Navshika Beeharry: Adding accountability and value to foreign volunteering efforts in Africa

Navshika Beeharry is a British-Mauritian blogger, speaker, and interculturalist.

She shares her experience of volunteering overseas and advocates for intercultural awareness to be at the heart of charity and aid efforts to improve foreign assistance in the motherland.

In this article, she also provides consultancy for sustainability advice, strategy development and/or content creation.

Shika, as she is fondly called, believes it is important for NGOs to develop empowering stories of self-managed income/resources to challenge the mindset that success derives from external donors as opposed to the people themselves.

In 2015, when she returned home from a volunteer placement in Tanzania, she founded “Becoming Africquainted” as an initiative to candidly recounting the life-changing memories she made, including some difficult observations of when Western intercultural communication goes badly wrong.

Since then, it has grown into a platform of its own that provides discussion and resources to all aspiring volunteers or expats, encouraging them to undertake their service overseas responsibly and respectfully.


Shika on Intercultural Awareness

For Shika, intercultural awareness is an unmissable step that any foreign volunteer must be willing to take to better know their own cultural limitations and how to healthily navigate new ones.

However, this must be reciprocated by host communities within Africa too, by ensuring they take responsibility for their own narrative and how they wish for it to be told and remembered long after any volunteer exchange has ended.

It will take time to help visitors to form new associations of Africa they see, but the benefits to sewing two-way intercultural connections are fruitful and increasingly necessary for the prosperity of the interconnected world we live in.

Volunteer exchanges can be measured by the quality of relationships being built – @Shika_Bee Click To Tweet

To be a successful foreign volunteer, Shika believes it begins with an understanding of yourself / skillset and a genuine desire to be of service to someone. Such a person is often thought to be self-sacrificing with care for their wider community and an unrelenting passion to contribute to a cause bigger than themselves.

However, to be able to add accountability and value to foreign volunteering efforts in Africa, one needs to;

1. Have a good knowledge of the country and organization whose aims you would like to champion.

Each summer in Africa, this ‘higher cause’ has all too often displayed itself as ‘saviourism’, ‘privilege’ and ‘Western ideas’ – to name a few.

What usually begins as a selfless summer trip quickly manifests itself into self-serving behavior when culture shock takes over, conditions become unfavorable to live in and personal expectations are not met.

These circumstances fuel a type of instinctive desire to fix things that do not exist ‘back home’.

Though the intention may come from a good place, the means by which it is executed becomes misplaced and frequently results in misunderstanding and conflict.

Why?

A lack of intercultural awareness. A large number of young people in the West – diaspora included – are conditioned into thinking that volunteering overseas is a worthy extra-curricular life experience or a means of personal development.

These reasons are problematic because they refer to an underlying tone of personal gain that volunteering is based upon.

The emphasis is rarely ever to learn about culture itself – something which really should underpin any healthy volunteer exchange.

2. Acquire traits that enable you to observe, recognize, perceive and positively respond to new and unfamiliar intercultural interactions.

Some markers of intercultural awareness within international development are:

  • Humility – being receptive to, and accepting of, new and unfamiliar situations
  • Patience – in recognizing that positive outcomes take time to reveal themselves
  • Humanity – acting humanely with a trusted concern for the community being served.

These traits are not something we can quantify or expect anyone to learn quickly in a crash-course.

But volunteer exchanges can be measured by the quality of relationships being built, along with their participation and respect for our cultures once they arrive.

One indication of this lies in how well volunteer behaviors are recognized and reciprocated by the communities which they serve.

3. Volunteers should be given guided self-reflection time.

This is to serve like one-to-one inductions in a paid workplace where their observations and experiences are discussed to foster a dialogue which enables them to explain their realities so that they can be better understood.

Doing this not only prevents them from distancing themselves from problems they see by claiming ignorance, but it also provides a space for healthy goals to be set, contributions to be assessed and accountability to take place.

This is important to help redefine the negative African post-colonial perceptions that many foreign volunteers have unconsciously grown up with.

After all, what better way to rewrite the story than if told it ourselves to those who do have a desire to listen, by virtue of visiting the continent first-hand?

A good start for non-profit-organisations is to offer their own guides into standards of behavior that outlines an interpretation of volunteer ideas and expectations during their stay.

This formalizes the process whilst mitigating the risk of volunteers unhelpfully referring back to their (often biased) perception of problems and methods of solving them.


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Top 5 technical and practical skills you need to land a job in the Communications Industry

Because I know how to write convincingly, speak in a clear, concise and catchy manner and make pretty lifestyle aesthetics— I made £800.00 one week in one of Africa’s poorest capital cities — Freetown, Sierra Leone.

As long as capitalism reigns free— the comms industry will always be hiring! The word “communications”, is a broad umbrella term for many specific roles and jobs that all revolve around conveying information.

If you like to talk a lot, love pretty looking things, and a fast-paced lifestyle— this sector is for you!

It’s the digital golden era, and many African millennial women are turning to this sector. This is an industry that underpins the side hustle of many resourceful sisters with a side hustle.

From selling home-blended essential oils on ‘the gram’ to vlogging about sexual and reproductive health.

According to Biz Community Africa, trends in advertising across the continent show an increase in market competition across African markets. Nigeria, Kenya and Ivory Coast have joined South Africa as large regional advertising hubs.

