The HealthCare Giant of Botswana

“Bridging the gap between Policy and Implementation in Gender, Reproductive Health, and HIV/AIDS”

Professor Sheila Tlou – whose surname translates literally to ‘elephant’ is a veritable giant in the gender, health care and sexual and reproductive healthcare space in Botswana, Africa, and the world.

To Professor Sheila Tlou, the themes are inseparable, and much of her work includes activism at the intersection of these spaces.

Professor Sheila Tlou is the co-chair of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition and the co-chair of the Nursing Now Global Campaign. From 2010 to 2017 she was Director of the UNAIDS regional support team for Eastern and Southern Africa.

She is a former Member of Parliament and Minister of Health of the Republic of Botswana (2004-2008). 

Also, Professor Sheila Tlou was the former Professor of Nursing at the University of Botswana and Director of the WHO collaborating center for Nursing and Midwifery Development in Primary Health Care for Anglophone Africa. 

Professor Sheila Tlou has conducted research and taught courses like nursing, pre-medical and social science students on Gender issues relating to HIV/AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and Ageing and Older Persons.

She has played a key role in the development of national nursing and medical education curricula, working to broaden the scope of Health Sciences education in Botswana.


Her work on HIV/AIDS

The first case of HIV in Botswana was reported in 1985.

As was the case with the pandemic in the early years, the virus spread quickly, and with Botswana’s small population, the implications for social and economic stability were devastating.

However, Botswana responded to the pandemic and implemented a number of health care reforms and programs including the PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) in 1999 and universal access to ARVs (antiretrovirals) to those who were at an advanced stage of the disease.

The management of the virus in Botswana is due in large part to the role that Professor Tlou played in those years, and she continues to lend her voice, wisdom, and expertise to the healthcare space worldwide, today.

For example, the transmission of HIV from mother to child decreased from about 30 percent in 2003 to about 8 percent in 2008. Maternal mortality due to AIDS also decreased from 34 percent to 9 percent under her leadership.

Her work is ‘numbers’ and report-based, however, one cannot forget that the work that Prof. Tlou continues to do has a major impact on the lives of women, and by extension, their families and communities.

“I am hoping that what I say will inspire young people to be able to ask themselves how they will be able to participate in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals because as far as I’m concerned, all 17 of them are… Click To Tweet

Professor Tlou worked tirelessly at the intersection of gender and health, to generate research and forge important partnerships between academia, government, and civil society.

She advocated for real change at the grassroots level in Botswana.

As Minister of Health, she led a forward-thinking and focused HIV care, prevention, treatment, support, and care programme that is used as a model all over the world today; a testament to her knowledge, resolve and leadership.

One of the hallmarks of great leadership is the ability to translate ideas into plans that are actionable – Professor Sheila Tlou Click To Tweet

Professor Tlou is aware of the role that young people have to play in continuing the challenge of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths – effectively ending the disease by 2030.

Her work on gender health

Professor Tlou is the United Nations Eminent Person for Women, Girls, and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. She is also the International Council of Nurses Goodwill Ambassador for Girl Child Education.

In her past assignment as UNAIDS Regional Director, Professor Tlou provided leadership and Political Advocacy for quality sustainable AIDS response in 21 African countries, from Eritrea to South Africa, including the Indian Ocean Islands of Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Comoros.

She has been instrumental in the formation of advocacy bodies such as The Pan-African Positive Women’s Coalition (PAPWC) and the High-Level Task Force on Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV in Africa.

Professor Tlou initiated and chaired a High-Level task force on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Services for Young People in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Because of the uniqueness and peculiarity of the cultural context of African societies, HIV/AIDS thrived in a thick cloak of ignorance, denial, and secrecy that Prof. Tlou has recognized as a deterrent to the success of any programs that may be implemented.

Again, her sensitivity to the fact that women empowerment is a key issue that lies at the heart of HIV/AIDS prevention means that her work is alive to the issues that are particular to African women.

“Gender inequality, gender-based violence, including sexual violence and sexual exploitation, are at the core of young women’s vulnerability and need to be addressed if we are to achieve that SDG of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030″.

This very goal gives us a platform to deliver services based on rights, inclusiveness, universality and ensuring that no one is left behind.

Her Recognitions/Awards

Professor Tlou has received many national and international awards. Among them are… “the Botswana Presidential Order of Honor, the Florence Nightingale Award from the International Red Cross Society, the Trailblazer Woman Leading Change Award from the World YWCA, the Leadership in Health award from the Global Business Council (Health)”.

She also got “the President award from the US National Academy of Nursing, the President award from the US National League for Nursing, the Princess Srinagarindra award from Thailand, the Christianne Reimann award from the International Council of Nurses, and The Princess Muna Al Hussein award from the American Nurses Credentialing Centre”.

“Leaders who are able to communicate the importance of their activism are often able to inspire groups to pull together towards a common goal”.


Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.

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Bossing through Learning: Joanna Steele

As a boss, learning is your superpower. You don’t know what you don’t know, but there is now a multitude of ways to find out.

After completing my Marketing & Spanish degree at London Metropolitan University, I vowed that I was never going to study again.

Not because I didn’t enjoy my course or my studying experience – I actually really loved my uni days and not just because of the socializing! However, I was eager to get into the world of work and at the time thought that what I had studied was all I needed to launch and sustain me in my career.

However, over time, I have developed a totally different perspective on education and studying and realise that in order to grow it is imperative to continue learning throughout your life.

Working in the digital field as I do is exciting. Technological advances and changes in consumer behaviour ensure that it’s an industry that is ever evolving and in order to keep up and remain an authority in my field.

I have to keep on learning or I’ll get left behind – @MissSteele Click To Tweet

Just recently, I completed a Fintech course with Oxford University. I had zero knowledge of financial markets but understood that it’s an area that is being disrupted by technology particularly in Africa.

