#HowWeSpent2020: Zimbabwean start-up teaches women how to farm in pandemic

Chashi Foods

While this year has been challenging for most, we’re spotlighting non-profits and social enterprises that have worked hard to continue making an impact despite the added challenges that 2020 brought. If a story connects with you, please support the organization and founders in this series. Be part of our community of outstanding women by joining She Leads Africa today.

ABOUT CHASHI FOODS (ZIMBABWE)

Most people know that global hunger is a pressing issue — but what you may not know is that food waste is equally concerning.

Food wasted every year in the continent could feed up to 300 million people, according to the United Nations. In just Uganda alone, up to 40% of fruit and vegetables end up being discarded. Post-harvest losses have a negative impact on the environment as food decay releases methane, which is 28 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, and is associated with global climate change. 

However, where many would see a problem, Chashi Foods saw an opportunity. 

“Much of what’s sold in markets is wasted because farmers cannot store the food. So they have to return home and pick fresh fruit and vegetables to sell the next day. During the dry season very little grows so people go hungry. Moreso due to strict government-mandated measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus we could potentially spark food shortages around the country.” – Forget (Product Development Director)

Chashi Foods is committed to providing sustainable solutions in reducing food loss. By the use of smart technologies and agro-processing, Chashi Foods has been able to increase the shelf life of farm produce. But their mandate goes further, coining them the three P’s, Chashi Foods concentrates on people, planet, and profit.

By helping farmers prolong their product shelf life they have managed to increase their income per capita. More nutritious food will be available to rural and urban dwellers, especially children as they can eat the dried produce. Their main target is to hire mainly women to manage the operations and collection of revenue at Chashi stations. All the while stopping food waste will be beneficial to the planet.

 

DEALING WITH THE MARKET MAFIAS & COVID-19

Just before the COVID-19 lockdown started in Harare, Forget had been in a plight to eliminate intermediaries or market mafias from the supply. The market mafias have garnered a reputation to buy produce from the farmers at a very low price and then exorbitantly sell them to the consumers. 

However, as the lockdown was imposed their focus had to shift. Suddenly, they had no product to buy as the rural farmers found it hard to commute to the city center. But their call to action was even stronger as farmers’ harvested produce went to waste since large markets were closed. Eventually, Chashi too had to close their production and their impact seemingly came to a halt.

Beyond buying from rural farmers, Chashi continued to support farmers by providing mentorship and training in post-harvest management and agribusiness. During the Covid19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown period, they trained over 100 farmers in post-harvest management and helped reduce over 5 tons of produce from being lost. 

Forget shared a beautiful success story of a female farmer in Guruve, a small village center in the North of Zimbabwe. “After receiving our training manual, this lady was able to dry about 300kgs of tomato harvest which she sold to the local hotel. I haven’t met her personally but she’s come to refer to me as family. That’s what we are aiming to do at Chashi – improving people’s livelihoods.”

As it became apparent that the pandemic would drag on for long, Shareka looked for new avenues of selling their products. As you might guess, the top of the agenda had been gravitating to selling items online and getting them delivered to doorsteps.

While this sounds easy in theory, it brought all sorts of challenges. Professional storefront to be built, photography to be taken, secure payment methods, delivery drivers and transport, and getting the message out there that they’re virtually open for business is not an easy job.

So Chashi came up with an easier plan, they leveraged already existing platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp.

 “The pandemic has only enhanced the need for more supply chain resiliency, and for us to make the most of the food that is being produced, disseminated, and purchased not only in Africa but throughout the world.” – Forget Shareka

ADJUSTING TO MAKE IMPACT IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

“We created a WhatsApp group in which we were facilitating the selling of farmers’ produce. We identified a common hotspot of activity and traffic in the city, and then created a meeting point for farmers to sell their products and push volumes. We did this free of charge and it was fulfilling seeing the weight we lifted off their shoulders.” 

The nearly instantaneous economic recession triggered by the COVID-19 shutdown has wreaked havoc on businesses large and small. For Chashi what has kept them going is reploughing all their sales proceeds into the business towards operational expenses which include salaries and maintenance of their machinery. 

Forget testifies that the pandemic has taught her and the organization an important lesson in resilience. The pandemic now presents additional challenges for managing mental health and other economic challenges.

Loss and suffering may change a person, but much will influence its trajectory, including biological, environmental, behavioral, and psychological components. “Any life stressor, to some degree, is out of our control. How long will the pandemic last? When can we go back to school? To work? All valid questions, but they are also unknowns and uncertainties; we don’t want to get stuck ruminating about them,” says Forget.

Lastly, Shareka made a warm invitation. Women constitute nearly 50% of the agricultural workforce and own one-third of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, they are a key pillar of Africa’s food systems. As the challenges related to COVID-19 come into force in various countries, women’s livelihoods and business activities are threatened, ChThasi food is inviting all women in farming, leadership, and business to join them in their journey. 