And though the rise of middle classes across the continent remains contested, the market strategy has been heavily sought after in the telecommunications, financial, FMCG and transportation industries.

Despite literacy and digital literacy rates varying greatly across the continent— the comms industry is on the rise!

The communications industry spans a wide range of sectors including television, film, radio, media and digital design, marketing, advertising, branding, public relations, and promotions, publishing, journalism, consulting and more recently social media.

There are broad communications skills that every communications professional should have to be successful in each of these sectors.

And, there are also specific technical and practical skills that will set you apart from others when applying for jobs in specialized departments at corporations, consultancy firms, creative agencies, government ministries, NGOs and all other organizations that have a communications department.

Here are five skills, I’ve found essential for a comms professional in Africa— specifically if looking to focus on marketing, branding, and advertising.

Market analysis and strategy

If you can evidence this on your LinkedIn and CV then you’ll get an interview. Companies want to know that you understand that the main reason they even have a communications unit— is to sell things!

You are essentially the new fancy term for a marketer! Since door-to-door sales do not work anymore, you need to find out what does!

Market analysis means knowing your target market, analyzing their consumer behavior and their psyches, and then developing strategies to make them believe they need to buy into the lifestyle and ethos (the brand) of the company.

If you can throw around the term ‘customer psychographics’ and actually know what you’re talking about, then your interviewer will hire you! To develop this skill you can take an introduction to marketing class on Coursera. No funds? No problem! I once took a class for free on Coursera by applying for their course scholarships.

All you have to do is fill out a form that states you’re “kinda broke right now, that’s why you need courses and a job”, and through this form, you’ll be applying to take a course on Coursera for free. Good luck.

The ultimate wordsmith

A comms professional is ultimately someone who can convince men to buy tampons, using three words. If it’s in marketing, publishing or PR— you’ve got to be able to create and/or spot powerful work that will have your desired impact on audiences.

Basic rules for writing include: know your medium (are you writing for TV, radio, social media, an advertisement, a sales pitch, a newspaper?), know your audience, and lastly— be clear, concise and striking.

There are a million ways to write a million things, that fit into the right boxes for the right type of comms. When you decide what your niche of comms is— take the correct writing class for it!

Whether you are pitching, writing or selling— your job is to tell a story. So tell the best damn story there is!

Basic media design skills

Today everything is digital. Everything is visual and everything is about aesthetic. Design is key, especially with the rise of social media.

When starting off as a comms officer, assistant or freelance consultant, you will not have the budget nor the authority to outsource to a creative agency.

This is not relevant for working in PR, nor radio— but in the world of advertising and branding, you will first have to make various media content yourself. Basic free online software like Canva and Mavis should be good enough to start with.

Of course, you will need a decent enough camera, but luckily these days everyone has a smartphone! Most smartphones today have cameras that can substitute for a DSLR and can download multiple media editing apps.

Wipe your camera lenses, download a bunch of apps, gather a wealth of media content of the specific things needed for your industry (e.g. a bunch of foodie pics, or the hottest tourist spots in your city, or natural landscapes)— and develop a website (use Wix) or some social media platforms— may be even a podcast!

You can submit this with your CV to work in the following roles: the communications officer for the ministry of tourism in your country, the contributor of an online art and culture journal, or the strategic communications assistant at a company/creative agency.

For those looking to go into something highly specialized like graphic design, you might want to take an online or university course on Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Premiere Pro. Companies and creative agencies are always looking to hire graphic designers (freelance or in the house) and this is usually a fun and exciting job.

Creativity and originality

Know your country, know your industry, know your market— then do and be different within context!

Remember you can be a comms professional within any other industry from agriculture to mining, financial/banking, government, or retail. The industry you’re in will most likely have an institutionalized way of reaching its target demographic.

When you enter the comms industry, you have to know everything that's already be done and use this to your advantage. Learn more… Click To Tweet

You can build on existing successful methods, but it is always worth it to people who go the extra mile.

Make sure your company is doing something new. It can be something as simple as using focus groups for market research (not a lot of African markets do this), or something like tapping into a new market that your competitors don’t traditionally consider.

This will give you a total market share of a whole new (and seek large) consumer base. But make sure that you know why your company can target this market, despite others in the industry have strayed from it.

To be creative and original, try to see an opportunity to communicate via everything in your daily life— use poetry, use construction workers, use sign language—  the street hawkers, the schoolboys always playing football, and the grandmothers always dressed in grand booboos and Prada sunglasses (but play Jay-Z in the background).

Sometimes, those who don’t usually get airtime, are the ones who attract the most attention on the screen, when communicating corporate messages.

Indulge your quirky thoughts!

Self-confidence and discipline

Comms professionals tend to be bubbly, extroverted, naturally talented multitaskers who crave exciting work filled with high salaries, travel, and adventure.

All this can be yours, but you have to understand office politics and competition— and protect your magic!

This is a cut-throat industry wherein you can be here today and gone tomorrow. But it’s also one of the most fun and rewarding industries to be a part of.

If you’re going to climb your way to the top and live your best life when you get there— you have to be bold and believe in your light!

You have to keep tight schedules and make multiple lists of tasks to achieve. Set daily, weekly and monthly goals— and hold yourself to each task.