It was important that I improved my knowledge in this area. As a result, I am now part of a group of alumni working on a great project– so two wins – knowledge of a new field and a potential business opportunity!

But it’s more than just keeping abreast of your industry, it’s equally important to learn new things in general, and to stay curious.

In order to grow and live a fulfilled life, it’s important to expand past your comfort zone, increase your skills and knowledge and deepen your understanding and perceptions around areas that you may not often be exposed to.

Haven struggled with weight issues for most of my life, I challenged myself to complete a fitness qualification with YMCA in a bid to better understand health and fitness and to spur on my weight loss.

In fact, I am now a fully qualified Group ETM (Exercise to Music) instructor and whilst I don’t teach classes I definitely have a different approach to my health and have incorporated new elements into my daily lifestyle to maintain a certain level of fitness.

Learning is more than just studying, it’s about growing – @MissSteele Click To Tweet

Encouraging yourself to try new and different experiences, setting yourself challenges, not necessarily knowing how to get there but knowing your why which propels you along your path of achievement.

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My Top 5 Reasons for continued learning

  1. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride and helps build self-confidence. Psychologists say that learning makes us happier!
  2. It gives you access to new and different opportunities. My network has expanded exponentially – the number of new friends I’ve made and the projects I’ve been able to work on with people I’ve met through learning has been incredible
  3. It fuels creativity. You can learn something in a seemingly un-related area which can trigger an idea in another.
  4. It fuel change
  5. It fuels productivity. Developing a new skill influences the way you do things day to day and can make doing things quicker and easier, saving time, energy and stress.

Having lived and worked in the UK my whole life, I have no experience of living in another country let alone starting a business in one.

But my aptitude for learning, whether it’s reading, taking courses or training is what’s prepping me on this journey and helped me one step at a time to steadily achieve my dream.

I like to believe that learning is our superpower. You don’t know what you don’t know, but there is now a multitude of ways to find out.

I reckon it’s definitely time to redefine the phrase CPD from Continued Professional Development to Continue Pushing for your Dreams.


Robinah Nansubuga: My main drive is to always create alternative spaces

The African art scene in Africa is growing, developing and more exciting than ever.

With many African artists making a name for themselves – both at home and around the world – how does one get into the art scene when not being an artist yourself?

Robinah Nansubuga is an Independent Curator and Set Designer based in Kampala, Uganda. She implements strategies to promote artists and develop the artistic network in East Africa.

She has curated and led artistic projects across the continent and the world. Robinah was the artistic director of MTN Nyege Nyege 2018 – a festival organized with grants from the British Council.

This Motherland Mogul is also a former committee member for Laba! Street Art Festival, Arterial Network Uganda Chapter, a judge curator at the National Civil Society Fair art Competitions (CSO), co-curator of the Kampala Contemporary Art festival – and much more arts festival across the region.


How did you become an independent curator of arts festivals?

I have always been a huge fan of festivals they were my get away from everything that one place that I felt included and happened to forget the things happening home and in my life at that time.

After having worked for two galleries in Kampala (Afriart and fas fas gallery) I became an independent curator in 2012. I wanted to experience art in a space where audiences and makers get to meet.

Therefore I started curating ‘’EKYOTO UGANDA ‘’ during the Bayimba International Arts festival. Ekyoto was a bonfire project that I curated to bring together people through games like ‘’Dulu’’ – which today would come close to being a pool table.

Integrating the social aspects with Ugandan traditional ways of entertainment turned out to be a big success.

From there, I started to think and focus on how to create arts and cultural events that are inclusive and show a variety of art forms.

What skills do non-artists need to make it in the arts sector?

Organizational skills! Arts festivals usually do not have big budgets. So being efficient, conscious of costs and committed to timelines are key to make any festival a reality.

Also, it’s very important that you are good at collaborating. Festivals are all about collaborations, not only with the other people on the team – but also with the artists and don’t forget the audience.

Successful arts festivals can only be realized by listening to all involved because in that way new ideas can develop.

I would also suggest that it’s good to develop some creative skills yourself. This will help you understand who you are working with and it will help you develop your own creative vision.

And finally, practical skills – from basic electrician know-how to carpentry and designing – will always come in handy during the actual festival.

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Tell us how you develop your own vision and execute that vision?

I am fortunate by now I get invited by festivals to work with them because I have built a name for myself through my vision.

Through the exhibitions, I created my main drive is always to create alternative spaces. My vision developed over the years.

Whenever I would attend arts of the cultural festival I would look for the things I felt were missing and that would have been of added value to the festival and the audiences.

However, when being approached by a festival you usually have to work in teams meaning that the vision is not yours alone.

What have been your biggest challenges in the cultural scene? And how did you overcome these challenges?

Being a woman who looks really young definitely didn’t help. I really had to push hard to make sure my ideas were not being undermined, but actually listened to.

It’s a very male-dominated sector so as a woman you have to bring yourself to think like a man, be able to do all the physical and mental jobs they can do in order to have a smooth working relationship.

Another challenge that needs political navigation is that the cultural scene can be very much of a clique scene at times.

This can mean that collaborating with on one project, might mean you are not able to be involved in another.

That is one of the main reasons why I became an independent curator as I’d like to focus on the work instead of potential conflict of interests.

I believe that sooner or later, every challenge can be overcome. You can start by educating yourself, trying to surround yourself with the right people who believe in your goals.

And, at times you have to be ready to compromise while staying passionate. plus let your work speak more for you.

I am lucky I earned my respect in the industry and for that am still very thankful to many artists and people that still believe and believed I could do more than I was doing.

You recently curated the Kigali Photo Fest. How did you decide what to include in the exhibition?  