“We have the expertise to change the trajectory of female farmers, we’re inviting investors and business developers to help us increase our reach.” Forget says as her last words

If you would like to support Chashi Foods, visit chashifoods.com

#HowWeSpent2020: From water weeds to artisan products

Minimeth Founder: Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro

While this year has been challenging for most, we’re spotlighting non-profits and social enterprises that have worked hard to continue making an impact despite the added challenges that 2020 brought. If a story connects with you, please support the organization and founders in this series. Be part of our community of outstanding women by joining She Leads Africa today.

In a bid to deal with the abundance of invasive water hyacinth plants clogging up local waterways, Nigerian entrepreneur Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro founded Mitimeth, a startup not only improving environmental sustainability but also producing beautifully-handcrafted artisan products. 

Where others saw a pest, Idachaba-Obaro saw an opportunity

Water hyacinth, she explains, is a species of aquatic plant with violet flowers. It looks attractive, but this invasive weed is actually horribly destructive to the communities along the rivers where it grows in thick mats. The plant keeps fishermen from reaching the fish and students and others from traveling on weed-choked waterways. It may look pretty, but it’s actually devastating to a whole way of life. Water hyacinth at first appears to be an utterly worthless invader, something that just needs to be ripped out and thrown away. But Idachaba had other ideas.  Working with local communities, MitiMeth takes water hyacinth, an evasive destructive weed, and upcycles it into personal and interior accessories. 

“We are making this product in Nigeria, and we are making a product that has global appeal.” — Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro

In the face of this global pandemic, Achenyo had to take immediate action by protecting the level of the impact of her organization. Achenyo shut down operations way before the local authorities imposed the lockdown.  The next step was assuring her employees that she would do everything in her power to keep them employed, “we’ll make it through this together” she said. Immediately she could see the positive change it sparked within their attitudes as they knew they had one less thing to worry about, contrary to the tales they heard from their mates and neighbors who had been furloughed. 

Not all hope was lost

The government in Nigeria went on to close state borders and introduce other aggressive responses to COVID-19 in the form of travel bans. This heavily interrupted the supply chain of Mitimeth.

On the environmental level, Mitimeth continued to make an impact as their artisans continued to harvest the water hyacinth for weaving. However, the products could not make their way to the main production hub.  “If there’s one silver lining from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that it’s helped expose vulnerabilities in their supply chain” – Achenyo mentioned.

At present, there is less demand for their products since home decor and accessories are hardly seen as an essential service. “We see this problem trickling down the supply chain. So we find ourselves with a warehouse full of raw materials because we made a commitment to our artisans that we would take all their products”, Achenyo said. 

Instead of seeing it as a setback, they took this time to do some much-needed R&D and they’re currently exploring the possibility of using the water hyacinth as a textile. “Since most people are sheltering in place, we have seen the consumers’ affinity towards wanting to make their outdoor spaces more appealing. And so we have been afforded the opportunity to expand our outdoor and garden collection”. New ideas are also brought into the communities MitiMeth works with.

MitiMeth essentially provides distribution platforms for the community and match up the appropriate skills with the products to be created. The company provides training for communities the company works with through collaborations and partnerships within the public-private sector. This involves running workshops, held within the communities to understand how things work.  Minimeth Community Impact

“Funding definitely has been a challenge this year for the organizations that we partner with. So we are seeing some reductions in the number of training we do. But I think the important thing is keeping the momentum going. And I’m glad that with one partner that we’re working with, in the next two weeks we’re going full steam ahead with the training despite the situation that we’re in right now.” Achenyo adds.

One of the challenges the organization faces is they’re unable to hold the training using online tools since the communities they work with are reside in network-deficient areas. “Perhaps in the future, there could be the provision of smartphones which can enable remote learning along with the training seminars for the artisans.”

Minimeth community training

Most of the funds Mitimeth gets are plowed back into the business, having more than 150 artisans and a commitment to procure their products, nocent goes to waste. They also have to take care of the operational costs of the business including shipping and wages. 

Due to the drastic drop in sales, Achenyo had to ensure that they maintained sustainable financing by making good use of their cash reserves from previous years. “A big lesson this year taught us was it’s important to save for famine during the seasons of abundance.”

Hard work certainly pays off as Mitimeth was able to open a new branch in Lagos on the 21st of June. “It’s been tough, but we certainly don’t regret making that decision. So we still grow even during this time”, she said. Achenyo went on to invite other women on her journey.

“They can support what we’re doing, by purchasing our products, knowing that with each purchase, they’re actually supporting a fellow African woman or a fellow African youth, and it is going back into the economy, it’s going back to help people fulfill their obligations.”

There is a United Nations Environmental Programme Map, which illustrates where water hyacinth is prevalent in different parts of the world. If you look at the map of Africa, 44 countries have this infestation problem. Achenyo makes a call for action that if other women can replicate this business model and solution in several other countries, the impact would be amazing to those communities most affected by it.

