Catherine Lesetedi is a graduate of Statistics from the University of Botswana. She has built a career in the insurance industry since she joined it in 1992. Currently, Catherine is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited (BIHL).
She has built her career from scratch, and over the years, she has been adamant that adopting a flexible style of leadership is beneficial for leading an organization and getting the best out of her team.
Her career so far…
Looking at Lesetedi’s career, nothing about her story and her leadership principles and philosophies are ‘textbook’. Her style of leadership is pliable and acrobatic. It lends itself to whatever situation she and her team are in.
She’s extremely driven, open and open-minded, preferring to lead from behind, pushing her team forward, encouraging their gifts and honoring their intellect, allowing them to innovate, to grow and give to the business what she cannot.
Catherine maximizes on their strengths and makes sure that wherever there are gaps, there are people who are passionate, willing and able to execute and fill them.
Her journey there…
There is nothing predictable about Catherine Lesetedi. Even her choice of Statistics as a field to study at the University of Botswana (UB) was a bit of a wild card, even for her.
She describes it saying, “when we were making choices about what to study at varsity, we didn’t really know much about careers, to be honest with you, I didn’t know anything about Statistics until I got to the Department of Student Placement at the Ministry of Education.”
“I was late; my father and I had run out of fuel. By the time we arrived, I was out of breath, and I had forgotten my initial course choices. My brother, who I really admired, had studied Public Administration and Political Science, and that’s what I wanted.”
“They said that that weird combination didn’t exist, and told me that I was going to do Statistics and Demography.”
“If you think something is difficult, it becomes really difficult. If you think you can do it, sometimes you even surprise yourself.” – Catherine Lesetedi, CEO, BIHL Group
Her life experiences…
She studied Statistics at the University of Botswana, and even though her journey into that field was incidental, once there, she made the best of her situation, excelled and gleaned many things that she took forward with her into the rest of her life.
Certain experiences and her mindset set the stage for her early career and propelled her forward.
According to her, “in terms of decision-making, logical thinking, the confidence, and aptitude to learn; the program grounded me.”
“I may not use the formulas every day, but there are skills that I gained that I apply on a daily basis, even if I don’t recognize that ‘this is Statistics.”
The mathematical element empowered her to be able to engage with budgets and numbers, and not shy away from that aspect of whichever job she did.
Her philosophies for life…
All of the disciplines in the world are interrelated, so having a good understanding of what is going on across the board is beneficial for one; especially if a young woman wants to build herself up and build her career.
This is something she practices herself because, throughout the course of her career, she has gradually improved upon her leadership skills, attending leadership courses and taking on the responsibility of self-improvement.
Doing this has encouraged her to take a deeper look at herself; what drives her and pushes her beyond her own limitations. This outlook has put her in good stead as a leader, as someone who encourages others, ensuring that they are able to get the best out of what they need to do.
As a mentor, both personally and professionally, the story that she tells, the example that she sets, is one of “show up and do your best.”
Ms. Lesetedi is big on recognizing talent and putting it to good use within the BIHL Group. These are some of the elements that make her up as a woman, as a leader, and these are some of the things that she has imparted to her mentees.
Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.
Teach For Kenya is one of many independent chapters of the Teach For All Non-Profit organization, that is currently being set up in Nairobi, Kenya by Yukabeth Kidenda who is both its CEO and founder.
Passionate about education and mentorship, Yukabeth is on a mission to build a movement of ethical leaders to drive reforms in Kenya’s education ecosystem.
In this article, Yukabeth talks about her passion for teaching and her dream for education in Kenya.
What inspired the Teach For Kenya initiative?
Teach for Kenya is not the first of its kind, there are actually 50 other partner networks that exist all over the world.
Teach For All was started by Wendy Kopp, an American who actually started it as Teach For America initially. Her inspiration came from coming face to face with the inequities in education in her hometown and feeling a burden in her heart to help bridge those gaps.
From the success of that, she decided to replicate the model across other countries.
When I was done with college, I decided to take a gap year and went to serve as a teacher in Honduras, Central America.
That entire year was 365 of the happiest days of my life. I came back home, but for one and a half years, I couldn’t find a job.