Kigali Photo Fest has a vision and mission that really resonated with me. It’s about celebrating Africa’s diversity through photography as a medium of art.

The theme of the first edition was ‘In search of relevance – locality and remediation’ – which is about sharing and navigating ideas of identity, memory, experience, intimacy, presence, and connection, in order to co-opt a narrative through a selection of subject matter and presentation.

They present a historically, socially significant moment and can frame the conversation around those moments, therefore, it wasn’t so difficult to include.

We approached artists with the vision and the theme of the festival and many responded positively.

It is a special project that hopes to include many African photographers and teach photography as a medium of art to earn its respect, to start looking for new audiences and to mostly tell stories about other places in Africa that one might not be able to visit but have an idea through images.

Therefore it is about the continent sharing with each other.

Was your family always supportive of your dream to pursue a career in the cultural and arts sector?

My dad and mum met in drama school, but my father ended being a Mechanical Engineer.

So my father understood the appeal of arts and culture to be he said you also have to be able to look after yourself financially.

We really need to educate our families to be our first fans, audiences and to be the next big support systems we can depend on.

We also have the responsibility to take the effort and be patient to teach them so that not only our families but also our societies, can better understand.

In this video, Robinah shares more about collaborations within the East Africa art sector, establishing a creative vision during the last Nyege Nyege festival in Kampala.

This video was produced in cooperation with the British Council.


This article was written by Marthe van der Wolf

WANT TO BE A BETTER MANAGER? KEEP THESE 3 THINGS IN MIND

Being a boss babe leader and managing others is not easy.  I remember when I was first starting off as a manager, and I had to make my first hires.

I overthought everything.  

I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but at the same time, I wanted to get the most out of the people I hired. 

Here are three basic statements I kept in mind when reflecting on my ability to engage and mobilize anyone working with me.  

They are useful to think about whether you manage one intern or twenty individuals.


1. Understand the goals and aspirations of each member of your team.

I used to think that I had to approach each member of my team the same.  I would provide them the same information and respond to them in similar ways, expecting the same output from each. It did not get me very far.  

Each person needs to be treated as an individual. Understanding how each member of your team ticks will help you get the most out of them.

If you know how to acknowledge and recognize each member, you will know how best to motivate and communicate with them.  

With just a bit of work and understanding, you can get a lot more out of a team member, because you will be speaking their language. No two people are motivated the same way, so you cannot always expect the same result from different individuals.

If you are an employee…

  • Tell your manager what motivates you.
  • Tell them what you want to get out of your experience working with them and how you prefer to be approached.
  • If you are confused about your role or objectives, ask or show them what you think they should be.

They might not always listen, but you can at least demonstrate how self-aware you are. Some managers will appreciate it.

Those who don’t probably shouldn’t be managers.

2. Each member of your team knows what you expect, and where they are in terms of performance

I was notorious and continued to have issues with communicating what I want from others.  Even when we think we have done an excellent job, we usually have not.

Making sure each member of your team understands their place (even if it changes monthly) is key to making sure you are getting the most out of them.  

They should be getting feedback from you regularly, and you should periodically inquire about making sure they are on the right track.

If they are not, its either you haven’t done an excellent job being explicit or the role does not suit them.

If you are an employee and your company has a formal performance review process, nothing your manager says during the performance review process should come as a surprise.

  • Ask for regular feedback and make sure you get clarity if you are confused.
  • Send your manager an email with what you discussed, even if its feedback, to make sure you both are on the same page.

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3. You actively act on advice and feedback on how you come across to your team, and how you can be a more motivating leader

No one is perfect but spending a few hours a week on seeking and receiving feedback can make you a more effective leader.  

You can ask for input in various ways: informally at group meetings or formally through surveys. Take some time to read about different approaches to leadership and reflect on who you admire as a manager.

Write down the traits and feedback you want to embody and try them out. Want to check how you are doing? Continue to ask for feedback over time.

If you are an employee…

  • Ask your manager if you can give them constructive feedback.  
  • Think about what you can learn from your manager and make the best of the situation.
  • If there is something that doesn’t sit well with you, keep it in mind for when you have a chance to manage others.

How can you use these statements to make a change or move forward?

With each element, try to rate yourself.  I would suggest on a scale from 1 to 10. 1 meaning disagree strongly and 10, strongly agree.

Ask your teammates for feedback to help you decide where you stand.

For the statements you rate less than 5, you might want to spend some time thinking through how to bridge the gap.  You can start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Where do you want to be?
  • What is the first thing you can do to make progress in that particular element?

That one small step you take can help you get closer to the leader you want to be and get even more out of your team.


This month of July, we’re telling stories about boss ladies breaking boundaries, and how you also can hit your #BossLadyGoals. Got a boss lady story to share with us? Click here.

YALI taught me not to limit myself: Sthabile

Sithabile seeks to impact her community by fulfilling her dreams and goals.

She has managed to do so by establishing several projects such as..Langa – for rabbit and chicken rearing, Buffy Bakery – for commercial baking and currently working on an initiative called “Women in Wildlife Conservation”.

Her main interest in impacting communities is through mentoring youths and helping them in achieving personal goals for their lives and their contribution to social development.

In this article, Sthabile highlights how she’s developed herself personally and professionally, through leadership programs.


As an entrepreneur, what key strategies do you think are vital to running a sustainable business?

I founded ‘Langa Farm Produce’ after more than a month of always running to the banks looking for a start-up loan to start raising rabbits and free-range chickens.

The terms and conditions for that time to get the loan were unfavorable. I remember some words from one wise lady who said:

“You need to start small and build from there, and have a small project on the side as well that will enable you to get a $1 a day to inject into the bigger project”.

This is how I started baking commercially (start of Buffy Bakery) and with the profits made, Langa was started with just 3 rabbits and 20 free-range chickens. To-date we have managed to supply city butcheries and Langa has become self-sustainable.