If you would like to support Mitimeth, visit www.mitimeth.com

Ingressive For Good is Impacting the Lives of Women in Tech all over Africa

Stella Fii had always wanted to learn more about programming and coding, but she never really had the resources and time to take courses. This year, Stella went to visit her brother in Kaduna after writing her JAMB exams and then he told her about Ingressive For Good (I4G), a nonprofit equipping young Africans in need with tech skills to help them impact and contribute to the development of Africa, socially and economically.

Stella Fii


She inquired and found out about the I4G Coursera program; Ingressive for Good had partnered with Coursera, the world’s leading online learning platform to offer scholarships to 5000+ African youths in tech to help them develop high-demand skills in technology, personal development, and career development.

It also provided access to over 4000+ courses and highly sought-after professional certificates like the Google IT Support Professional Certificate from leading universities such as Yale, Michigan, and Stanford, as well as industry leaders such as Google and IBM, designed to train people with no tech background for IT jobs.

She took courses in programming in less than 2 weeks, she was able to code a landing page from scratch. This skill has not only opened a new earning opportunity for her but has inspired her to pursue a formal tech education and career.

Another woman, Folashade Fapohunda, worked in a hospital as an accountant but COVID19 cases started to increase and she was at risk. The hospital closed down and she lost her job. She casually picked up an interest in Graphic design. That was when she came across the I4G.

Folashade enrolled in the Coursera design courses. These courses gave her the confidence she needed to start freelancing and so far, she has had over 3 paying design clients, with payments worth more than her salary as an accountant.

True to their promise, Ingressive for Good is impacting Africa and the economy.

Two key indicators of a country’s GDP are the economic power of citizens and the percentage of gainfully employed youth. However, 30% of African youth are unemployed. Ingressive For Good (I4G) is looking to change that with their mission to increase the earning power of African youths through tech training, job placement, and community. 

In the last 3 months, I4G has aided the training of over 20,000 African youth, built a community of over 17,000 youths, provided tech tools and resources for over 10,000, and placed over 100 in jobs.

“The I4G community collectively has the strategy, the network, and most importantly, the passion to actually change Africa.” Sean Burrowes, the COO and Cofounder of Ingressive for Good said. “The more our community grows, the less I4G feels like a charitable foundation. It feels more like a Pan-African talent development revolution, powered by Africa’s tech-enabled youth.”

With collaboration at the heart of Ingressive For Good, is impacting the lives of Africans, one youth at a time. During this pilot phase, I4G partnered with Coursera, Facebook, Datacamp, HNG, SemiColon, Tekedia, CareerBuddy, FindWorka, Live Your Dreams, Covenant University, StudentBuild, Bankole Williams, and so many amazing organizations to reach the Africans in need and provide training, scholarships, job placements. 

“Ingressive For Good has not only distributed the most licenses of all of DataCamp’s Giveaway Partners so far, but their learners’ adoption and engagement levels on the platform are some of the highest as well. This exemplifies the enormous impact a nonprofit run by caring and talented people can have on communities big and small, local, and abroad.” Nathaniel Taylor-Leach, Community Partnerships Manager at Datacamp, the leading interactive learning platform for data science and analytics.

“Folashade’s success story is one of many young Africans who have been impacted through one or more of the Ingressive For Good programs. Many have gotten access to courses that were cumulatively worth thousands of dollars for free” – Blessing Abeng, Director of Communications at Ingressive for Good.

Watch the success story of Christabel Omuboye, another woman in the I4G network and one of the I4G x HNG Internship finalists who received new MacBooks from Ingressive for Good to help her improve their tech skills. She has transformed from selling soap to support herself into a programming whiz ready for a tech career:

In the last 3 months, I4G has surpassed its pilot goals in tremendous ways. This is the impact so far:

View the full report here.


To benefit from other Ingressive For Good Opportunities, join the I4G Network of over 17,000 tech enthusiasts across 55 cities across Africa.

To join I4G on this mission to increase the earning power of African youths and eradicate poverty from Africa, send an email to hello@ingressive.org and Follow @ingressive4good on social media to stay updated.


About Ingressive For Good

Ingressive For Good (I4G) is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating and increasing the earning power of African youth through tech training and resources. 

For more info, partnership, or donation, contact: Blessing Abeng, Director of Communications, Ingressive for Good on communications@ingressive.co

Find out more about Ingressive For Good here.

“Excitement Alone Cannot Keep Your Business Running”- Abigail Alade, Spawn Ideal Founder

Abigail started Spawn Ideal to tackle the problem of youth unemployment in Nigeria. Since 2008, she has been on this journey of twists and turns and has encountered some challenges and successes. However, the challenges have not deterred her from her goal- which is to train as many youths as she can and help them operate their businesses with an entrepreneurial mindset.