That really made me question everything that I had believed. For a long time, I had this belief that education was what gets you to be successful.
I questioned that notion a lot and began to think –
How come the education that I received didn’t prepare me for this slump on the road?
How come this great education made me sit at home for over a year jobless?
Why didn’t it help me sell myself to a potential employer?
That is when things in my mind changed, I don’t want to just help people get access to education, I want to help them get access to QUALITY education that will enable them to thrive in this 21st century.
That’s why I dedicated my life to working in educational organizations.
I started with adult learning and corporate training, then worked with Microsoft with their education team to push ICT training and certification.
Thereafter I joined Metis where I was running a fellowship program for educators across all sectors and went on to work with the African Leadership Group as a leadership facilitator and now getting ready to launch Teach For Kenya.
I had been mulling over this with one of my mentors, Kennedy Odede for about one and a half years and by the beginning of 2019, I just decided to get on with it and actually do something. I think right now the country is ripe for such a great innovation and I’m glad to be at the forefront of it.
Why is education important to you?
I have a vast background in education, all the way back to my time in high school when my mother was diagnosed with cancer.
My parents really valued education a lot and still do, my siblings and I all went to very good schools. My mother’s illness did take a financial toll on the family but one thing I took note of, was that my father did not make us switch schools at any point.
We could have saved so much money by going to other schools that were not as costly and I could not understand why he chose to make that sacrifice. As I got older I realized the kind of doors that getting a good education and being exposed to that kind of learning could open for me.
During my university years, I approached my dad and told him that I want to support other people who don’t have people rooting for them the way he rooted for us.
My dad and I soon started doing a lot of projects in the community, going out to various areas, providing books, toiletries, things that just make the learning environment more habitable and more comfortable for the students.
That really generated the passion I have had since then to do more in the education field.
3. How is it going with putting together the launch?
It’s been a scary, engaging, challenging but exciting process all the same. One thing that has worked in my favor, is that this is my dream job. I’ve always wanted to work with people who don’t have anybody cheering them on and supporting them.
Teach For Kenya puts me in that unique position where I have basically taken the responsibility to run this organization that will help mentor recent graduates and put them in a position where they come face to face with the challenges facing their community, transitioning them on to the alumni face of the program and watching them go out into the world to impact and join initiatives that are seeking to address these challenges.
So I’d say right now that the education space in Kenya is very ripe. There are so many people who are very receptive to the idea of Teach For Kenya, and think it’s been a long time coming so the support has been overwhelming in a good way.
I plan to pilot this program with our first 20 fellows in January 2021 so what I’m focusing on right now is doing community research and going out into the areas where we will potentially get to speak to the communities, the teachers, students, and parents and find out what their needs are and how our skills can best match those needs.
It’s a lot of work but I feel like all of us as citizens of this country and this continent needs to do our part, this is me right now choosing to do my part.
I hope this encourages anyone who may think that their part may be too small – we’re all pieces in a puzzle of a beautiful bigger picture and by doing our part, we are working one day at a time to transform this country into one of the best.
With over 800,000 children in Kenya out of school, what do you think is a probable solution to this problem?
I’ll be very honest and say I really don’t have a solution myself but I will say that in everything that is done, there are pros and cons.
One of the reactions I remember that members of the community did was to start low cost private schools in the slum areas. These particular schools don’t have as much support as the government schools have.
The schools provided increased access to education at low costs but the level of accountability was reduced as a single teacher is not able to keep track of about 100 students alone.
What we need to do is champion more for the increase in the disbursement of resources especially to public schools, to enable them to absorb that high influx of students but also increase the level of accountability with teachers.
This goes back to a motivation issue because yes, they have more students to look out for but who is looking out for the teachers? That’s one thing that Teach For Kenya is really keen about – we want to celebrate and dignify the teaching profession because none of us would be where we are if it wasn’t for our teachers.
We need to place a bigger focus on teachers, building capacity for teachers, allocating bigger budgets to that sector.
We still have a lot of untrained teachers who are unemployed right now but the government just doesn’t have enough funds to train and employ them.
Children being out of school is a big issue and with Teach For Kenya, we really are committed to sending out more people to act as aspirational role models in the classrooms to try and dignify the teaching profession.