In the world of comms, where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? Do you want to be the next Bozoma Saint-John?

Well then, you’ve got to believe in yourself and work even harder than she does!


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4 ways to Deal with Stress as at work

Our work lives can bring along a certain level of stress upon us. The stress could come from dealing with expectations from bosses or supervisors.

There might be nerve-wracking deadlines that you have to meet up with. Or you could find yourself in a co-working space that makes it difficult to get work done. All of this could lead to stress.

Stress is not something that should be taken lightly, as it takes a negative toll on your body and mind.

It can cause you to either gain or lose weight, or result in physical symptoms such as having backaches or pounding headaches.

Stress also leads to a negative mindset. You can feel moody, or disturbed about your life. Needless to say, stress does no good.

Do not get overwhelmed by your To-Do list.

It is necessary to find ways to reduce and relieve yourself from it. I have some tips from my experience on how to find ways to deal with stress from work.


1. Prioritize and Delegate

As ladies, we often love to pride ourselves on multitasking. Multitasking is alright, but always trying to do too much all at once can lead you to severe stress or worse, a breakdown.

That’s why I’m all about prioritizing. You can still be productive by focusing on the most important things first, then, set aside time later or another day for other tasks.

Also, if you feel that too much is on your plate, don’t be afraid to speak up.

Don’t get caught up in wanting to be the “superwoman” but feeling completely exhausted.

In a workplace, there are often others around that you can lean on to carry some load off you. If there are members of your team that you can shift some responsibilities to, then pass on the information.

If you are a one-woman team but feel that there is too much going on, have a conversation with your boss. You might need to get an assistant or intern to help you accomplish all the duties.

2. Take that lunch break with Your co-workers

When the work seems to be pilling up and overwhelming you, having a fun conversation with your co-worker might feel like the last thing you want to do but it could help.

Having amicable connections with your co-workers could ease the tension and stress you feel from work.

Socializing with co-workers serves as an avenue for you to take a little break from work while still at work.

Your co-workers could even provide solutions to the stress you feel by offering their input or strategies to help you tackle a difficulty you might be facing. So do not spend your entire workday glued to your desk and laptop.

Look around at the people you work with, take a lunch break with someone.

3. Use Music to ease the tension


Music can bring some inner calm when work makes you want to pull your hair out. If you have a favorite artist and songs that will get you going, then have that playlist on your phone.

You can get your earpiece and tune into your favorite songs to help you get motivated or simply in a better mood.

If you’re not the type of person that can work with music on, then consider a short break from your desk. Often times, if we become too glued to a screen, it can cause headaches.

Get up from your desk and maybe stretch for a few minutes. Or get up from your desk and take a short walk outside the office building. After some time away from the desk, you could find yourself in a better mood. You could figure out a solution to tackle the task at hand.

4. Get your body moving to chase the worries away

Taking up a physical activity can be what you need to take your mind off the duties in the workplace. It can help you to feel better because of the endorphin that the body produces while working out.

Exercise can have numerous benefits. It not only keeps the body fit and healthy but it helps in the mindset.

When I graduated, left school life and started my first job, I had some level of stress. I had to get used to working structures, responsibilities and finding a work/life balance.

What helped me deal with the stress was keeping up with my exercise routine from university days.

Exercising was my outlet to not get so worried about whether I was doing things right. Exercise is was what boosted my mood to feel confident that I was capable of handling new responsibilities.

If you are not already taking up a physical activity, yet you have stress from work, then making time to workout matters. You could workout before or after your work or during the weekend would be helpful.


That money you want is in someone’s account: Amba Eyang – Ajakaye

Not every “celebrity” is known. There are powerful women who are not just breaking glass ceilings, but also impacting the lives of people they meet.

One of such extraordinary women is Amba Eyang-Ajakaiye, a Brand Storyteller and Business Strategist.

She is the founder of iDare.NotDread Nigeria, a social engineering platform promoting innovation, creativity, and enterprise through storytelling and value sharing.

She is also team lead of the Build My Business initiative born out of iDare.NotDread’s enterprise. Centered on building skills and capacities for young people in the business.

This project launched grand ideas such as the BMB Expo and BMB Training school (online) in 2017.

Amba has gone from transforming ordinary people who would have never thought of writing their own books, to making them authors.

She’s also supporting small businesses to achieve scalability and growth especially, by helping them identify and understand the importance of “target markets” and “market validation”.

In this interview with SLA contributor – Wuraola, Amba Eyang-Ajakaiye bares it all about IDare.NotDread and highlights why small business owners should “do it afraid”.


Do it Afraid. Fight your limitations – Amba Eyang-AjakaiyeI Click To Tweet

Tell us about your company – IDare.NotDread

iDare.NotDread is a social Enterprise promoting innovation, creativity, and enterprise in Nigeria.

Our focus is primarily to build women communities and empower them with creative and innovative skills for business growth.

What’s one business tip you wish most business owners knew and could wield to their advantage?

Network. Meet people.

That money you want is in someone’s account. That unspoken challenge can be solved by someone. Attend workshops, events, and meet people. Most people don’t bite.

How can entrepreneurs begin to understand the power of conducting market validation, and collaboration with other SMEs?

I believe in collaboration. This is why I try to build communities. We started the Abuja food community in May, and its amazing to see how much collaboration has happened in a group full of women.

