ILHAN OMAR: From Refugee camp to US Congress

When I think of a Boss in 2020, 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.

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

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 and re-elected in 2020 .


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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.

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.

What went down at the #IAMORIGINAL Boss Brunch & Panel – Johannesburg

Curated within the beautiful landscape of Jozi on a peaceful Sunday, She Leads Africa in partnership with The Cut Life and Originals by Africa’s Best held a Boss Brunch and panel with the finest Motherland Mogul influencers of Africa.

The location was a hidden oasis of tranquility, The Gabriela’s Tea Room, perfect for some girl chat, champagne was flowing, the crowd was buzzing. What a beautiful Sunday.

In the era of feminism and self-love, you do find some false prophets that don’t live up to their campaign inside as loudly as they may be online.

What was important about the #IAMORIGINAL panel and brunch was that it focused on the challenges black women struggle through.

The theme that stood out from the event was the need for women to back each other up and actually mean it.

For the older and younger generation to join minds and create solutions for the Motherland Moguls that follow.

The event kicked off with a warm welcome from the bubbly Shanon Stanislaus of Originals by Africa’s Best. She spoke about the benefits of their new Coconut Creme range that has nutrition rich formulas, helping your natural hair with the foundation its needs for hair goals.

I tried some of the samples from the gift bag and I am sold on the products, which are available from Clicks nationwide or through The Originals by Africa’s best website.

We then proceeded into an hour-long networking bingo session, that had our Influencers and Motherland Moguls buzzing through the room, the energy was so lively- It felt like the best girl chat session I’ve been to in ages.

We held bingo cards that had questions such as “Who in the room has three pets, Who is an only child”. These were great ice breakers, especially for an introvert like myself.

Back to our tables, we were served incredible dishes by The Gabriela’s Tea Room patrons, everything delicious and mouthwatering.

This amazing panel was moderated by Tahira Joy of The Cut Life joined by Shanon Stanislaus (Originals by Africa’s Best), Enhle Mbali (Actress), Azania Mosaka (Broadcaster) and Jamelia Donaldson (Founder of Treasure Tress).

They spoke on self-care and beauty, ways to effectively run your business and respect yourself and values in the process.

We all got a few tips on how to reach your next Boss level in entrepreneurship through their stories, lessons and best practices.

Azania Mosaka dropped so many nuggets that had all the women in agreement throughout.

“Stick to your values and you’ll always win" – @Azania_ Click To Tweet

In the entertainment industry women are made to choose to get ahead either giving their bodies or having to dumb down their intellect so at to seem less of a threat to colleagues.

As shocking as it may sound, these are challenges most women are still overcoming.

A recurring theme throughout the Boss brunch and panel was how women need to remain educated and curious in our endeavors and not forgetting the people we build our dreams with.

“If you’re starting your race, be invaluable to your team.” – Shanon Stanislaus..

There’s only so much you can do as an individual, once you realize your expertise is invaluable, the impossible is just as attainable as anything.

We truly are better together.

On the theme of staying curious in what your interests are, Jamelia Donaldson of Treasure Tress stated…

You don’t know what you want to do until you’ve tried it all”. Click To Tweet

“ You don’t know what you want to do until you’ve tried it all”.

This tied in so well with the events hashtag of the day #IAMORIGINAL, when you apply yourself and work on what your secret sauce is, what do you really have to lose ?

All in all, this was an event, unlike any other networking event I have been to, which is saying a lot as I have been to a ton of networking sessions and gone home feeling as though I barely received much value from the speakers.

It could be just how intimate the brunch was or the fact that everyone left their egos at the door and simply wanted to celebrate each other.

I have nothing but praise for what these women aimed to share through the event and I believe that we can all learn from them.

As Motherland Moguls we are constantly inspiring those around us, we may not realize it a lot of the times, the best thing we can do is live an intention-driven life in our goals, decisions, and actions.

Work within the passion and not ego, power or status.

I’m definitely looking forward to more events from these powerhouses.


Sponsored Post.