The initial bigger project was Langa because the aim was to go international with the rabbit products. But Buffy Bakery got bigger as well through an increased clientele and high demands hence the need to also start mentoring and training young ladies and interested personnel.

It was through these projects that I realized that there is no such thing called a ‘small project’ but it’s up to you to view it as small or big.

To remain competitive in whatever industry they decide to venture in, be creative and innovative in your work.

Offer something different from the rest of the industry. Love and appreciate your work for people to appreciate it as well – Sthabile Click To Tweet

Don’t just do it for money.

What made you apply for the YALI leadership program?

I knew YALI to be a professional platform where individuals are able to mature, develop and acquire skills that will benefit them in skilfully contributing towards the development of their communities, nations, and Africa as a whole.

By continuously following their programs on social media, I was keen to be part of their program and learn more about how best I can impact my community and network.

So I applied for the Cohort 17 program under Civic Leadership track.

What skills did you learn there and how will they help you?

I was under the Civic Leadership track – a program on how to impact our communities by being the change we want to see.

It focuses on improving the quality of life in our communities by identifying gaps and problems already there and using skill, knowledge, and values in tackling them and making a difference.

I obtained vast knowledge on the establishment of civil society organizations; proposal writing for projects and grant funding obtaining. Two major things I learned were:

1. How to run a business

YALI taught me the power of networking and partnerships.

In all that you do; you need people to work with; you can never work alone. A business is not for me nor my family but my community.

For me to be successful in whatever business I want to venture or I am in; the first question I should ask myself is how best will my community; a nation and Africa as a whole benefit from it and does it address the gaps that already exist in my community.

And to change our communities we need to share our skills and knowledge; build partnerships and network.

The depth of the knowledge I gained will allow me to achieve one of my goals I have had establishing a wildlife program mainly focused on resuscitation of idle parks and involving women in wildlife conservation.

As one of my previous challenges was obtaining funding for these projects; through YALI. I also learned the proper way of writing Grant/Fund request proposal.

2. Personal development

YALI taught me not to limit myself. To think of what happens when the vision and the goals are fulfilled; to ask myself “so do I just stop there because it has been fulfilled?”

I used to think maybe I am just doing a lot of projects at the same time and there is no way I will be able to tackle them all.

But through YALI I learned the power of building a team that shares the same vision with you; that will enable you to build the foundation and the groundwork that is needed and move on to the next thing that needs to be done.

I learned to be confident not only in myself but my work as well so as to be able to present and articulate it well to interested groups.

My advice to other aspiring game changers…

Decide to start and stand with your decision because the environment will never be conducive for you to do so.

Put your all into it; it doesn’t matter how many times you fall; rise up, dust yourself, learn from your mistakes and move forward.

Build before you can start putting profits in your own pocket but above all; give back to your community.

What challenges have you faced and how have you tackled them?

My main challenge faced was getting start-up capital – Sthabile Click To Tweet

But we didn’t let that be a hindrance in achieving our goal. For these two projects, we had to start with what was in our pockets and a few resources.

Every profit we made was put towards building these projects and seeing them come to life.

Right now Buffy boasts of having a vast number of equipment attained through profits, and some of its profits were put toward Langa till it became self-sustainable.

For Langa, our greatest challenge was a continuous price hike of feed for both chickens and rabbits.

With the realization that the expenses were now too much, we began to grow our own feed, collect greens and seeds from the bushes and the market; and that reduced costs of buying feed.

Another problem we faced was the harsh hot weather conditions that affected and killed some of our rabbits.

Unfortunately, we could not contain that one and it resulted in a bad financial loss.


Why Every Nigerian Girl Should March

We March so that the girls who come after us can walk freely, and run without being chased.

If 2018 was a chapter in a history book, it could be titled The Year of Female Activism, and aptly so.

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements raised awareness on sexual harassment in workplaces for women worldwide.

2019 was the year of Serena and the catsuit, and the Women’s March Anniversary.

It was the year that women in Saudi Arabia were legally allowed to drive, and even closer to home. It was the year Ethiopia and Rwanda and South Africa both named their first 50% female cabinets.

‘Good things arrive in multiples’, just as movements worldwide were being transformed from ideas to action.

In Nigeria, on the 20th of October 2018, @MarketMarch opened a twitter
account, and its first tweet –

‘The loudest way to tell women that they don’t really have a place outside homes is to allow public spaces to remain so unapologetically unsafe for women’ – @MarketMarch Click To Tweet

…sounded like something straight out of a UN document.

The Twitter account – a creation of Brand identity designer Damilola Marcus, immediately blew up, receiving massive support from popular activists on social media, celebrities, and regular citizens who could either relate or at the very least understand why the Market March needed to happen.

It also received support from groups like YALI, Whole Woman Network, and
several media houses.

Marcus, when interviewed previously, stated that her prior attempts to galvanize action from law enforcement officials on sexual harassment in markets, were met with the reply: It was not a ‘common problem’.

Going to the Market in Nigeria is sometimes a war. Your armor is comfortable footwear (for ease of movement), covered up clothes, (to avoid sweaty fingers) and if you’re a woman, definitely no short skirts, unless you have a ‘strong mind’.

Purchasers are often dragged, and upon resistance, insulted with sentences often chock full of sexual innuendo. And yet, it is not uncommon to find the traders leading a protest to our protest.

The first #MarketMarch took place in December 2018 at Yaba Market, Lagos.
Marchers then, just like us, were called prostitutes and lesbians.

Just like us, they were injured, manhandled, heckled, thrown at, cursed at, for protesting the rights of female to walk unobtrusively in a public place.

Public transport in Enugu Nigeria requires fortitude.

A journey time of 30 minutes is easily tripled once you factor in wait time in bus parks, constant stops, and roundabout journeys.

