A Conversation with Laila Munaf: The Journey of Women Empowering Each Other

Posted by: Arani Aslama

A Conversation with Laila Munaf: 
The Journey of Women Empowering Each Other

March has always been a special month for us here at Chic and Darling. As coincidentally the world celebrates International Woman’s Day, every March 8th we celebrate our anniversary. It marks a celebration of a company run by women, collaborating and working together to deliver something special to the hearts of your home.

This year, as we celebrate our 7th anniversary, we aim for a new direction that focus more on wellness and mental well-being. Encouraging a life that is lived mindfully. We believe that life is always on the move, that change is inevitable. And sometimes it can be hard to keep up. As we face these challenges, it is always comforting to know that we are not alone. That we support each other. That is why our heart burst into excitement when we hear about SANA Women's 10k. It is not merely a running platform, rather a movement of women empowering each other. Facing fears of the unknown as many gather on their first experience of running, and embracing every step of the process. It is a platform of women celebrating women. So, immerse yourself in a conversation between Kania and Laila that profoundly speaks of vulnerability, strength, and the journey of women empowering each other.

Kania: I always tell myself that I am not a running person. But then something happened, and I want to change my self, the way I eat, the way I see life, the way I focus, the way I work. And that requires a well-rounded process. So, this year is about healing as a priority. When I saw you with Women's 10K, I was enthusiastic to participate. How did the idea to initiate Women’s 10k come about?

Laila: It all comes back to here at SANA, where 95% who come to exercise is women. Together, we have gained so much experience, energy, and inspiring stories. Everyday there’s about 100 to 150 people who come to Sana. They come and go, but each shares a story that they carry on with or without us. And it is the most powerful thing that we ever felt. Also, this year marks SANA 8th anniversary and we want to do something different and powerful. Women's 10k is a consortium, which involves many parties that are experts on their field. There is Big Change Agency, which is our brand consultant. There is Pandara Sports, who is experienced in creating running events. And Synchro ID, that focus on how the race should be visually produced.

"Women are such a character, that when we embrace our vulnerability and dig deep, we find strengths." - Laila Munaf

So, this 10k is aimed to focus on women because we feel so close to women. Women are such a character, that when we embrace our vulnerability and dig deep, we find strengths. And that is why through this running platform, we hope for women to empower each other.


Kania: Do you have a core message that you want to share with the community, both to the participants and also to ones that are not participating yet in the 10k?

Laila: The core message of this campaign is to encourage women to move. When you move, the benefit is not only for your physical wellness, but also for your emotional well-being. The training for the 10k run which is held every Sunday also gave us a meaningful perspective.



A lot of people feel too busy to make time to move, and it’s because there will always be an excuse, as there is always something else that seems more important. But the truth is, to move, is really important for you. You should be your priority. We want you to put yourself, your happiness, and your health as your number one. And through this platform, the Woman 10k, we want to support you to take that first step to taking care of yourself.

When we see the women that come and train with us, we see fear. We see doubts. We see faces that express anxiety. We saw a lot of that. But the fact that you came, it showed us, that you actually believe in yourself. I feel that despite all of the fears and anxiety that you still felt while you were running, you didn’t give up. No body gave up. No body stopped. No body listened to their fear, anxiety, or doubts. Instead, you listen to that voice within you. You believe in yourself and it empowers others.


To be honest, in the beginning I was so nervous because I have doubts whether I can run or not. There is a pressure that I put on myself as people have a certain standard when they see me. During the training, people find me to find comfort, and I had times when I feel like I didn’t have anyone to come to. But then suddenly, I have you, the participants, the women. We came together hand in hand supporting each other going through all of this mix emotions. That fear is not holding us back. It turned out, the energy of us supporting each other is so powerful that it can eliminate or put aside those emotions of fear, doubts, and anxiety.


"The focus should be on the fact that you still try even though the result is not what you initially expected." - Laila Munaf


Kania: Because I am involved in this, joining the Women's 10k. And I am happy to be a part of this journey with you. And knowing that you are doing this for the first time as well, is very comforting for someone who is new to this. So, thank you.

Laila: Thank us, for stepping out of our comfort zone. I am sure everyone is good at something, but there is definitely something that we are not good at. That is life. We cannot be good at everything, and that is okay. The focus should be on the fact that you still try even though the result is not what you initially expected. And for me, that is not a failure. The fact that you stepped forward and signed up. That is what matters.


Kania: Now, let’s talk about you. Who is Laila Munaf off screen, off studio, and off the public eye? Who are you?