2 ways to prepare yourself for the real world – while in the University

There are endless opportunities out there! Don’t just think that after graduating, the next thing is to get a job.

A few years to complete Uni. You feel the excitement.

Someone once told me “the real world begins after Uni”.

I was too busy attending classes and meeting new friends that I didn’t stop to ponder over the words. I always thought Uni was hard.

From initial registration at the beginning to semester registrations, departmental registration, to hall registration and all that. It’s stressful.

Then you have to attend classes, write exams and do all those presentations and assignments. God help you if you have a project to defend.

You have to worry about the trips you’ll make to your supervisor’s office before it’s accepted.

I wish someone told me how well to prepare before graduation. I wish someone touched on the salient skills you have to learn before facing the real world.

Here are two things to focus on while you’re still in uni to prepare yourself for the real world:

1. Gain some useful work experience

I bet you saw this coming. You had to! I mean this a no-brainer.

How do you spend your semester holidays? Binge watching? Going on a shopping spree? Visiting old friends and relatives who don’t even ask about you? Traveling?

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against treating yourself right or spoiling yourself once in a while. And I value time spent with family.

However, your University days (and particularly the holidays in between semesters) is a perfect time to gain some work experience in your chosen field.

Whether it be assisting in an office or a short internship, it will always make your CV stand out among other, experience-less graduates.

My first internship was at level 300. It was a one-month thing at a Radio station.

As part of their anniversary, they were having a health month so my job was to look for health snippets to be aired. Anything from eating, exercising, dieting, stress.

I wish I had gotten more experience while in Uni to prepare me for the real world.

I remember a lady telling me in our final year that she never interned before. I’m like well, I’m grateful for my one month.

But here’s the thing, some people focus on the money that they rather wait till after uni and get a paying job than spend 1-3 months of their holidays working somewhere where they might never get paid.

See it as an opportunity because that’s what it is. Most interns don’t get paid but if you do find a place that pays,  hallelujah!

If not, seize the opportunity, work on yourself, build yourself, network, improve your skills and who knows they just might be a position waiting for you after graduation.

2. Take some time to carefully consider your options

There are endless opportunities out there! Don’t just think that after graduating, the next thing is to get a job.

For most graduates, that’s the very obvious path. But for others, they’re looking to start their own business, head back to the University to bag a Masters and doctorate degree or go into freelancing.

Weighing up these options can take some of the pressure off, and make sure you’re making the right choice in these crucial first post-uni steps.


Have you thought of what’s next for you after Uni?

Here are 5 reasons why you need a personal website

Have you ever seen  a myname.com website and thought “oh that’s so cool but it’s not for me?”

Well let me shock you, if you want to stand out online whether in the corporate or business world as a slay queen in the 21st century, then you best believe it’s for you.

Still in doubt, let me give you 5 reasons why you need to grab your domain name and have a beautiful website designed to suit your goals and personality.

1. Your paper resume is about to go extinct!

A recent study by OfficeTeam shows that more than one-third of companies feel that resumes will be replaced by profiles on social networks. What this means is that prospective employers and clients are and will be searching for you online.

Having a personal website that is optimized for search will ensure that they find you when they need you – @OlubunmiFaj Click To Tweet

2. You get a home for all your online activities

It means that even if all social media platforms crash, there’s still something to your name on the web.

It also means that there’s something to link to when people mention you on the web.

3. Worldwide exposure

Having a personal website allows you to be able to express yourself, your gifts and your thoughts online thereby building thought leadership in your areas of experience and expertise.

This makes you more attractive to people seeking to work with you.

4. Make digital sales

“I don’t want another source of income,” said NO ONE EVER!

Having a personal website makes it easy for you to create and sell virtual products without messing with your job or business.

You can host products such as ebooks, online courses, pre-recorded songs and albums, webinars and so much more on your personal website and make passive income from them.

5. Build your personal brand

Having a personal website helps you get conscious about building your personal brand.

You can retire or resign from a job or business, but you can never resign or retire from being you. So don’t build your career or business and forget to build your personal brand.