As she said, We are trying the solve the problem of youth unemployment. We believe that today in Nigeria, the number of white-collar jobs available is not equal to the number of graduates we churn out each year. We are trying to develop a platform in the educational sector to decrease that margin.

In this piece, Abigail Alade talks about her journey with Spawn Ideal and gives valuable insights on running a business.

Passionate about learning vocational skills? Keep up with Abigail on Instagram

What inspired you to start your business?

When I was in OAU, we had strikes that would keep us at home for four to six months. During one of these strikes, I went to volunteer with an NGO that works in capacity building specifically with young adults. After my experience there, I decided to form an organization to contribute to young people’s development. After school, I wanted to launch it as a non-profit but then there were challenges with funds so I decided to work with a corporate organization for some time to expose me to possible networks and help me make some money. So I was a banker for some time but soon enough I had to make the hard decision to let go of the job to face my passion.

How did working for a corporate organisation impact your business?

The exposure I had gotten from working in a corporate organization made me realise that I could make it into a for-profit business. This way, I could empower young people and still make revenue.  I believe that teaching children vocational skills early helps them set the pace for their lives. Like I said, most graduates look for jobs unsuccessfully for four to five years before going to learn a skill. If these children are being introduced to vocational skills from a young age, it becomes part of them and they are more likely to excel in it unlike people who learned as adults. Right now we operate in Ile-Ife, Osun state.

What are some of the challenges you currently face at Spawn Ideal?

In Ile-Ife, finding man-power has been a challenge. Unlike most tailors and carpenters who work with apprentices in their shops, we operate as a school. So we want people that can teach not just the skill but also the business side of it. Our students need those skills on how to run and grow a business so we need skilled people who can speak good English, preferably even graduates with vocational skills. That has been hard to find in an area like Ile-Ife.

Funds are also a big issue because the way we want to expand, requires a lot of funds. We need to get so many equipment and that costs a lot of money. We started small and we are growing gradually.

What is your vision for Spawn Ideal?

In the next two years, I plan to have trained 200,000 youth through schools. We go to schools and train students in schools so in that way we get numbers. After the lockdown is over, we would resume the drive so that we can reach lots of young people. We are also working on having a mobile app so that even though we can’t reach some people physically, we can reach them online.

In five years, we want to expand to universities and train them in an entrepreneurial way. So regardless of what you studied in school, you can apply an entrepreneurial mindset to it and instead of waiting for job, be a job creator.

What advice do you have for people who want to start a business of their own?

  • With any business or passion you want to pursue, you have to be tenacious. The issue most of us have is that we are so excited when we have great ideas but the truth is that excitement alone can not keep your business running. There are challenges that you are going to face but being tenacious and resilient will keep you going. 
  • Try to do something every day that gets you closer to your goal. Things are going to get tough sooner or later and it may feel like you are not achieving much but work at something everyday, no matter how small.
  • Do your research to be sure that this is what you want to do. You do not want to start a business without doing research or knowing the possible challenges and setbacks. If you start a business unprepared, you may not be able to withstand the challenges that come with running that business.

 

“Your Skin Is A Priority” Meet Adi + Bolga Co-Founder Oluwaferanmi Ogundipe

If you meet Feranmi, you may wonder, “why does she love skincare so much? What is it about skincare that makes her tick?” Feranmi’s love for skincare stemmed from her personal battle with acne some years ago. During our conversation, she said, “I wasn’t one to have acne and at one point I had terrible acne and everyone was like “Feranmi, what is going on with your skin?”

Struggling with acne or other skin conditions? Download the Adi + Bolga app to get skin care advice and solutions today!

I remember walking into pharmacies to ask for a solution and they couldn’t quite give me guidance. I remember going back and asking a new friend that I just met because I saw that she had some insight into skincare and she said, “I think you have combination skin and you should get a gel cleanser.”

I got the gel cleanser and just that small tip from her made my life so much easier. My co-founder and have had this type of experience so we said why don’t we just create something for skincare that will help people out?”

“Your skin is a priority”

Feranmi believes that skincare is a necessity for every person. That is one of the guiding ideas for the platform she and her co-founder are working tirelessly to create. However, she acknowledges that different reasons- a major one being money, keeps us from making our skincare a priority.

Adi + Bolga plans to help out with this by creating a budget-friendly system for buying skincare products. As Feranmi said, “we are trying to see if we can help people pay in installments for some of the products because not everyone can afford to buy all of the products they need at once. This will really be for those who have serious problems with acne or other skin care conditions.”

Adi + Bolga has just launched its platform, BARE to help you navigate the confusing chatter around skincare, particularly for black men and women anywhere in the world, through virtual consultations and accurate product matching to skin type and skin conditions. On their platform, you can get a skin analysis, product recommendations, and a clear plan on how to use them.