Nevertheless, I and three of my friends set out on a journey from Agbani -which for all intents and purposes is on the outskirts of Enugu- to Ogbete Market to participate in the Market March on Saturday the 23rd March 2019. With approximately 40 marchers, male and Female, indigenes and visitors, united by a common cause.

On my first trip to Ogbete, the tour guide proudly informed me that it is the biggest market in the State, abundant in all, and lacking in nothing – a shoppers haven.

The market march reached its climax at the clothes section of the market, populated by predominantly male vendors. One man called us Lesbians, and others then pitched in to deliver a fervor- filled ‘Holy-Ghost fire!’. Repeatedly.

All the while making lewd remarks at us. In some other quarters of the market, we faced passive aggression. A man stroking the arm of a marcher holding a big ‘No Touching’ sign, all the while looking her directly in the
eye, smug smile intact.

Or a wheelbarrow pusher deliberately and quickly driving his machine through our midst. But it wasn’t only the men.

A woman queried us softly in Igbo ‘Are we not human beings too? Why should we not touch you?’ and another, still in Igbo lowly snarled

‘You should tell the girls to dress better when they are coming to the market’

But it was not all negative. We received thumbs-up signs from some female traders, quiet nods from the male vendors, and the occasional ‘Well done’ or ‘Yes!’

Some, in solidarity, chanted back at us ‘Nwanyi bu Ife’ or ‘Nwanyi Bu ike’ which in its simplest translation means ‘women matter’.

The market leaders, predominantly men, wore our shirts and marched with
us. They led chants and spoke with the traders at different parts of the market, as they guided us to open spaces where we could address crowds. They largely acted as chaperones.

On three different occasions, when the chants at the Market March turned rhythmic, the market women danced with us. It is not often that ‘twitter activism’ results in real-world action, and yet, the March has defied all rules to become a national movement.

Testimonies from the first March at Yaba started pouring in almost immediately after. Too many to name, they all echoed the same sentiment:

The March had changed something.


My fellow Marchers were not particularly special people. We were University Students, traders, women’s rights activists, and white collar workers.

Some of us did not speak Igbo, but we learned the chants to perfection on that day.

We were united by sweat and a common purpose.

In Nigeria today, marching is more than a sport. We March so that the girls who come after us can walk freely, and run without being chased.


Colleen Higgs: Digital publishing has brought new opportunities for publishers

Colleen Higgs started Modjaji Books in 2007 as an independent feminist press that publishes southern African women’s fiction, poetry, and biographies.  

She felt African women deserved to tell their stories on an authentic and conscientious platform.

Many Modjaji book titles have gone on to win numerous prestigious literary awards both locally and internationally.

In this article, Colleen Higgs talks about her work and what it takes to be a feminist publisher.


Self-publishing has its place, but there is still a great deal of room for publishers to work in – Colleen Higgs of @modjaji_bks Click To Tweet

What are the top three things someone needs to consider before opening a publishing business?

  • Do you have enough starting capital?
  • Publishing requires money up front and it takes time to earn that money back.
  • Think carefully about why you are doing it.  After many years of publishing, you might find it tough to deal with all the many demands made of you, the lack of appreciation for what you have done for writers and how little money you make from doing the work.
  • What is your focus going to be? It is good to have a very particular focus, it will help you to find an audience and to make decisions about what to publish.

Tell us about your work as an independent publisher.

Being a writer I understood what it was like to want to get published and the inflation and deflation of the relationship with a publisher.

It didn’t prepare me for all the work that it takes though, the ongoing attention to the big picture and to detail that the publisher has to manage.

Publishers do a vast number of things. You don’t just read through submissions and select books to publish.

There is a huge amount of admin. You work out a vision and focus for your company and keep a firm eye on the money and cash flow.  

You must constantly maintain relationships with all the people you work with: printers, writers, editors, illustrators, artists, proof-readers, shareholders, accountant, book-keeper, bookstore owners and employees not to mention participating in book fairs and doing interviews!

Why was it important to open Modjaji Books as a ‘feminist’ print?

Modjaji fills a gap by providing an outlet for writing by women that takes itself and its readers seriously.

Having lived through and enacted publishing only women, I became aware of how this has been a deeply political act.

When you think about the way publishing is owned, media is owned, who gets to make the decisions, and how women are represented, here and internationally it just made sense.

Women do have a different experience of the world – not just because they are women, but because of the way power is structured and filtered.

I had experienced my own writing not being taken seriously because it is too ‘confessional’.

I wanted to make a way that other women could be published where a set of values and perceptions that were not patriarchal and were not centered in the “Dead, White, Male canon” would make the decisions about what should be published.

Many of your authors have been nominated to win prestigious literary awards. How do you feel about this?

Modjaji has been lucky enough to publish the work of very talented writers.

I like to think it is also because we have done a good job of editing the manuscripts and because of how the company is positioned and how we have framed and spotlighted particular works.  

Rights sales- Modjaji Books

We have published a lot of debuts short stories and poetry collections, many of these have won prizes, and yet they are books that most commercial publishers would not touch.

How has society changed by reading your published books on infertility, stillbirth, homosexuality, etc.

I have seen how these books have added to a growing discourse on topics that were taboo or not in the mainstream but now have a more prominent place.

I’m proud to have had Modjaji Books be at the cutting edge of this kind of publishing here in South Africa.

Haven run Modjaji for twelve years, have you faced any challenges running an African press?

Yes, there are challenges, we are not supported by government policies that help us to grow and increase our sales. Recently the SA Book Development Council funded our participation in the SA Book Fair.

I don’t think this goes far enough. I think there needs to be an active policy of buying local books for libraries.

If we as independent South African publishers knew that even as few as 500 of our really good titles would be bought by the library system, it would make it all much more viable.