If you’d like to learn more about building thought leadership and online visibility for your personal or business brand, please click here to get access to my FREE online visibility checklist on my personal website 😁.

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.

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.

Kenim Obaigbena: on becoming a Media Mogul – woman in film

“I wanted to tell stories that matter”.

Kenim Obaigbena is a Nigerian-British-American filmmaker and entrepreneur.

With a background in fine art painting, creative writing, photography and photoshop editing, Kenim began her film career in 2007, now she’s focused on her production vehicle OVG Media where she produces and directs films, documentaries, drama series and other scripted content for broadcast TV and digital media.

She was raised in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Togo, and the USA. She has lived in many cities around the world, making her both a true global citizen and a versatile filmmaker.

At the age of 15, Kenim founded Scoop Magazine with her two sisters, the teen publication was distributed across Lagos, Nigeria. While she formed a lucrative business in three years, she decided to focus on her studies and attended Tufts University.

At Tufts she discovered her love for filmmaking and spent her summers interning for music video directing legends Chris Robinson and Benny Boom as well as the production company Anonymous Content.

By her junior year at Tufts, she was producing and directing music videos for her fellow schoolmates and billboard artists like Timeflies and All Out.

In school, she also covered high fashion events like Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and global music festivals, including ThisDay Music Festival, which brought in pop stars like Beyonce and Rihanna. Graduating from Tufts in 2011, soon after the versatile filmmaker worked on big budget film sets, some including ‘Selfless’, and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’.

For several years, she produced live news coverage and documentaries for the 24-hour news network, Arise News, and worked on various projects with high profile global leaders, from former US Presidents Obama and Clinton to Nigerian President Buhari.

Kenim has dabbled in other business ventures from real estate investing, to tech and her pop-up bus service, Rainbow Shuttle.

Now she is focused on her production vehicle OVG Media where she produces and directs films, documentaries, drama series and other scripted content for broadcast TV and digital media.


Making a film is like starting a new business - Kenim Obaigbena: @ovgmedia Click To Tweet

Tell us a little about your background. Did you study filmmaking?

I studied communications and media studies. But I did start making videos in college.

I’ve been in film for 12 years and 14ish years in media. I’ve done every type of filmmaking under the sun, from News to music videos, commercials, Promos, docs, dramas, and even artsy film, you name it. Right now my focus is on docs, tv dramas, and features.

A few years ago, I came to the realization that I wanted to tell stories that matter. Stories that inspire a progression of nature in people. That could be a documentary, a sci-fi, a drama, whatever it is, it hopes to inspire people to be better in their lives.

Has filmmaking and storytelling always been your passion? How long have you been in the industry for?

I’ve always loved telling stories. I started young. My sisters and I started a magazine when I was 15.

I’ve also always done creative writing as a child. It runs in the family. When I was in high school I started taking painting seriously, it then evolved into photography and photoshop editing. But I wanted more so I moved into film. I’ve been in film for 12 years.

As a filmmaker, do you always have a full picture of what the story is going to be at the start, or does it reveal itself to you along the way?

It always starts out as a clear vision, but as I develop the story the vision can change, or become a more tangible version of its original state.

With documentaries, it’s a bit different. Yes, the story reveals itself along the way. But with a doc its important to be focused. Have a hypothesis and stick to it as much as possible.

Otherwise, you can easily fall into the trap of making a film for 10 plus years/.

Your recent documentary – This is Nigeria, highlighted Nigeria’s culture of corruption and election rigging. Why did you decide to investigate such a sensitive socioeconomic topic?

 In Nigeria the poor are invisible. They are neglected, underpaid and mistreated. I wanted to give them a voice. I also feel we live in a demokery, and more people in the media need to speak out.

People should be encouraged to vote for who they believe in and not who they think everyone is going to vote for. It’s the only way to make real change in this country.

What motivates you? How do you come up with ideas and stories to tell?

 Purpose.

My best ideas come in intense and vivid dreams. I give God all the credit for that.

