadvantaged and low-income families, in January 2022, the organisation did a school uniform, feminine hygiene products, shoes and goody bags giveaway. The likes of Toyin Abraham, a top Nollywood Producer and star Actress, were present to grace the event financially and physically.
In March 2022, women’s empowerment month, Elevate Her partnered with ASDA, a popular supermarket in the community. ASDA provided sanitary towels and feminine hygiene products to give to homeless teenage girls and young women. Also, Elevate Her UK partnered with a few British public figures such as female rappers Ivorian Doll and Br3nya, very much loved by the youths to boost its empowerment workshops.
Ebony King also delivers motivational assemblies and youth safety workshops in secondary schools to educate and engage with the youth.
Ebony was nominated Female Volunteer of the Year for Barking and Dagenham Women Empowerment Awards. Also, Elevate Her UK, as an organisation, was nominated. This was a milestone achievement for the organisation and Ebony King in person, making them stand out from other non-profits in their local area. Ebony King has gained much recognition from people empowered and politicians in the borough. She is under the Citizens UK Alliance, a people power community organising alliance across the UK.
Subsequently, the organisation plans to organise a project to get young people to start thinking more about global warming and climate change and do more things to save the planet. Also, the organisation plans to establish a sister arm in October 2022, Elevate Her Africa, where they would be reaching out to teenage girls and young women in Africa. She plans to replicate all she is currently doing in the UK. The project is anticipated to kick off in Nigeria as it is her place of origin. She also anticipates writing a book to motivate teenage girls and young women struggling mentally and emotionally.
According to the founder of Elevate Her UK, Ebony King, being relatable to young people, developing unique and innovative interventions, has kept them soaring and topping the non-profit charts in the community. Among her supporters and partners include The National Lottery Community Fund, YMCA, Future Youth Zone, Barking and Dagenham College, Asda, UK Youth and Citizens UK among others.
She shares her inspiring story in this interview.
Tell us more about Elevate Her UK and why you started it
Elevate Her UK is a not-for-profit organisation that provides support to vulnerable teenage girls and young women from disadvantaged backgrounds. I started it because I wanted to empower girls at a grassroots level via different modern systems so that there would be a real impact. The services we offer are things I wished I had growing up. I also didn’t see any other organisations that truly understand the needs of
their beneficiaries. Their methods seemed outdated. Our workshops are current, the young people can relate.
What inspired your passion for issues that affect women
The lived experiences of my peers and I is what makes me passionate about issues that affect girls and women.
Empathy is one of my main character traits. It really hits me when I see people facing challenges, I feel their pain and I just want to help.
“Women supporting women”, do you believe in this statement and how have you been supported by other women
I believe in the statement “Women supporting women” because I strongly believe in Karma. How can I expect to be supported if I don’t support others?! However, I don’t think many people practice what they preach.
On a daily basis especially on social media I see women tearing each other down. It’s ridiculous! I’m the type of person that would compliment another pretty girl.
Surprisingly, I’ve recently been supported by a few women that are older than me. They’ve assisted me with things such as putting me on platforms to spread awareness of my work, one put me in a position to have a physical office space and connected me with sponsors. I’m highly grateful for the support and I wish more young women supported each other.
Is there a Nigerian chapter for Elevate Her UK? Tell us about your activities.
Yes, we will be launching our sister arm Elevate Her Africa on October 27th at Freedom Park. We have Youth Outreach Workers in some African countries. Seeing as I am of Nigerian descent it’s only right that we kick off in Nigeria.
We have partnered with schools in Lagos, Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode and Ibadan to deliver youth awareness workshops. Teaching them skills that will promote entrepreneurship and providing a safe space for them to thrive mentally.
You are passionate about community service, what nudged you towards volunteering?
The urge to help vulnerable people due to my past experiences is what made me want to volunteer in the community.
It is hard at times balancing my paid job, my kids and social life but I always find a way to push through.
How has the journey been since you started your organisation?
The journey so far has had highs and lows. However I must say that one of the main challenges was finding out that there are certain organisations in the same field that could see you as a competitor because they have been doing this for a lot longer than you but they are not getting the attention or recognition that you are getting.
They can bad mouth you to sponsors or potential partners, something that I would never do as I keep it professional. My creativity and unique way of doing things is getting Elevate Her UK noticed. I started this organisation with an open and positive mind. I didn’t know that not everyone’s intentions are the same.
I’m doing it for genuine passion and my lived experiences. The young people requesting my services and leaving positive feedback is what motivates me to continue helping.
If you could talk to a young woman who is living through your life experience as a young girl, what would you say to her? What would you ask her to do differently?
Don’t allow anyone’s negative judgement of you, affect your mind-set. Be positive and believe in yourself. If you don’t know what you want to do with yourself go and do some research, you are never too old to learn.
Say no to peer pressure, do not copy others, stay in your lane. Listen to your parents and do not rush to be an adult. If you want to live a comfortable life in the future, do not be lazy.
Refrain from depending on others anybody can let you down at any point no matter how long you’ve known them, prepare for the worst and you will be disappointed less.
What are some changes you hope to see in the world, especially regarding issues that affect women?
I would like to see women being treated fairly e.g., equal pay. Also, for more men to respect boundaries and accept when we say NO!!!
The new PM of Britain is a woman; your thoughts on this and if you could have an audience with her, what would you ask her to do differently?
I’m happy that Liz Truss is from a working-class family so the chance of her understanding the people who face the majority of the issues in the UK would be quite high.
However, I’m slightly worried about the rules she would make on people from ethnic minorities as she allegedly once mentioned that the importation of cheese was an issue. If I could have an audience with her, I would urge her to introduce new measures to protect girls and women.
I would also tell her to start finding more effective ways to empower the youth they are the future. If she wants knife crime, unemployment, sexual exploitation, gang grooming etc to be reduced she needs to act fast.
Your thoughts on teenage pregnancy
I think that more schools need to allow organisations like mine to come into the schools to do workshops teaching teenagers the importance of not becoming a single teenage parent. They would rather listen to us than their teachers and most parents are reluctant or don’t have time to discuss these things with their children.
I also believe that if it happens it’s not the end of the world. They need to be supported to get back on the right track. I eventually went back to university to get my degree.
Advice for young women who aspire to make a name for themselves
I would say they should stay true to themselves, be original, focus on their goals and avoid negative people that shut their ideas down. I had family members tell their children not
to associate with me that I am useless, and I will never amount to anything but I didn’t care. I ignored them and did my own thing. Now their children are sending me well done messages and I haven’t even got to where I want to be yet.