Yet, we probably thought women prefer to fight. No. The moment businesses understand that collaboration first means ‘here is what I can give you’, before ‘give me what I want’, they will lead better businesses.

With a lot of fake business coaches around, what makes your brand different?

We didn’t just arrive. We’ve been here a while. In 2013 we started with creating a platform for entrepreneurs to share their stories and inspire others.

Over time, we realized stories weren’t enough. Capacities needed to be built.

So we went all in to try to understand the real needs of the entrepreneurs we wished to serve, and since 2016, we started contributing to conversations around digital technology and creating a good impact in the digital space.

Since then, our efforts have birthed super brands.

In the past 3 years we have successfully trained 4,000 entrepreneurs on digital strategies as well as provided opportunities for business visibility.

Many thanks to the opportunity Google granted us through the Digital Skills for Africa programme and a host of other partners who have trusted us to work with them.

Why should SMEs understand their target markets before making an entrance into the market?

Because if we don’t, we would be hitting our heads on rocks. Hard rocks.

You can’t sell to everyone, and this is why research is key to identifying who your market is.

Ever tried selling a #ManchesterUnited jersey to an #Arsenal fan? It's just blind selling. Read more from Amba Eyang-Ajakaiye Click To Tweet

Tell us about your Ebook Challenge

Its amazing! I launched my first ever ebook on March 2019, titled ‘How to write your first eBook‘ and that’s where the ebook challenge began.

We are currently on our 3rd cohort and it’s been amazing!!! Every 2 months we launch a new set of authors who are super proud of their achievements. It feels great to empower people to create wealth with their knowledge.

We are looking to expand the community beyond eBooks to help more women create diverse digital products and generate more income.

How does the “Do It Afraid” catchphrase relate to entrepreneurs who don’t like taking risks?

We all have fear in us. It’s an emotion. I am still learning to tame my fears. And we all should. The best way to go about it is to go ahead and do that very thing you fear.

I have coached a number of businesses and one of the areas I tend to focus on is to help them fight those limitations – the little voices and beliefs that make them feel less of themselves and limited.

It’s important we act despite fear. Accept your fears but act.

What’s the worst that could happen? Failure? Then show me one person who NEVER failed.


Yukabeth Kidenda: I Want To Celebrate And Dignify The Teaching Profession

Teach For Kenya is one of many independent chapters of the Teach For All Non-Profit organization, that is currently being set up in Nairobi, Kenya by Yukabeth Kidenda who is both its CEO and founder.

Passionate about education and mentorship, Yukabeth is on a mission to build a movement of ethical leaders to drive reforms in Kenya’s education ecosystem.

In this article, Yukabeth talks about her passion for teaching and her dream for education in Kenya.


What inspired the Teach For Kenya initiative?

Teach for Kenya is not the first of its kind, there are actually 50 other partner networks that exist all over the world.

Teach For All was started by Wendy Kopp, an American who actually started it as Teach For America initially. Her inspiration came from coming face to face with the inequities in education in her hometown and feeling a burden in her heart to help bridge those gaps.

From the success of that, she decided to replicate the model across other countries.

When I was done with college, I decided to take a gap year and went to serve as a teacher in Honduras, Central America.

That entire year was 365 of the happiest days of my life. I came back home, but for one and a half years, I couldn’t find a job.

That really made me question everything that I had believed. For a long time, I had this belief that education was what gets you to be successful.

I questioned that notion a lot and began to think –

  • How come the education that I received didn’t prepare me for this slump on the road?
  • How come this great education made me sit at home for over a year jobless?
  • Why didn’t it help me sell myself to a potential employer?

That is when things in my mind changed, I don’t want to just help people get access to education, I want to help them get access to QUALITY education that will enable them to thrive in this 21st century.

That’s why I dedicated my life to working in educational organizations.

I started with adult learning and corporate training, then worked with @Microsoft with their education team to push ICT training and certification – Yukabeth Kidenda Click To Tweet

I started with adult learning and corporate training, then worked with Microsoft with their education team to push ICT training and certification.

Thereafter I joined Metis where I was running a fellowship program for educators across all sectors and went on to work with the African Leadership Group as a leadership facilitator and now getting ready to launch Teach For Kenya.

I had been mulling over this with one of my mentors, Kennedy Odede for about one and a half years and by the beginning of 2019, I just decided to get on with it and actually do something. I think right now the country is ripe for such a great innovation and I’m glad to be at the forefront of it.

Why is education important to you?

I have a vast background in education, all the way back to my time in high school when my mother was diagnosed with cancer.

My parents really valued education a lot and still do, my siblings and I all went to very good schools. My mother’s illness did take a financial toll on the family but one thing I took note of, was that my father did not make us switch schools at any point.

We could have saved so much money by going to other schools that were not as costly and I could not understand why he chose to make that sacrifice. As I got older I realized the kind of doors that getting a good education and being exposed to that kind of learning could open for me.

During my university years, I approached my dad and told him that I want to support other people who don’t have people rooting for them the way he rooted for us.

My dad and I soon started doing a lot of projects in the community, going out to various areas, providing books, toiletries, things that just make the learning environment more habitable and more comfortable for the students.

That really generated the passion I have had since then to do more in the education field.