In Nigeria the poor are invisible. They are neglected, underpaid and mistreated. I wanted to give them a voice - Kenim Obaigbena: @ovgmedia Click To Tweet

Besides -This is Nigeria, what other documentaries have you created?

At this stage, I’ve created so many for broadcast tv and youtube. I’m always creating digital content as well which you can find on my YouTube channel.

 How do you go about funding your films/ documentaries? And what advice do you have for others wanting to fund their projects?

 Keep making DIY content until you either create enough wealth to self-fund or get someone to believe in your talent and business structure (because every film is a business)  to invest in you. If you are creative and lack business acumen, partner with a solid producer that can bring in financiers.

I’m designing an online course that goes into the practicalities of independent filmmaking. How to get funding, how to make films on a budget etc.

I will announce it soon, but for now, I have a series on my youtube channel called ‘The DIY Filmmaker’, which also gives practical filmmaking advice.

With a lot of Nigerian women in film coming out to create and show their talent, do you think the filmmaking industry is still male dominated?

Yes and no.

When I started out in Hollywood in Los Angeles, my experience was quite sexist. It was a boys club, and even the few black men and women allowed in were walking on ice.

I’ve never been one to think because I’m a woman I can’t do this or that. I generally don’t see gender or race. That’s just how I was raised. So I didn’t really understand why they wouldn’t allow me in the “clique” until recently.

It took me understanding the nature of the film industry to overcome this.

Make sure you hire the right people for the job they occupy and ensure they are all equipped, efficient and positive - Kenim: @ovgmedia Click To Tweet

Firstly…

Film is generally a very cliquey industry. It’s not easy to get into people’s crews. Over time I have learned there are a lot of reasons for this.

At the end of the day making a film is like starting a new business. Literally, people often register a new LLC or LTD for their film.

As with any business you want to make sure you hire the right people for the job they occupy, and they are all equipped, efficient and positive. Aspiring filmmakers aren’t often experienced enough and you can really only take on so many interns.

So it wasn’t necessarily because I was a woman, that I was often not allowed into the boys club, but because I wasn’t part of their clique. And being a woman, especially being a black woman in America, it made initiation harder.

Secondly…

Regardless of one’s gender and race, as a producer/director you are an entrepreneur and you have to build your own team. So really I was wasting my time trying to fill in other jobs on those sets.

Ultimately you should not be looking for a seat at their table, you should build your own table and hand out your own seats.

Sure, not everyone wants to be a producer/director, and even to you, I would say find a way to build your own table. Find some up and coming directors and producers and attach yourself to them. So they call you for every shoot.

Honestly, if you offer your services to an aspiring director/producer pro bono, they will look at you as a co-founder of their career, and they will likely make you a part of their team in the long-run.

People are more loyal to their day ones.  But don’t just do this with one director/producer. Do this with as many as you can.

To conclude, yes the industry is male-dominated, but if you build your own pathway, it does not have to be.

Nigerian women in Nollywood have done this, and their movies are more financially successful than that of their male counterparts. It’s inspiring. 

What advice do you have for women filmmakers in general when starting their own projects?

 Focus on craftsmanship and expertise. Put in your 10,000 hours to become an expert. These days you can learn how to do anything on youtube.

Purchase gear, so that you can go out and shoot any day you wish. I go into more details about this on my online course.

The more you learn the more you realize you don’t know everything - Kenim Obaigbena: @ovgmedia Click To Tweet

 What are the top 5 skills every aspiring filmmaker needs to have? And what tools will they need?

    • Attention to detail
    • Willingness to learn. The more you learn the more you realize you don’t know everything. Be an open book and consume information and practical experiences.
    • Be honest and recognize your flaws and weaknesses. So you can hire or partner with someone else with strengths in areas you are weak in.
    • Have patience, but at the same time put your destiny in your own hands
  • Only seek advice from experts in a specific craft. Don’t ask your Uncle or aunt that’s a random businessperson what business practices you should use in film. Go on youtube or find a mentor with adequate experience.

 What’s next for Kenim? How do you plan to further grow your career and business?

 I’ll be creating more documentaries, more tv dramas, feature films, you name it!