Adi + Bolga is also the parent company of Bare the Community, an interactive online community for skincare lovers. On there, they share stunning skincare content and offer great advice and product recommendations for different skin types and conditions.

What you can learn from Feranmi’s business experience

  • Know your why: Your goal should be at the forefront of your mind. Be clear on your why. Know what you are in that space to do. This will guide the skills you decide to learn to run your business well. This will also guide the kind of strategies you put in place for your business.
  • Listen to your customers: Sometimes, people reach out to us for product recommendations and the product we may want to recommend is not within their budget or easily accessible in their location. This lets us know how best we can serve our audience. It may now lead to questions like, do we look for cheaper or more accessible products to recommend? Do we contact the brand to find out if they can make their product accessible to our audience?
  • Make your services clear: It is important to make your services clear and understandable to the people you are trying to serve. One of our main challenges is getting people to understand that our service is new. It is not common. We are introducing a new idea to the public and it is always a challenge getting them to understand what we do and why it is beneficial. Let’s say I develop a cream, that will be easy to sell because everybody understands what cream is and what cream should do. I can easily push that but a beauty tech platform is different. It is a very new idea so I need to make sure our services are clear.

You can join the Adi+Bolga community by following Bare the Community on Twitter and Instagram. For more juicy skincare tips sign up for their newsletters.

 

“You Have To Learn To Stand Your Ground”- Jane Frances Esegha, Founder, JF Segha

Although Jane studied architecture, she had very little interest in designing structures. After NYSC, she worked in an architecture firm but felt stagnant in her role and this made her depressed. One day, Jane’s boss introduced her to site supervision and in December 2017, Jane Frances quit her job to go into construction full-time.

In January 2020 she established JFSegha. In five years, Jane hopes that JFSegha will be working with international construction brands to execute global construction deals. Jane has a diploma in Interior Design from the British School of Interior Design and a certificate in Project Management.

This article contains Jane’s business journey, tangible lessons from Jane’s experience with her construction company, JF Segha.

What inspired you to start your own construction company?

In secondary school, my teachers kept telling me that I would become an architect because I was good at Technical Drawing. At the time, I didn’t even know what exactly an architect did. I grew up in a small town in Ondo and there were no architects there.

When I got into university, it was a different ball game altogether. Studying architecture was fun but I did not enjoy it if I am being honest. I was supposed to do a masters degree in architecture but I did not. I deferred my admission because I just knew that it wasn’t for me. I am glad I did not waste those two years.

I got a job after NYSC and that job introduced me to construction work. I found that I loved being on-site, I loved supervising the artisans and seeing the construction come to life. I could relate well with the workers, talk about materials, finishing and I loved every bit of it. 

How do you manage to work with different people on a construction job?

When we have work I am on the site 24/7. If I am not there, someone else I trust will be representing JF Segha. Our motto at JF Segha is to be thorough in our approach and dealings so we do not leave anything unsupervised.

I design what I want to see and give clear directions but I also stay there to make sure that everything is done well and that they pay attention to details. Also, my experience supervising constructions since 2017 has taught me a lot about managing people and artisans in general.

From your experience with JF Segha, what advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs and business owners?

  • Stand on your word! As a woman in my line of work, you have to learn to stand on your word. The artisans will try to advise you to go their way. They will say, “ah Madam do this now, leave am like that…” You can’t listen to that. You have to be stern. You have to know what you want to achieve.
  • Don’t fall into mediocrity. If you are selling quality, you cannot allow anybody to sway you because there is a lot of mediocrity in this country, a lot of people telling you to manage. No, I do not want to manage. You have to know what you want and stand by it. No one should change your mind. I have had to let go off a lot of workers because of mediocrity. What do you mean by I should manage?”
  • Perseverance is very important. Running a business is stressful and as such, you must be strong enough to withstand the challenges that would come your way. Artisans will try to stress you, clients, almost everyone will make demands on you and your time but you have to remember why you wanted to have a business in the first place

Jane is one of the She Leads Africa x Oxfam High Growth Coaching Program. Click here to find out more about JFSegha and keep up with their journey on Instagram and Facebook

 

Meet Didi Morake: How her passion and creativity is decreasing youth unemployment in South Africa

didi morake

This is the last part of “Inside Global Citizen”, a limited series. We pull back the curtain and highlight members of Global Citizen staff who are key parts of the organization’s advocacy, impact, and more. Be part of our community of outstanding women by joining today.

Didi Morake had a lucrative career in the corporate banking industry. After completing her Masters in Strategic Marketing from the Wits Business School, Didi landed a position working as the Customer Value Proposition Designer for Youth at ABSA Bank.

 

Didi’s position at ABSA allowed her to pursue her passion for helping the youth. However, when she heard about Global Citizen, she saw a whole new world of possibilities for making a difference.

 

Resonating deeply with the organization’s goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, Didi took the leap and left the corporate world. Didi Morake now works as the Senior Manager for Strategic Partnerships where she spearheads the Global Citizen Fellowship Program powered by BeyGOOD.