Trade routes and avenues of distribution into other African countries are not nearly as strong as are those to Europe and the US.

It would be great to see work on this taking place at a national level

Publishing is a very expensive industry. As a publishing brand, how do you approach your need for commercial success?

I have to confess I have not focused too much on commercial success! I thought that if I published something that needed to be heard it would be commercially successful.

This has not been the case. I have tried to publish books and voices I have loved.

With the increase of digital books, self publishing, and rumors of the “death of print”, how do you plan on staying relevant in the industry?

If one continues to publish books that are well written, powerful and have a clear voice, a particular story, we as publishers will remain relevant in my opinion.

It is important not to get stuck in a particular mind set and to be open to new technology and to new voices and perspectives.

Having said that, there have been many changes in the last 12 years. Social media has become a force for publishing books, and for writers to connect with each other.

Digital publishing has brought new opportunities for publishers. Self-publishing has its place, but there is still a great deal of room for publishers to work in.

Writers sometimes experiment and self-publish one or two titles, but when they see how much work is involved they tend to want to move back to a publisher, so they can focus on their writing.

In moments of adversity how do you build yourself up?

Friendships with other publishers has been important to me. Both locally and internationally, other small and independent publishers understand what you are going through.

It is a tough business, and there are many daily challenges.

I compartmentalise, so when I am having family time, I put work aside, and try not to worry about things I cannot do anything about right at that moment. I walk my dogs, swim when I can, watch Netflix, switch off.

Finally, I keep going, do the next thing, and soon the flow starts again and money and goodness will flow in.

I try not to get thrown or stopped in my tracks by challenges and difficulties. This is not always easy. – Colleen Higgs Click To Tweet

How important is it to mentor promising writers?

I think it is important, but I am not sure it is the work of a publisher. It is expensive to do, I think that if we publish a writer who shows promise – there has to be enough in the current manuscript for us to work with.

I think writers find the experience of working with an editor rewarding, someone who takes their work seriously and tries to make the work as strong as possible.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

  • Finding a manuscript that takes my breath away.
  • Seeing the actual book after many months of working on it.
  • Experiencing the joy of writers when they get their book, and when the book gets a positive reception, a good review, a prize, when the author gets invited to a prestigious event.
  • Connecting with fellow publishers and having a chance to catch up with them and their ups and downs.

What advice can you give aspiring writers on what to look for in a publisher?

Firstly find a publisher who is interested in your book and is prepared to commit time and energy to it.

Don’t publish your work with a publisher who wants you to pay all the costs upfront to have your work published.

There are outfits that fleece writers and all they get at the end is a printed book, there is no distribution or marketing offered.

There are some new models of publishing where writers can invest in their book too, but it shouldn’t be the key reason that the publisher will take on their work. (But if you come to an arrangement with a publisher where you are looking to have someone else do the work of assisting you self-publish this is possible, but do be careful that you aren’t just throwing a lot of money away.)

What is the last book you read, and your take away from it?

I read many books at once, but I will mention one, which is Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.  

I was interested in it, because its main character, Maud, has dementia, but in spite of this and because of her tenacity she is able to solve a 70 year old mystery.

I found it riveting, I love to read crime fiction for pleasure reading, also my late mother had dementia in the last ten or so years of her life. I could relate to Maud’s difficulties. It was escapist and a page turner.

What is next for Modjaji Books and for you personally as a writer?

Modjaji Books will continue to publish, we have some strong titles coming out this year. I’ve been invited to the Geneva Book Fair in May, as part of a contingent of African publishers.

We have sold rights to a number of titles to Catalyst Press in the US, and it’s fascinating to see how those titles are received in new territories by new readers. So we have that to look forward to.

I’m completing a memoir about my mother’s last years. It is based on a secret blog I wrote for more than 10 years, it is provisionally called My Mother, My Madness.

I had a complicated, difficult relationship with my mother. I took responsibility for caring for her and her needs in those years.

I also have enough poems to put together a new collection, so will do that in due course.

I find that publishing takes up most of my creative energy, so my writing takes second place. This year my resolution is to give my writing more attention.


How to rock these 5 Corporate Styles effortlessly

At the concluded MET Gala, head swooped and ears buzzed, we saw fashion statement from the future, from Queen mother Serena Williams’ magnificent dress, to Tracy Ellis Ross’ – Mirror in the wall black emblem.

We are trying to not mention Cardi’s overflowing regalia and Lupita Nyong’o statement headgear. Nonetheless, Zendaya was the star of the ball or MET rather.

She came dressed in an outfit that lit up from a wave of a magic wand. With her very own fairy Godmother or father.

Wouldn’t it be great if we all had fairy godmothers that would wave a wand at our swarthy wardrobes and Gbam, we are all glammed up.

While we are still waiting for a fairy godmother/Wakanda father, we put together a number of ideas and ways you can switch up.

Let’s take a more practical approach to our wardrobe.  These makeover and outfit ideas are for that goal-getter who knows she can slay and deliver at the same time and is doing just that, while she might be able to stretch her budget.

This boss lady wants to be in the know of fashion trend, she wants to be creative and classic, turning both eyes and heads at the meeting, for her we’ve set up an array of methods to switch that glam up

We don’t leave the entrepreneur out, she’s making boss moves, she’s running from an event venue to meeting with her clients.

She wants to make sure everything works well for her small business, and she wants to look like she means business to clients. She can’t bust a thousand box on clothes.

What ways can she creatively switch up the narrative off her wardrobe from “please-help-this-newbie-entrepreneur” to “here’s -why-you-should-invest-in-my-business entrepreneur”.

The Statement Stiletto

A stiletto can transform your look from plain to classic. First, it elevates your status, gives you more moral to look people in the eye, and a statement stiletto draws eyes from your heels all the way up to your face.