Laila: I am definitely a strong character. Taking off the hats, not as a mother, not as an entrepreneur, me as me. Let’s say the kid in me is that I am pretty humorous (iseng). I love to kid others, but hate it when others kid me. So annoying right? So selfish. And yes, I am selfish. I am also a serious person. So, I can be humorous, but also serious, especially when making a decision, I go through a lot of considerations. I am a burst of emotions. I can feel happy, then be so sad, angry, or disappointed easily. And those hats that I put on actually help me to control myself. I have my strength and weakness. There is this image of Laila Munaf that is created by the society. I mean this person is not bad at all, I like her. But do I want to be a hundred percent like her? Actually, no. I tell myself that it is okay that you are not perfect and others see you make mistake.

To be honest, when I first discover my husband’s health challenges, I did not cry, until I asked myself: how are you Laila? And then I broke down into tears. People expect me to be strong, so I focus on being strong, to not fall into pieces. Then came this one moment when I was all by myself in a park, reading a book, and there was this little voice inside me that aksed me how I was doing. Suddenly, I started crying.

From then on, I learn when things happen in life, feel it, don’t deny it. Place that sadness in front of you and acknowledge it. Look at it and that sadness would appreciate it. The point is that you’re admitting to yourself that you are sad and that is okay. It took me, at that time, about 32 years to realize it.

Kania: I think the society has taught us since we were a little to not feel the pain, to not feel the sadness, to stay strong. But, actually those emotions only need to be acknowledged.

Laila: Same with happiness. Don’t feel guilty when you’re happy. Sometimes the way other people feel make you feel like you don’t deserve to be happy. If you earned it, be happy.


Kania: So, you’ve gone through a lot. All this while, you kept going. So, what keeps you going?

Laila: When I face a challenge in life, whether it brings sadness, anger, or shame, one thing that keeps me going is definitely God. I was raised with a belief that I am never alone. God give me challenges for a reason. When I surrender and believe, God always guide me through trouble times. This belief has been instilled within me since I was younger. When I was in my second year of high school, I had to move to the United States. As a teenager, I went through a lot of feelings during the process. In those moments, my grandparents always remind me to believe, to pray, and to seek guidance from God. As I was 16 years old, maybe I was not mature yet, but I did believe and I felt protected through it all.

Kania: Do you have insecurities?

Laila: I wished I was smarter. I’m smart on other things, but I want to be brainy smart. There are moments when you meet people outside of your field, and you feel so stupid when talking to them. When I am in those moment, I seek my comfort zone by searching for people who have common ground with me. But I have learnt to listen and acknowledge that it’s okay if I don’t know the topic brought up. I’m not going to blame anybody, no judgement. It’s not other people’s job to make me feel comfortable. I need to do it myself. I need to figure out.

But as a woman, I also have insecurities about my body. Since I was a little people commented me on being too skinny, and that built insecurity that carries on until now. Overtime, I can live with it, but it still is sensitive.

"It’s not other people’s job to make me feel comfortable. I need to do it myself. I need to figure out." - Laila Munaf


Kania: So do you think all of this vulnerability has shaped you to the person you are now today?

Laila: Yes, there are moments when those insecurities rise up again. And what I share to the people who also feel the same, is to say enough. I am enough. What I have is also enough. Feeling enough is a good boundary so you don’t become greedy.

Kania: Is there anything you feel that you have to forgive yourself with?

Laila: I think I am easy to forgive, although maybe others have not forgiven me yet. I’ve hurt a lot of people’s heart for being selfish. As selfish is a part of my strong character. I am not proud of it, but it is a part of me. I try not to listen to that selfishness a lot, but once in a while I use it when I think I need it. I need to be selfish, to protect myself. My happiness is my number one. I need to be happy in order to make my surrounding happy. So, for me, it is more about seeking other’s forgiveness, so I can forgive myself.

Kania: Just in the second month of 2020, we have seen how fragile life is through series of events going on around the world and in our country. What advice would you give women to thrive in difficult times?

Laila: To have faith and to have a better relationship with yourself. Whatever you’re going through, when you are your own best friend, you know you are not going through this by yourself. You have you to trust. Believe that you can survive this too. It is a beautiful journey to get to know yourself. It is such a rewarding process. Only you, who can put aside that fear, doubt, and anxiety. Beyond all of your difficulties, there is a strength within you. So, dig in and get to know yourself.

Women's 10k will be held on Sunday, March 8th 2020 and it is SANA STUDIO first running event. It is not just a run, it is a celebration for women to rise up and get moving. 

Text by Arani Aslama
Photographs by Asita Yulia & Courtesy of Women's 10k and SANA Studio
Creative Direction by Kania Anggiani


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