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What went down at Face Africa’s Annual WASH Gala – March 19′

Rewriting The Story of Africa through water. – Adebola Williams

The narrative of Africa is changing, and (we) the offspring are joining hands in numbers, working towards a better tomorrow for generations to come.

Africa has and always will be one of the richest places in the world with resources that can build many nations, nurture and develop talent in various sectors of life and most importantly provide clean water systems in every home and community.

Having clean water may seem like the most accessible thing that everyone should have in 2019, but unfortunately, it is a struggle that millions of people are still facing.

Like any math problem, the goal is to find the answer by solving an equation. Saran Kaba Jones’s answer to contaminated water in Africa is creating access to clean water systems for everyday people through FACE Africa.

Saturdays are usually for Aso-Ebi, headwraps tied in perfect origami style coupled with highlights, contour, and lashes that completes the ultimate glam.

Well, this Saturday was different. The African culture graced Guastavino’s with couture dresses, hand-stitched suits and ties made from fine textiles for the most prestigious event of the year, FACE Africa annual WASH GALA.

The WASH GALA was an evening that captured and honored voices that want to and are changing the narrative of what home really looks like and their trials and tribulations in home improvement.

FACE Africa’s keen eye to detail and prestige was felt from the moment people walked up to the stairs and through the doors of Guastavino’s.

Africa is home when you invest your mind and soul the journey is built brick by brick with our hands and not by the colonizers. FACE Africa’s journey to supply clean water started 10 years ago and of course, it was no easy task raising hundreds of dollars in the beginning to now raising millions in its 10th year.

There is power when we join forces to enhance our resources.

Aqua blue, forest green, these colors illuminated the entire venue creating the vibe of taking in the fresh air that trees provide and drinking crisp water through clean water.

What a feeling. This year’s WASH GALA honorees are Didier Drogba, Nomzamo Mbatha, Mr. Eazi, and Bozoma Saint John.

Nomzamo Mbatha

Rising Star Honoree Nomzamo Mbatha acceptance speech was filled with cries, laughter and the room responded with a standing ovation.

“The credit and the bragging is so different nowadays. It is not about what designers you have, or the different houses you may have across the world.

It is how many people that are on your payroll, and how many organizations we have started to make sure that the blood of our ancestors that were used as fertilization to grow the natural resource, and that the natural resource that we have as the African continent is not just the resources as gold or diamonds, it is us. Those that are scattered across the world”.

Nomzamo told her story in a room that felt like home because home is where her heart lives.

We all come from different sectors of the continent, some experiences different from others but we share a common fight, developing Africa.

Adebola Williams

Adebola Williams CEO of RED Media and WASH Gala Co-Chair touched on many successes on the continent such as three major banks in Nigeria having women as chairman and President Sirleaf paving the way for women in politics.

But still, many women face challenges and are slowed down by fetching water when this energy can be put to good use by doing other things in society.

Williams continued by shedding light on new millennial problems in the world. Back-aches and hands aching him from long texting, but Africa is still dealing with about two million water-related diseases.

Bozoma Saint John

A room full of advocacy, people who want to do better for our continent. We were reminded about the importance of voice by Bozoma Saint John CMO at Endeavor and WASH Gala Voice of Change Recipient.

“Once you have been silent, you have been forgotten, it is important to use our voices to change the narrative”.

Bozoma demonstrated what it meant to lead by example and using her voice for change and impact by sharing the stage and honorable moment with her daughter Lael Saint John.

Didier Drogba

Like the good old saying “If not us then who” exuded the room by Didier Drogba who was WASH Gala Humanitarian recipient. Drogba was unable to attend the gala in person due to an emergency in Côte d’Ivoire but left us with a beautiful video message.

“It is our responsibility to bring awareness and change in Africa. Water is life, so invest in clean water for the community,” he said

Caroline Wanga

Caroline Wanga, Vice President of Human Resources at Target Corporation and WASH Gala 2019 keynote speaker commended all attendees in the room and noted that “Guastavino’s ain’t neva have these many Africans in here before”.