3. How is it going with putting together the launch?

It’s been a scary, engaging, challenging but exciting process all the same. One thing that has worked in my favor, is that this is my dream job. I’ve always wanted to work with people who don’t have anybody cheering them on and supporting them.

Teach For Kenya puts me in that unique position where I have basically taken the responsibility to run this organization that will help mentor recent graduates and put them in a position where they come face to face with the challenges facing their community, transitioning them on to the alumni face of the program and watching them go out into the world to impact and join initiatives that are seeking to address these challenges.

So I’d say right now that the education space in Kenya is very ripe. There are so many people who are very receptive to the idea of Teach For Kenya, and think it’s been a long time coming so the support has been overwhelming in a good way.

I plan to pilot this program with our first 20 fellows in January 2021 so what I’m focusing on right now is doing community research and going out into the areas where we will potentially get to speak to the communities, the teachers, students, and parents and find out what their needs are and how our skills can best match those needs.

It’s a lot of work but I feel like all of us as citizens of this country and this continent needs to do our part, this is me right now choosing to do my part.

I hope this encourages anyone who may think that their part may be too small – we’re all pieces in a puzzle of a beautiful bigger picture and by doing our part, we are working one day at a time to transform this country into one of the best.

With over 800,000 children in Kenya out of school, what do you think is a probable solution to this problem?

I’ll be very honest and say I really don’t have a solution myself but I will say that in everything that is done, there are pros and cons.

When free primary education was introduced in Kenya, there was a great influx of students into the public school system but the system was not prepared to take that influx. Click To Tweet

One of the reactions I remember that members of the community did was to start low cost private schools in the slum areas. These particular schools don’t have as much support as the government schools have.

The schools provided increased access to education at low costs but the level of accountability was reduced as a single teacher is not able to keep track of about 100 students alone.

What we need to do is champion more for the increase in the disbursement of resources especially to public schools, to enable them to absorb that high influx of students but also increase the level of accountability with teachers.

This goes back to a motivation issue because yes, they have more students to look out for but who is looking out for the teachers? That’s one thing that Teach For Kenya is really keen about – we want to celebrate and dignify the teaching profession because none of us would be where we are if it wasn’t for our teachers.

We need to place a bigger focus on teachers, building capacity for teachers, allocating bigger budgets to that sector.

We still have a lot of untrained teachers who are unemployed right now but the government just doesn’t have enough funds to train and employ them.

Children being out of school is a big issue and with Teach For Kenya, we really are committed to sending out more people to act as aspirational role models in the classrooms to try and dignify the teaching profession.

We will be recruiting recent graduates from every profession, we’ll have lawyers, engineers, musicians, etc in the classroom teaching.

That way, when a child looks up at their teacher, they will look at him/her with awe and because even after 4 years of law school, he/she still thinks it’s cool to be a teacher.

Which teacher/s in your life had the biggest impact on you?

I’d like to mention my high school principal – Mrs. Mbaya. I was always one of those well-performing kids in school, but I also did well in being naughty.

For most teachers, those two character traits could never reconcile, but for Mrs. Mbaya, I was just acting like a normal child. She made me feel like it was okay to be smart in class and also be a bit naughty.

When I got so much backlash from other teachers, she was the one person on my side. We had such a great bond that she would invite me to her house for tea over the school holidays, I really felt seen and understood by her.

Because of that, I was able to thrive in school. All the backlash I was constantly getting would have forced me to decide what part of the spectrum I wanted to be in, but thanks to her I successfully managed to be naughty and brainy until the end of my time at that school.

I am someone who loves people a lot so everywhere I have been, I have fallen in love with the people there.

For example, my kindergarten principal, Ms. Mildred Obuye, is still my friend to this day, we are now working in the education space together and we collaborate on various projects together.

All through my life though, my greatest teachers have been my parents, I can attribute 98% of what I have learned in life to them.

They are the greatest embodiment of what a teacher should be in this life which is engaging and willing to make a genuine human connection with a student.

What do you foresee for the future of education in Kenya?

Right now there are so many amazing things happening in the education space. Everyone is beginning to plant their small seeds of change with so many privately owned education ventures already taking off in Kenya.

It’s a great time to be alive as an educator in Kenya, we saw Peter Tabichi win the Global Teacher Prize and it shows that we are on the map and that it’s the right time to nurture those seeds that we have planted to continue the fight.

Kenyans are beginning to think outside the box, they are taking risks and being disruptive and what I can say to that is – keep doing what you’re doing. I’m really excited for all the innovation that is happening for all the alternative education systems.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling versus traditional schooling methods?

To speak for myself, I think it’s best that you find what works for you and for your child. This means connecting and knowing your child, understanding what they want and what they need and figuring out if it’s you who will be able to give it to them or the traditional school.

So I wouldn’t say I prefer the traditional system over homeschooling or vice versa but I would just say the center of education needs to be the learner, connect with the learner, find out their needs and then put them in the best place that would be able to satisfy those needs.

What mantra do you live by?

Honesty – You need to be honest in your dealings

Humility – You need to be humble because if you’re not you’ll never be able to hire people who are smarter than you to join your team and get you to success

Responsibility – We all have a responsibility first because God put us on this earth for a reason and we are responsible for the positions that we find ourselves in.  

Prayer – This is what has gotten me through everything in my life. My biggest supporter and cheerleader has been God, he has been my best friend through this whole journey and prayer is how I connect with him.


