Mirela Sula describes the Inspiring Migrant Woman Conference she organised earlier this year as her “greatest success in this country”.
That’s no mean claim since she is Editor in Chief of the magazines Global Woman.co and Migrant Woman and also works as a trainer for women helping victims of domestic violence at the London-based Solace Women's Aid.
Her conference brought together more than 200 women from different backgrounds to share their experience and celebrate their achievements as migrants.
“The aim of creating a platform for migrant women is not to complain, nor to portray an image of being the victim, or to blame, but to feel proud of what we are and who we are and to invite other women to feel positive about themselves and their future,” she explains.
She emphasises the importance of being positive and grateful for opportunities rather than complaining about problems faced or blaming others.
In her case, she says, that has meant choosing a path in life that has enabled her to make a difference. That path has included migration.
Born in Albania, she started out as a village teacher, but moved to the capital, Tirana, where she completed a degree and became a journalist.
She worked for the country’s first post-democracy magazine and went on to found magazines of her own. While building her career as a publisher and writer, she also contributed to a women’s rights network.
In order to continue her studies in psychology, she sold her business before moving to London for her PhD in September 2012. Starting again in another country where she knew no-one was not an easy decision for a single mother with a teenage son.
“Migration for me is a transformation,” Sula says. “You change not only the house, the place, the job and your friends but yourself as well. You have to adapt to a new world and try to build a sense of your life.
“People who migrate have the courage to change and move beyond their comfort zone, they are curious to explore the world, to evolve and learn what is beyond their borders. They are like birds that want to fly and be free, independent and to become owners of their reality.”
She compares migrants to kite-runners who actively chase their dreams, and that’s certainly true of herself.
Only three months after arriving in London, Sula created a small local newspaper for Albanian women in the UK, to help give them a voice. She also rapidly got involved in one of the biggest Albanian organisations in the city, Shpresa Programme, where she created four woman’s support groups and trained 86 women to help others fighting domestic violence.
Encouraged by her success in supporting the Albanian community, she expanded her work to empower migrant women in general.
“It has been an amazing experience discovering that there were a lot of successful migrant women who had started their life again from scratch, and I wanted to tell the world about their success,” she says. So she launched Migrant Woman magazine in April 2014, followed by the online Global Woman.co.
“After less than three years I can say that I feel that I am in the right place,” she explains: she feels she belongs and is optimistic about the future, as ever.