 

Morake believes that she is now doing the work she was always meant to do.

 

“Growing up, I always thought I was going to be a doctor. I was always that one friend that was there for others – to pick them up when they fell. I thought being a pediatrician was befitting to me and my personality. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that it wasn’t about the title, it was about the purpose – which I had at heart – helping young people.”
Didi Morake

On Creating Sustainable Programs to Tackle Unemployment

 

Unemployment in South Africa is staggeringly high, especially among young people. According to Trading Economics, South Africa’s unemployment rate rose to 30.1% in the first quarter of 2020 from 29.1% in the previous period. It was the highest jobless rate on record since quarterly data became available in 2008.

 

Whilst this might seem like a crippling challenge to some, Didi and her team are doing something about it. “Young people are the future, and with the right access to skills and training opportunities, everyone can achieve their full potential. This is exactly why the Global Citizen Fellowship powered by BeyGOOD exists,” says Morake. 

By working together through the fellowship program, the partnership offers young people an opportunity of a lifetime. Designed to empower young people with work experience, the program is not only supporting the vision of a South Africa that nurtures its youth.

 

The Global Citizen Fellowship is also equipping young people with the skills they need to play a role in social justice, helping their communities achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and amplifying causes that they believe in.

 

Take how the program is structured for example. It has multiple phases designed to offer each of the 10 fellows a fully immersive experience. The program covers subjects such as leadership, advocacy, international development, and global citizenship.

 

“Fellows will also have the opportunity to take part in a series of masterclasses given by industry leaders. The program also features educational field trips designed to help fellows develop into value-centred, community-driven leaders,” Didi added.

 

Didi added,“The past cohort were learning about using digital technology to drive social change; how storytelling can help spark cultural shifts; and the role of innovation in an ever-changing world.”

 

“ I think our youth are really passionate, and they’re very hungry to be heard, especially the females. What I pray for is that they keep that consistency to ensure that when they get to the top, they are bringing in other sisters into the workforce.” — Didi Morake

Cathy From Limpopo: A Rewarding Success Story

“I remember Cathy from Limpopo, who has her blog called Millennial Mirror, a platform born out of the need to create a space for young people to share their experiences. She came in with a very analytical brain since she had a background in Mathematics and Information Systems. It was so beautiful to see her discover her creative side by the end of the fellowship and become more in touch with it.” 

“Now Cathy hopes to one day be able to use technology to find solutions for society’s pressing issues and tackle injustices,” Morake added. This is Didi’s why — helping young people reach their full potential. This success story is one example in which Didi finds her work rewarding and helping her fulfil her purpose. 

Thrive: Didi’s Call to Women in 2020

2020 has been an especially tough year in youth development and employment for women. While the situation is not all grim, Didi comments that in her work, she continues to find herself asking one major question — ‘where are the women?’

According to Didi, there are a lot of spaces women still need to occupy. This is why Didi’s mandate to all women this year is — thrive.

“Thrive in what it is that keeps you up at night. Thrive in your personal and spiritual relationships. Awaken to who you are and unleash your potential.” — Didi Morake

Interested in making an impact in your community like Didi? Learn more about how you can take action at globalcitizen.org or Global Citizen Twitter page.

Meet Sonwabise Sebata: The woman fighting to make sure that Africans get equitable access to future COVID-19 vaccines

Sonwabise Sebata

This is the second part of “Inside Global Citizen”, a limited series this August. We pull back the curtain and highlight members of Global Citizen staff who are key parts of the organization’s advocacy, impact, and more. Be part of our community of outstanding women by joining today. 

 

“I went into public relations to help women realize their greatness. I saw PR as a way to drive women’s potential and to show the world that women aren’t fickle nor do they speak based on emotion. Women are intelligent, ambitious and their voices count.” – Sonwabise Sebata

 

Sonwabise is not your average PR girl. She is the Senior Manager, Global Policy and Government Affairs at Global Citizen and the (Acting) Chair of the Board of Directors for the South African Women in ICT Forum

Sonwabise is passionate about helping governments and companies bridge the global inequality gap through the use of technology. She attributes this drive and penchant for leadership to her background and how she was raised. 

 

“Being a firstborn Xhosa daughter, I [was] part of the elders in the family and got consulted on things that matter – big decisions within a family. And from a young age, I’ve had to make big decisions. I’ve had the opportunity for my voice to be heard,”  Sonwabise says.

The drive behind her quest on economic inclusion

“My life’s work is improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged based on their identity to take part in society. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind.”

-Sonwabise Sebata

 

Years after entering the workforce, Sonwabise was surprised to learn that a lot of women felt the need to have men validate their ideas and opinions. This realization sparked her commitment to fighting for equality and inclusion in all areas. 