A statement stiletto can be stylish while remaining formal. They usually stand out in just one color. A bright red is an all-time favorite, a neon green will go too.

Whatever you choose, make sure to pair them off with soft brown colors and power glasses. Make a statement without saying a word

The Formal Ankara

What better way to stand out than in an all in one Ankara print pants or skirts. While you rep the Wakanda nation. you bring with you that extra sauce and excitement that is otherwise drab in a suit and tie setting.

Note: Ankara prints can get busy so it’s best to pair them off with single color, mainly white or black and minimal accessories.

The Stylish Joggers

Whoever told you pants can’t be stylish lied to you. There are days when a Motherland Mogul has to be on her feet, moving around to keep things in check, trying to meet up and staying all late to make orders move in the next morning.

This is certainly no time to do a catwalk.  When you really need that flexibility jump in from one car to another, a jogger’s gat you baby girl.

It’s light, free and flexible, allowing you to be comfortable all day long. Paired with a jacket you can quickly make the switch from entrepreneur to the boss lady

The Classic Pants

Pastel pants come in all shapes and colors. Single-colored pastel pants bearing softer shades like woody brown or pastel pink are great together.

Layering a turtle neck tee shirt or a tank top underneath the statement jackets makes your outfit pop.

It’s easy, soft and comfortable and you can always switch from feeling classic in a jacket to party style in a tee-shirt styled into a crop top to fit at a party.

However you choose to wear it, this outfit works for different occasions.

The Multipurpose Jacket

A bright colored jacket Is a must for any wardrobe. There’s barely anything you can’t rock with it. A bright colored jacket can be worn on a little black dress, a dinner gown, or even with a corporate dress.

You can pair it up with a tee-shirt and you make a unique fashion statement. And if you dare, mix it up with sneakers or all stars.

Now you have it, survey your wardrobe to find combinations that work.

Here are 3 tips to help you recreate a new wardrobe in a week.

  • Ransack your wardrobe, you would probably find a statement piece you didn’t know what to do with or a jacket you forgot from a long time ago, now is the time to bring out the slayer in you.
  • Pair each outfit by color and accessories them.
  • Next, you’d want to take photos of each outfit you think cuts the mark, scan through your Mirror, Mirror on the wall, and select the dopest of them all.

Here are a few online thrift stores you can get clothing from, all of which can be found in Mall of Africa.

  • Zara
  • Boho
  • Pretty Little things
  • Budget shopping Fashionaova

All outfits and dresses in this article can be found at StyleAmira’s fashion and lifestyle page. You can also find them on the gram.

Till next time, let us slay together.

Chioma Ogbudimkpa: On creating Redbutton and using Green Fashion to meet the SDGs goals

Chioma Ogbudimkpa is a certified project management professional who has served in different capacities and projects across 5 countries and different industries.

She has put in over 9 service years in FMCG, Consulting and Real Estate.

Chioma is also a sustainability advocate and a Green Champion. She has been actively involved in the ‘Going Green’ Initiative from the YALI Network since 2015.

She started her entrepreneurship journey with the launch of her women’s wear label, Redbutton in 2017 to explore her creative side.

Following this, Chioma has received a seat at the table of various local and international platforms; she is a ‘She Leads Africa’ (SLA) Accelerator beneficiary of 2017, a 2018 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur and the winner, Creative Business Cup Nigeria 2019.

She will be representing Nigeria at the Global Creative Business Cup in Denmark this July. She’s also an alumnus and beneficiary of the Nigeria Creative Enterprise (NICE) program 2019 powered by the British Council.

She has a Bachelors in Project Management Technology and a PGD in Strategic Management & Leadership. Chioma loves to cycle and play scrabble at her leisure time.


There are several ways to stand out. Look around you, look inside of you, talk to people that have the capacity to help you discover new territories – @chiomaredbutton Click To Tweet

What led you to fashion at the beginning and what led to the switch to sustainable fashion

My mum owned a fashion house back in the 90s, that’s where and when I started to sew, sketch and play with fabrics.

I found that I was always stitching something (till date..lol), my mum’s tailors were tired of me because nothing they make for me stays the same. I loved to experiment and add my own touch here and there.

It was fun and engaging so I continued on this path up until I started working in the corporate space. I made my work clothes and sometimes, people wanted me to make clothes for them when they realized I made the dresses myself.

It was extracurricular until 2016 when I decided to start the business properly. I enrolled in Martwayne fashion school while I was still working, just to get a professional grasp of fashion designing and the business of fashion. Following that, I launched Redbutton in 2017.

Because I am a Green Champion, it was only natural for me to incorporate sustainability into my fashion brand. I started to research ways I can be green, while still maintaining fundamental design principles.

There are several ways I have built in ethical fashion principles in my processes, including using recyclable paper packaging, ensuring minimal waste, ethical production processes and fusing sustainable materials.

What are the possible career options here?

It’s quite evident that the Africa fashion space is experiencing the highest rave she has ever had, and doesn’t seem like it will decline anytime soon.

The demand and interest in the over $50bn industry have been incredibly progressive which also implies that there are tons of career opportunities, even in a sustainable fashion.

Some common ones are textile producers (in knitting, weaving, dyeing, etc). Even here in Nigeria, we are yet to scratch the surface in exploring our indigenous woven fabrics from different tribes.

We also have fashion designers, illustrators, machinists, thought leaders in ethical fashion (not very popular in Africa but there are) who are consultants, show curators, editors, etc.

Where do you see this line of business taking you?

Building a strong ethical fashion brand that promotes African craftsmanship and design innovation, and of course, a profitable fashion business that will birth several other ethical fashion advocates and workers is my overarching goal.

Our zest for color, patterns and the intricacy in our embroideries are phenomenal and it appears we are not exploring what we have enough.