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.

ILHAN OMAR: From Refugee camp to US Congress

When I think of a Boss Lady in 2019, I think of Ilhan Omar. Omar echoes Lupita Nyongo’s Oscar speech when she said

“No matter where you come from your dreams are valid”.

Ilhan Omar took this to heart as she began her campaign to the House of Representatives in the US Congress. She is now known as Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, but her journey to Congress has been something of a dream.

Omar is a Somali native, who was a refugee in Kenya before she relocated to the United States. She was recently elected to the US Congress in a historic fashion.

She is the first East African (Somali) woman as well as the first of two Muslim women elected to the House. The US House of Representatives today is comprised of Boss Ladies who have worked their way to the top.

Ilhan Omar’s story stands out because of her resilience and compassion as she introduces new bills on the US House floor.

THE BEGINNING

Ilhan Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia in October 1982. She grew up in Somalia until the civil war when she and her family were forced to flee the ongoing civil unrest.

Omar spent four years living in extreme poverty at the Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa, Kenya. She and her family overcame obstacles and were able to relocate to the US after securing asylum in 1995.

She was raised in the United States from the age of 12. Her upbringing in the United States sparked her interest in politics. Omar shares stories of her youth when she went to political meetings with her father and saw the lack of female leaders in the political sphere.

She went on to study political science at North Dakota State University. Her studies of politics gave her the tools needed to embark on the journey to becoming a political pioneer in 2019.

THE BUILD UP

If you have been following Ilhan Omar’s story, you will quickly realize that she is an outspoken politician.

Her journey to the US Congress is a buildup of courage in the face of opposition to anything that goes against the status quo. Being that Omar is a Muslim immigrant, she is considered a threat because of her identity.

Omar’s political stance on many issues, especially immigration comes from her experience as an immigrant. She once said in an interview…

“For me as an immigrant, who didn’t speak the language, when I had struggled as a kid, my dad would say: Once you are able to communicate with people, they are able to connect with you beyond your otherness…”

Omar’s ability to connect with the fellow immigrant who may be struggling with their new environment struck me as a compassionate quality. She understands the immigration issues and can give a voice to the concerns of the immigrant population in the national conversations happening in the US Congress.

BOSSING UP


Although many people may not see Ilhan Omar as a “boss lady”, she has made some big moves in her career thus far.

She was the Director of Policy Initiatives for the Women Organizing Women Network, based in Minnesota USA, where she was advocating for East African women to take initiative in civic and political leadership roles.

According to the WOWN website, the purpose of the organization is to “Empower all women, particularly first and second-generation immigrants to become engaged citizens and community leaders regardless of political affiliation”.

The WOW Network seeks to encourage Diaspora women to engage in civic conversations that bring light to the issues that immigrants face in the United States. From the role as director of this network, she was able to gain the confidence to launch her campaign for office in the United States Congress.

The boss lady emerged as she fought hard to win a seat in the House of Representatives. She was elected to the US Congress in 2018.


This month of July, we’re telling stories about boss ladies breaking boundaries, and how you also can hit your #BossLadyGoals

Why Your Business Ideas Aren’t Working

By ensuring that your goals are S.M.A.R.T, you set yourself up to experience the thrill of an achievement that will become a motivation for future successes.

Did you know that you can give 110% effort and fail miserably, even with a good business idea?

I’ve seen it more times than I can count. An eager entrepreneur has a brilliant idea and quickly forges ahead, only to come back disappointed that things did not work out.

By the time they come to that realization, they have likely invested a lot of money, energy and time that they will never get back.

Entrepreneurs going through this experience usually assume that they are simply not cut out for entrepreneurship.

It is at this point that I dig a little deeper into their execution process and I find that the real problem was that the idea or goal was underdeveloped, leading to poor execution. It was a set-up for failure from the start.

I then have the task of talking the entrepreneur off the ledge by explaining that there may have been nothing wrong with their effort, resources or intentions. The reason for the apparent failure was likely that the goal was an inherently bad goal.

When it comes to execution in business, a good goal is not just noble in its intention, but it also S.M.A.R.T.

It is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Ensuring that your goal meets these criteria increases the likelihood of success.

It eliminates wasted time and hones in on the best strategy for success.

Specific goals break down your general goals into manageable pieces so that they are easier to achieve. A great example of this might be to increase your annual revenue.

“Increase revenue in 2019” is a noble general goal.

An even better goal is to “increase revenue in 2019 by identifying profit leaks and creating monthly marketing campaigns in order to obtain new clients.”

Using that example, it’s easy to see how an entrepreneur can go from casting a wide net and taking a chance on what sticks, to identifying a specific strategy for success.

Even that specific goal can be further developed as you think about other factors that will affect the outcome.

By adding metrics and changing the goal to “increase revenue by 40% in 2019, by identifying profit leaks and creating monthly marketing campaigns in order to obtain new clients,” the direction and initial action steps are even clearer.

This way, there is little room for wasted resources and time.

The attainable and realistic factors in the S.M.A.R.T. formula are subjective factors determined by the individual’s readiness to start working on their goals.

An entrepreneur who does not have a marketing budget needs to first raise the money or create a budget for marketing before embarking on the goal above.