She finds the exclusion of women in the workforce revolting and wasteful. A 2018 World Bank paper estimates that Africa alone lost $2.5 trillion in human capital due to gender inequality, and 11.4% of total wealth in 2014. 


Sonwabise says, “At the individual level, imagine the cost of exclusion – the loss of wages, lifetime earnings, and poor education. At the national level, the economic cost of social exclusion can be captured by lost gross domestic product (GDP) and human capital wealth, imagine that!” 

Exclusion robs individuals of dignity, security, and the opportunity to lead a better life.

As a continent, governments, organizations, and individuals must work towards “leaving no one behind” to help countries promote inclusive growth and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sebata takes on COVID-19 issues in Africa

 

Thrust into the complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sebata explains that she finds that her work is even more important than ever. The pandemic has amplified existing systemic inequalities from gender-based violence to unemployment and systematic racism.

Focusing on access to good health care, Sebata and her team have been working to support the World Health Organisation’s efforts to make sure everyone has equal access to future vaccines.

 

“We ran the Global Goal: Unite for our Future summit. We were calling on world leaders to commit to equal access to treatments, tests, and vaccines for all. This was part of supporting the accelerator which was formed by the World Health Organisation, to ensure that all the global resources and finances are pooled into one fund so that there’s equal access and equal distribution when we finally do find a vaccine.” – Sonwabise Sebata

 

With kids out of school, families struggling to put food on the table, and some communities disproportionately dying, the most vulnerable people are losing the most in this pandemic. Sebata is hopeful that her work will help reduce the suffering of the most vulnerable.

 

“Ultimately, the campaign raised $25 million and the commitment by ECOWAS which will be used to develop resources and ensure all people in West Africa have the opportunity to reach their full potential,” Sonwabise states.

Sonwabise Takes the Fight to South Africa’s ‘Second Pandemic’

 

Globally, lockdowns have succeeded in “flattening the curve”. However, in South Africa, a frightening number of women have become victims of gender-based violence while locked in their homes. Not one to tolerate inequality and injustice,  Sonwabise rallied her team to create another campaign.



“We started another campaign where we got a lot of male influencers, male allies that support the fight against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) to take up pledges to say they will not keep quiet. That they will stand up to any sort of GBV and GBV activities that they see amongst themselves and amongst their friends, whether overt or covert.”

As a result of the campaign, the National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence and Femicide was completed and delivered to the President of South Africa. Sonwabise believes this milestone is a step in the right direction and hopes to see ground policing improve.

Advice on how women can fight daily systematic inequalities at work

 

As economies continue to try to wade through the effects of the global pandemic, Sebata warns that women should be prepared to deal with systematic inequalities at work more than ever. She advises that women collaborate and form mentor-mentee relationships to share intergenerational insights. 

 For women who are not yet in the workforce, she advises that “It is very important to go through some kind of either gap filler or internship between your graduation and the beginning of your career. Going through an internship program will take you through a real induction [so you can see] what the job is like, the corporate culture, communication, and the ways of working within corporate. An internship will help in educating yourself on laws and salary information.”


Sonwabise encourages young women to seek out mentors.  A mentor would be someone who helps put your career path into perspective and to see what milestones you hope to achieve.”Mentors are great! They guide you in terms of what to read, who to talk to and how to navigate certain challenges; as well as things not often spoken about like, ‘what do you do when you’re in a meeting and you feel awkward because your male counterpart is making you feel inferior?’ ”


Interested in making an impact in your community like Sonwabise? Learn more about how you can take action at globalcitizen.org or Global Citizen Twitter page.

“You Don’t Have All The Answers!” Meet Catyna Designs Founder, Celestina Utoro,

What do you do after losing everything in a fire? How do you start to put your life together again? Celestina Utoro had to think about this after she experienced a fire outbreak in March 2019. “I was watching all my property burn and I could not do a thing about it. Everything we had got lost in that fire,” Celestina says. Still, perseverance and gratitude are rich in her voice, “I am grateful I am alive today. If I hadn’t woken up when I did, the story may have been different.”

At this point in Celestina’s life, her major concern is rebuilding and putting necessary structures in place so that her business can blossom, “There are so many things to be done, but first I have to create structure. I have to set a steady foundation. I can’t just sit down and fold my arms. I have to get up and try again.”

Catyna Designs is committed to bringing life into a space with Afrocentric decor items. They are major retailers of original adire window blinds and throw pillows. This article covers Celestina’s business story and valuable lessons from her experience with Catyna Designs.

What is at the heart of Catyna Designs?

I love African culture and heritage, and I feel like it is a signature that we should not let die. A lot goes into local art-making from the grassroots in terms of how they are made, the creativity and the time that is dedicated to it. I noticed that even though their productions are of world-class value, most of the creatives in that line are not equipped with what it takes to promote their work on a global scale. So because of my love for these forms of art, I decided to become an instrument- a vehicle for these artworks. The whole concept of Catyna really is to be a vehicle for these artistic innovations.