For those that know the upper east side of New York City, the upper class and diplomats fill the area where the average rent is $2500 –  $3000 a month, just imagine how much hosting an event on that side of town would be.

Wanga key points were the importance buying and labor market, “ Africa Immigrants are the answer to developing our nation, rent to pay, Louboutin’s to wear, outfits to make, either way, someone somewhere does not have clean water”. Wanga also implored everyone in the room to “Get this Shmoney” and invest in Africa.

Every day is another opportunity to be better and do better, technology has increased the number of collaborations between people and spreading awareness to causes at a fast pace.

I can just imagine the impact and change that will occur between now and five years with FACE Africa clean water initiative. We are definitely on our way to a clean and thirst quenching society.


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Erika Atienza: From solo backpacking through Africa to becoming a Digital Entrepreneur

This is not a success story of a freelance solo backpacker who became a digital entrepreneur. Not a story of someone who went from nobody to become somebody.

This is a story of someone who used to live life passively, without a purpose other than to make it through the day okay, until finally realizing a dream, then realizing she can fulfill that dream, and eventually going after it.

This is a story of how I finally came to understand a lesson I’ve heard many times over – That there is nothing in this world we cannot accomplish if we really put our heart’s desire into it.

And it all started in Africa.

Erika shares how she became a digital entrepreneur and founded @whileinafrica by moving from the Philippines to backpack and volunteer through Africa. Read more... Click To Tweet

First, the Travel Bug…

I had a typical life with an 8-5 job and everything about my life was “okay”. It’s not bad at all. I was fortunate but I was definitely not living life on the edge.

But after being able to travel to a foreign country alone for the first time,  I had an epiphany that I wanted to see the world. Since that trip, it was just never the same for me. That night, I finally understood what passion meant. And mine was to see the world.

And so after 2 yrs of over-planning and some modest savings that were definitely not enough, off I went. I left despite the doubts because if I waited for the “right time”, I was afraid it wouldn’t come.

Buying my 1st and only backpack

Why Africa?…

I was choosing between South America and Africa and somewhere along my research, I found cheaper flights to Tanzania. And that was really the main reason why Africa ended up becoming my first solo backpacking destination.

Also, I thought it was exotic and I wanted to prove to myself that I can pull it off. Indeed, I was able to visit other African countries as well for the next few months.

Budget Problem. No Problem…

A few months before my flight, I looked for volunteering opportunities and ways to travel cheaply. I searched workaway for hosts but there’s really nothing in there that I found interesting.

Couch surfing community in the cities I wanted to visit seemed dodgy and everywhere else, there was only voluntourism.  A little deeper into my research and I had an “AHA” moment. I learned that safari tourism is big in Tanzania. In fact, all over East and Southern Africa.

I did marketing in my previous job so I’m familiar with the whole concept of “Ex-Deal”. Hence, I emailed every one of them in a personalized manner, introduced myself like a pro, and offered to help in their marketing in exchange for food and accommodation.

A few days later, I received another milestone in my backpacking career, someone actually replied and took me in.

And so, with my heart full, I went to Tanzania and for the next few weeks, I was staying at their office helping them out with marketing while combining it with tours here and there.

It was the perfect way to get to know the culture and experience the local life, just my kind of travel! I worked with Gosheni Safaris in Tanzania and experienced the local life

From Freelancer to a business owner…

After I left, my “boss” kept emailing and texting me about the things I have started while working for him. I carried on to politely help them and after some time of consistent demands, I had another “AHA” moment.

I presented the best opportunity they can ever imagine… that I work for them remotely.

They were thrilled with the idea and we came up with a fair price that later on increased to a modest amount that funded most of my travels. This idea fired me up and I basically traveled for the next 2 months in Africa, either looking for volunteering opportunities or trading off my skills.  

I continued to travel for a couple of years more doing the same thing until I finally decided to slow down a bit. As I had a lot of free time now that I wasn’t all over everywhere, I decided to take it up a notch and find a few more clients by emailing them and advertising myself.