Without a budget for a robust campaign, attempting to increase revenue by creating marketing campaigns will prove futile.- @andrena_sawyer Click To Tweet

It seems obvious enough, but many entrepreneurs still do not count the cost before they set their foot on the pavement.

The last piece of the formula is timeliness. This ensures that the person setting the goal has a sense of urgency and can fend off complacency when working toward their goal.

It is easy to overlook this final piece, but it is just as critical as the others because it has two extremes: too much time allotted for the goal, and not enough time.

When there is too much time, it is easy to fall into traps of procrastination and complacency. These are traps that force individuals to believe they have more time to do the work than they actually do.

They lose their sense of urgency, which opens the door for others to leverage their ideas, or for a competitor to get to a product launch before they do. The other extreme is not to give yourself enough time.

No goal is perfect, and neither is every process, and there is room for imperfection. – @andrena_sawyer Click To Tweet

By rushing toward the goal, entrepreneurs stand the risk of sabotaging by not properly assessing the risks and all of the factors necessary for success.

After all, there’s value for the entrepreneur in trial and error and even failure.

However, by ensuring that your goals are S.M.A.R.T., you set yourself up to experience the thrill of achievement that will become a motivation for future successes.

10 MUST HAVE ITEMS FOR A YOUNG PROFESSIONAL’S CLOSET


In 2016 I moved back to my home country, Sierra Leone. Yes, sis— that tiny country on the coast of West Africa, no one knows much about.

Sierra Leone has a population of approximately 7 million people, we have government institutions, a growing and healthy private sector dominated by the mining, agriculture, hospitality, and the FMCG industry— as well as a large NGO presence.

With a range of middle-management and administrative job options so close, yet so far out of the reach of Sierra Leoneans.

None-the-less I was determined to learn the political, economic and social landscape of the country, work for NGO’s whose mission statements I believe in, and start my own business!

The only problem was that, at my big age of 24, I had no young professional wear!

I was coming out of a two-year job in a tech start-up where we wore jeans to work every day.

I quickly learned that to go on job interviews, or meetings with potential investors and clients for my own start-up, I needed affordable yet good quality business casual items in my closet.

Below I will share with you my the top 10 items that saved my interview and client meetings game for two years of freelance consulting and building a start-up.

Illustrating each item is the fabulous and unparalleled stylings by Fatouma Haidara, also known on the gram as @the_fashionartist_.

1. The high-waisted paper bag trouser

A good quality high-wasted trouser in black or dark/navy blue goes with almost every professional shirt and even casual shirts.

This piece changes any outfit from the casual to – “I’m fresh out of an important meeting” look.

The tip here is that it cannot be a tight fit or fitted trouser. The slightly loose wear allows you to run around flexible all day from meeting to meeting as most bosses do.

2.  The cotton poplin shirt

Every woman needs this in every color! Start with the basic office blue and work your way from grey to every color under the sun!

Even a basic office blue with different patterns like stripes and polka dots works. You can collect these over time. But if you find a store where they’re on sale, stock up!

3. The flounced/satin/silk blouse

There are a million and one materials, cuts, colors, and designs to buy this in.

Essentially, what’s great here is that its a stylish yet comfortable shirt that can be worn with many different kinds of bottoms while maintaining a professional/work-based air about your outfit.

4. The black ballet shoe

Practical, comfortable and transferable! This is best for work when fully covered (no peep toes— most offices and interview spaces have either a written or non-explicit policy against this anyway).

It is best to get this shoe in good quality leather (or good enough quality) so that it lasts long.

I had an all-black one from Aldo with an alligator texture and a small gold zipper in the back, and it lasted me 3 years of daily wear!

5. Closed-toe low-heeled pumps

Neutral colors like black, beige and nude are a good place to start. This has the same appeal as the black ballet shoe, however, I recommend having at least one or two of these because some offices require them for meetings.

I find pumps most essential for networking events and conferences, they add an extra layer to my self-esteem for some reason.

6. The non-fitted high-waisted knee-length (or below) pencil skirt

Yes oh, this one is mad specific because I find that if just one part of it is off, it doesn’t hold the professional gaze that I’m going for.

Pairing this with any kind of top or a classic round neck jewelry piece is a quick and easy young professional look for your more relaxed days.

7. The blazer

You may not work at a bank or in a law firm— but trust me, a blazer always comes in handy one day or another!

8. The Longchamps Pliage

This one is a bit of a splurge and a luxury I know! But if you have something similar then go for it!

What you truly need here is a black medium to a large sized handbag that is light even before you fill it with your planner, your lunch and your laptop!

Carrying bags all day can be heavy, you want something easy on the shoulders. The pliage is also waterproof for those Harmattan/rainy season days.

But if you don’t have access to one, then any good leather bag should do. Black is a practical color because it goes with every outfit.

9. The Pleated Skirt

I could go on and on, but the skirt speaks for itself. This is my favorite piece for a work presentation, networking events and lazy days when I don’t want to be confined by more fitted clothing.

It’s such an elegant piece, without even trying.

10. Your business card

You know how they say “you’re never fully dressed without a smile”? Well for a young professional— you’re never fully dressed without your card!

Not only does it allow potential employers to easily contact you but it’s a great avenue to use to ask people for their own business card in exchange for yours— so that you can send that follow up email and call later!