This is what I want to project to Africa and the world by exploring eco-friendly materials and African art.

What are the challenges in the fashion business, and how do you manage them?

Production is slow and expensive. But I have realized through this journey that the process and result are far more important than the speed.

It’s also more expensive to run, because eco-friendly materials are not exactly cheap (more expensive than regular fabrics), meaning that your pieces will not be cheap.

But once you can properly project your value and find your target market, you will be just fine

You use water hyacinths for some of your products, why water hyacinths? What was the reception like at the UN?

It was just an experiment, to be honest, I didn’t expect that it will be this serious o..lol!

I was researching on sustainable fabrics, something different from our woven fabrics, I bumped into this social innovation enterprise who also up-cycles waste for furniture and home decor pieces.

I found that water hyacinths can be dried and woven into panels like our Aso-oke.

I said, ‘I never saw anyone try this out in fashion, is it even possible?”

The fact that it wasn’t popular in Africa drew me further into the research. I tested it and realized it could work but the dress will be dry clean only, no machine wash.

We are constantly exploring more eco-friendly materials we can fuse into our designs to create statement pieces.

Some of the water hyacinth pieces we fused with Adire were showcased at the 4th UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi and received resounding acclaim from assembly members and delegates.

We were published in the Kenyan dailies and featured on the UN Environment news updates. Between April and today, we have shipped over 50 pieces to the US and UK, following the contacts made from the UN event.

This is a testament to the fact that, even though our designs have the African aesthetic, they are also globally appealing.

Got any advice for younger fashion entrepreneurs?

Some say the industry is saturated, well maybe in some context. But also remember it is growing incredibly and the demand is looming.

There are several ways to stand out. Look around you, look inside of you, talk to people that have the capacity to help you discover new territories.

You can tweak your strategy, innovate, and position your brand for opportunities that are strategic to helping you grow. Not just for fashion entrepreneurs, the journey is HARD, trust yourself and trust the process.

Look for strategic collaborations, that’s one of the easiest ways to gain traction. – @chiomaredbutton Click To Tweet

I still have feelings of self-doubt, but I constantly remind myself how far I have come and how possible my dreams are.

Where can we see, follow and support your work?

You can follow our updates and see our pieces on our website, and our Instagram handle is @redbuttonng.

To follow my not-so-fun and unstructured personal stories, my Instagram handle is @chiomaredbutton.


Memoirs from the Forbes Africa Leading Women Summit 2019 – dedicated to women by women

Getting an email that I have been invited to attend the prestigious Forbes Africa Leading Women summit on International Women’s day was everything I hoped for in 2019.

I had to make sure that I made the relevant arrangements to ensure that I was a part of this.

Forbes Women Africa hosted their 4th edition of their Leading Women Summit in Durban Kwa-Zulu Natal, and the event theme was – New Wealth Creators: the female entrepreneurs who are making a profit from unconventional ideas and industries.

In addition to this, these phenomenal women are those who have created an impact in their various spaces by transforming a market or company, or innovating a product or service and are pioneering their organization(s) in generating new untapped streams of income.

The nominees will have achieved positive financial results, have adopted sustainable development initiatives, increased shareholder value, created jobs, and have sound management and corporate governance, together with a set of values such as integrity, vision, and leadership.

The idea of a new wealth creator, as described by Forbes Women Africa includes emerging industries that are disrupting the global landscape.

What was this year’s summit about?

The Forbes Africa Women Leading Women Summit 2019 took place on International Women’s Day (Friday, 08 March) at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre and hosted around 500 influential women across the continent.

Having been selected to attend last year’s summit with only 120 women at the Hyatt Regency in Rosebank, I was blown away by the platform provided by Forbes Women Africa.

I was at an event dedicated to women by women and was taken aback by the caliber of women I got to interact with. Women such as Prof Thuli Madonsela, Vivian Onano, Rolene Strauss and other phenomenal women across various industries.

This year, the summit brought together women that are disrupting their industries and introduced them to their first ever Forbes Women Awards. It also celebrated a collection of female entrepreneurs on the African continent running businesses and social enterprises that are new, radical and making an impact on the economy.

Women from different industries and sectors and those who are changing the African business and societal landscape.

The Keynote speaker was none other than supermodel & activist Naomi Campbell, who believes that Africa is one of the leading continents in the world.

“Africa means a lot to me, and right now I feel that it is a time where in my industry that this continent is recognised by the fashion industry in having their footprint here” – Naomi Campbell

I totally agree with her and believe that many industries feel the same. Africa is growing and it is indeed where organizations, people and economies should be investing in.

My experience at the summit

My mentor, Vivian Onano was attending the summit too and we were both taken away by the presence that filled Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre.

From women in government, CEO’s from various sectors, women in sport, fashion and television, it was a day worth celebrating.

There were great women across the African continent spoke at the event including Linda Ikeji, Simidele Adeagbo, Noëlla Coursaris Musunka, Gugulethu Mfuphi, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and more.

The day ended with the Forbes Africa Women Leading Summit Gala Dinner & Awards where remarkable women on the continent who have made significant strides to only change their industry but shape perception of Women across a variety of sectors we recognized, such as Sho Madjozi, Discovery Vitality Ambassador Caster Semenya, Arlene Mulder, and other phenomenal women, full list available here

My Takeaways

Being a woman in Africa who’s passion lies in women development and empowerment, this summit was the best experience ever.

I am committed to being involved in initiatives like this that are dedicated to women in Africa and abroad. It was such a thrilling experience meeting phenomenal women, making life-long connections and being able to be in an environment that celebrates and puts women who are doing such great work in the spotlight.

I strongly believe that more organizations should be involved in such initiatives, looking at where women are going, the impact women are having on their networks, communities, industries and the world.

Watch the full video here.