Eventually, in 2018, I took another major step and built my own website, made everything official, and registered my humble digital marketing service.  

It’s worth mentioning that until this time, the same company in Africa where I first volunteered is still a client and they have passed on a lot of referrals to me ever since.

Looking back, I think the thing that made all the difference is that I always did my best while serving my volunteering time.

Even though I was not getting paid, even though I know I wasn’t going to work-volunteer for that company for long, I gave it my best shot and I always try to have fun. And it paid off in better ways I can imagine.

So always, always do your best. This is how you make impressions and build connections. A lot of opportunities can open by simply putting your best foot forward at all times.

Good times and shots with friends in Nairobi, Kenya.

Here are some lessons you can learn from my experience…

1. There’s no one right way to do things

You don’t need to have a big capital to start your own business. Especially in this day and age, even a kid can become an entrepreneur, all you need is creativity and courage.

In my case, the right dose of luck and creativity allowed me to build a modest lifestyle of being able to work from anywhere in the world and where I was able to combine my skills and passion.

But there is no one way right way to do things.

The first things to ask yourself are:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What am I good at?
  • What are my potentials?

Then try to think if there is a way where you can combine the two. The possibilities are endless!

If like me, you’re a born traveler but stuck at a job you semi-hate, set aside some time to find clients through Upwork or another online network, and save up until such time that you can quit your job and plan a life of travel around it.

If you travel first and then just find anything to earn money from, not capitalizing on your skills… It will be really difficult for you to sustain it.

Doing what you love will allow you to meet new friends and make your life even more colorful.

There’s no such thing as bad luck, only excuses - @whileinafrica Click To Tweet

2. Don’t be greedy, but know your Value

If you follow your passion and build skill around it, income will follow naturally. When I volunteered, it didn’t matter that I was not getting paid at all.

Had I been greedy and negotiated for compensation on top of the free meal and accommodation, the turn out of things may have been different.

After seeing how I worked, they understood my worth and that gave me more than enough leverage to negotiate for what I thought I deserved.

At the same time, they trusted me even more, which added to their confidence in trusting my business not only in terms of skills but attitude as well.

If you follow your passion and build skill around it, income will follow naturally - Erika @whileinafrica Click To Tweet

3. Just go for it and the universe will conspire to help you

I first came across this statement in Paulo Coelho’s book, “The Alchemist”, years ago, and it stuck with me since. It sounds so cheesy but even after evolving as a person and having a change of perspective many times. I have always believed this because IT IS SO TRUE.

If you put your energy and focus into something you are passionate about, you can indeed move mountains.

4. There will always be doubts. Welcome them with open arms

No one is born a master of anything. Sometimes we doubt ourselves and fail so we can stand up and learn new things every day. That is simply the nature of life.

Without those, there is no life to live.  I still get insecure if I’m fit to deliver the service I’m selling and then I talk to potential clients who have no clue what to do with their marketing and I realize that I actually have a lot of things to share and they find it very helpful.

We were born in a society where success is defined in comparison to others, an unfortunate recipe of society. But it shouldn’t be that way.

Don’t let it be that way. We are successful if we achieve peace, content, and happiness in the things we love to do. Even more successful if we can feel the same joy for others too, regardless of gender, race, or religion.

Me and my husband, Martin, on a weekend trip while living in our previous home in Cyprus, with our friends from Russia, and our favorite all-purpose cloth (shuka) from Kenya

 I’m Asian and I’m married to a European, yet we put up a business for African tourism and blog about our travels because we fell in love with this continent and now consider it as our 3rd home.

Who knows how long I can carry on being a digital entrepreneur, maybe in a few years time I’ll decide to become a musician, perhaps a painter, or maybe I’d prefer to settle down as a housewife, and that is okay.

But for now, I’m still a backpacker, I still travel cheap, and definitely not rich (financially). But I found my purpose and I’m living my dream. And that’s more than I can ever ask for.

So ladies, do yourself a favor and get out of the box and let the world see what you’re capable of.

Find and live your passion and tell us your story.


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