Haidara is the Malian founder and CEO of the interior design firm Haii Designs and her work can be found on Instagram at – @haiidesigns_interior.

In all aspects, Haii Designs, blends the traditional and modern birthing innovative and “never seen before” designs. Along with her clean, modern, and lively spatial designs, I have long been drawn to Haidara’s grown and #BossLady fashions! If you’re looking to purchase your next office ruling inspiration piece and jewellery after this article, explore tribia-by-hd.afrikea.com or @tribia.by.hd on Instagram.

How to gain global work experience as an International Student

Having the opportunity to pursue your studies abroad affords you many advantages. In addition to the fun of being able to explore a different environment and culture, you can also build your CV.

This is vital because the work experience you gain will help you after graduation. It helps you to set yourself up to have options for employment.

Here are some of the ways you can do that:

The best way to start building your work experience while studying is to take internships - @isireflectdaily Click To Tweet

Visit the College/University Career Center

It’s important you endeavor to visit your college’s career center in order to be informed and equipped about opportunities you can explore not just as a student but specifically, opportunities and resources for international students.

Any information you receive from your college career center will help you to make the right decision on how to proceed to start building your CV.

Take Internships that Are Related To Your Field

The best way to start building your work experience while studying is to take internships. Even though you are an international student, you can still apply for and have paid internships while studying.

This is truly necessary as it helps you build experience, learn and develop skills needed for the workforce. Also, it will help you confirm if what you’re studying resonates with the work you want to do because you will be in the environment to access things for yourself.

Also, even after you graduate, for international students in the U.S. you can continue to build up work experience through applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

This will enable you to extend your visa for a year in order to work. The OPT visa is not as complicated as the U.S. H1-B work visa process. Therefore, it is easily obtained after studying for students that want to work for a year.

Volunteer For Causes You Care About

Volunteering goes hand in hand with internships. Though you might not be getting paid to volunteer, you are still building your experience through it.

This is because volunteering requires you to use your skills to make an impact.

You can put your volunteer causes in your CV as it will help future employers to know what causes you care about and how you want to make an impact - @isireflectdaily Click To Tweet

Build Your Online Portfolio While Abroad

While studying abroad, it’s not only about taking fun pictures of parties, selfies with roommates and pictures of events happening on campus.

You can start building a professional online portfolio while studying. You can create a LinkedIn profile and a website where future employers know who you are and what you offer.

Post things that pertain to the skills you have. You can discuss the networking events and conferences you attended. Building an online portfolio will help you build your work experience because employers can reach out to you through your website and LinkedIn for internships, part-time/freelance work.

If you’re set to travel abroad for studies, make sure you make the most of it by utilizing the vast resources and opportunities you have to build your work experience.


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Here’s how you can jumpstart your career and business in 2019!

New year, new you right?

2019 is all about turning ideas into goals and turning concrete goals into actual results whether it’s in your career or business. Here are 5 ways you can jumpstart your 2019 and keep winning all year long!

Set goals!

I love setting goals at the beginning of the year because it’s a wonderful opportunity to take a break, think about what you’ve accomplished so far and where you want to go in the future. This SLA article gives you a step by step guide to setting goals in 2019.

Look the part

I remember in one of my first jobs after school, there was a colleague who never wore makeup and people definitely clowned her.

They would say she didn’t look professional or always looked tired. Hate it or love it, in the professional world, how you present yourself can be the difference between you getting that opportunity to shine and people overlooking you for not looking the part.

Makeup is not compulsory to look the part but looking neat, clean and pleasant will. This Forbes article explains how savvy business women should dress for success.

Jumpstart your career and business this year with 5 tips from She Leads Africa's co-founder @helloafua! More in this article. Click To Tweet

Fail forward

Failures and setbacks in life are inevitable! Even the most successful people have failed at something. To fail forward means to become better because of your mistakes, you can only do this by acknowledging your mistakes, and learning from them.

Here’s a great article by a Google employee, Tanuja Ramchal on how to fail fast and fail forward.

Be accountable!

The key to achieving your goals is ACCOUNTABILITY. This can be in the form of a Vision Board that you check every week or in a club where you share your goals out loud.

However you choose to do it, accountability can make or break whether you see real progress in your goals this year.

The SLA team has pulled together resources to help you set and achieve your goals in 2018. Visit sheleadsafrica.org/2019 to find out more and jumpstart your 2019.

Don’t forget to take out some time for yourself

Don’t forget to take out some time for yourself! When it comes to self-care; the main lesson I’ve learned is that you have to control your life so that you don’t wake up one day and not recognize the person you’ve become.

Be mindful. Be thoughtful. Be present so that you enjoy every single experience on your journey to becoming a better you. As Nigerians say, I can’t come and kill myself!

In this article, Arianna Huffington, the founder of the Huffington Post makes the argument that you should sleep your way to the top! She means sleep, catch actual zzzz’s.

Here’s wishing you an amazing 2019! See you at the top.

Visit SheLeadsAfrica.org/NewYearGoals or OkadaBooks.com to learn how to jumpstart your 2019.


She Leads Africa is a social enterprise dedicated to supporting young African women and their journey towards professional success. The organization has been featured on CNN, CNBC Africa, Black Enterprise and Fox Business and has more than 600,000 community members across Africa and the diaspora.