Being structured also helps you to identify the weak points in your business. If you do not have a structure in place, you will not really be able to track your progress as you go. Click To Tweet

“I find joy when I am working with a community to produce the adire window blinds. I also see the joy of creation on the faces of the workers. Their joy and hard work motivate me to push for our items to be globally accessible. African cultural pieces deserve that kind of exposure.”

Collaboration is key! Click To Tweet

What you can learn from Celestina’s experience

Collaboration is key! I work a lot with people at the grassroots. Most of them just want to create, they really don’t want to be out there promoting their work. As a result, they are not generating the kind of funds that they need to take care of themselves and their families. So I said to myself, “Why don’t I add value by collaborating with them? Why don’t I create a space where they bring their skill and I bring my expertise?” That way, we can join our gifted hands together to create wealth and success.

Do not underestimate structure: You have to be structured. You can’t do everything at the same time. You can’t be everywhere at once. Being structured also helps you to identify the weak points in your business. If you do not have a structure in place, you will not really be able to track your progress as you go.

You don’t have all the answers: At some point, you have to come to terms with this. You have to accept that you do not have all the answers. When I got to this revelation, it led me to find spaces that can help me grow. You need that support. You need a community that is interested in your growth. 

Continue reading ““You Don’t Have All The Answers!” Meet Catyna Designs Founder, Celestina Utoro,”

“I Learnt Perseverance After My Fire Accident” Meet Eco-friendly Entrepreneur, Chidiebere Nnorom

If there’s one thing Chidiebere Nnorom wants us to know, it is that she’s a typical Igbo girl with a never die attitude, never ever wanting to give up! Even after going through a rough patch, she refused to succumb and found her way back up.

Chidiebere Nnorom is the Co-founder of Paperbag by Ebees. She has a strong passion for the environment, social impact and business.  

Watch this space as Chidiebere is determined to change norms and make waves as an entrepreneur, environmentalist and a young global leader. Scroll down to read more of her story.


What’s your background story?

Before my business grew to the stage it is at now, I went through a lot! I was involved in a fire accident which kept me indoors for a while. I had to stop business operations and lay off staff. It was unbelievable. Imagine being at a point in life where you are clueless about what to do next. Well, that was me then.

It took me almost a year to heal. I couldn’t work or do anything. My savings had been zapped and I kept wondering how I’d scale through. There was a personal instinct to do something, I knew it wasn’t the time to give up but to breakthrough! I needed to turn the light on in my heart and that I did. 

To cut the long story short, the accident was a validation to move on. Months later, I picked up my business and started building up gradually. Next thing I knew, business calls were coming in! People said they saw the paper bag and wanted to order. Some of the paper bags they saw were made way before the accident. The referral rate was massive! I was so elated and grateful I didn’t give up back then.

What ignited the spark to start Paperbag by Ebees?

In 2016, we started off as a food delivery business but one of the problems we faced was the packaging, we just couldn’t find the right packaging. With a background in geography and my love for the environment, we decided to start creating eco-friendly packages.

There were a lot of “buts!” That was the year the foreign exchange was high, fuel scarcity and other things kept creeping in. We had to take a step back to think of how we could make it. My team and I carried out some research, tried out different products, monitored what was moving and what wasn’t. Everything was coming up gradually.

Before I knew it, we made it official!

 

What business challenges have you faced and how have those challenges shaped your mindset?

At the early stages, our major challenge was accessing raw materials in Nigeria. It meant having to buy in large quantities and also importing from China. We had other expenses to run the business and couldn’t afford it.

This caused a setback. We had to think of how to make it ourselves. We carried out some research and found alternative ways to come up with the resources. That was when we started the business for real!

Business development was our second challenge, it took us a while to see that the market was ready. We had to try out different products to see if the market will accept us. It was quite hard, to be honest. After a series of experiments and market research, we were able to count a milestone. Finally! We achieved growth.

These experiences really shaped our mindset as a company. To every business owner out there, celebrate your little wins! We count every little effort we make as a win and an opportunity to do better. I’m learning to take joy in the little things, every small success is a validation. I say to myself, “Chidiebere well done!” It tells me that every step I took at the time was worth it.

 

How do you come up with the designs on your paper bags?

I won’t take all the credit, I have a really good team. My own inspiration came from purpose. The point is, if we chase our real purpose there are things we won’t struggle to do. I found my passion, and everything fell into place.

Finding the right people who know what they are doing is key. I also took some time to learn product design. It’s a combination of all these things.

 

What have you learned so far from running this business?

I was in paid employment and transitioning was quite drastic.

Take your time and plan! If you’re transitioning from paid employment to business, have enough money to cover up for your expenses. Make sure that the business can take care of your bills. There is no need to go through stress because you’re an entrepreneur, life can be easy!