We will be recruiting recent graduates from every profession, we’ll have lawyers, engineers, musicians, etc in the classroom teaching.
That way, when a child looks up at their teacher, they will look at him/her with awe and because even after 4 years of law school, he/she still thinks it’s cool to be a teacher.
Which teacher/s in your life had the biggest impact on you?
I’d like to mention my high school principal – Mrs. Mbaya. I was always one of those well-performing kids in school, but I also did well in being naughty.
For most teachers, those two character traits could never reconcile, but for Mrs. Mbaya, I was just acting like a normal child. She made me feel like it was okay to be smart in class and also be a bit naughty.
When I got so much backlash from other teachers, she was the one person on my side. We had such a great bond that she would invite me to her house for tea over the school holidays, I really felt seen and understood by her.
Because of that, I was able to thrive in school. All the backlash I was constantly getting would have forced me to decide what part of the spectrum I wanted to be in, but thanks to her I successfully managed to be naughty and brainy until the end of my time at that school.
I am someone who loves people a lot so everywhere I have been, I have fallen in love with the people there.
For example, my kindergarten principal, Ms. Mildred Obuye, is still my friend to this day, we are now working in the education space together and we collaborate on various projects together.
All through my life though, my greatest teachers have been my parents, I can attribute 98% of what I have learned in life to them.
They are the greatest embodiment of what a teacher should be in this life which is engaging and willing to make a genuine human connection with a student.
What do you foresee for the future of education in Kenya?
Right now there are so many amazing things happening in the education space. Everyone is beginning to plant their small seeds of change with so many privately owned education ventures already taking off in Kenya.
It’s a great time to be alive as an educator in Kenya, we saw Peter Tabichi win the Global Teacher Prize and it shows that we are on the map and that it’s the right time to nurture those seeds that we have planted to continue the fight.
Kenyans are beginning to think outside the box, they are taking risks and being disruptive and what I can say to that is – keep doing what you’re doing. I’m really excited for all the innovation that is happening for all the alternative education systems.
What are your thoughts on homeschooling versus traditional schooling methods?
To speak for myself, I think it’s best that you find what works for you and for your child. This means connecting and knowing your child, understanding what they want and what they need and figuring out if it’s you who will be able to give it to them or the traditional school.
So I wouldn’t say I prefer the traditional system over homeschooling or vice versa but I would just say the center of education needs to be the learner, connect with the learner, find out their needs and then put them in the best place that would be able to satisfy those needs.
What mantra do you live by?
Honesty – You need to be honest in your dealings
Humility – You need to be humble because if you’re not you’ll never be able to hire people who are smarter than you to join your team and get you to success
Responsibility – We all have a responsibility first because God put us on this earth for a reason and we are responsible for the positions that we find ourselves in.
Prayer – This is what has gotten me through everything in my life. My biggest supporter and cheerleader has been God, he has been my best friend through this whole journey and prayer is how I connect with him.
This month of July, we’re telling stories about boss ladies breaking boundaries, and how you also can hit your #BossLadyGoals. Got a boss lady story to share with us? Click here.
“Bridging the gap between Policy and Implementation in Gender, Reproductive Health, and HIV/AIDS”
Professor Sheila Tlou – whose surname translates literally to ‘elephant’ is a veritable giant in the gender, health care and sexual and reproductive healthcare space in Botswana, Africa, and the world.
To Professor Sheila Tlou, the themes are inseparable, and much of her work includes activism at the intersection of these spaces.
Professor Sheila Tlou is the co-chair of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition and the co-chair of the Nursing Now Global Campaign. From 2010 to 2017 she was Director of the UNAIDS regional support team for Eastern and Southern Africa.
She is a former Member of Parliament and Minister of Health of the Republic of Botswana (2004-2008).
Also, Professor Sheila Tlou was the former Professor of Nursing at the University of Botswana and Director of the WHO collaborating center for Nursing and Midwifery Development in Primary Health Care for Anglophone Africa.
Professor Sheila Tlou has conducted research and taught courses like nursing, pre-medical and social science students on Gender issues relating to HIV/AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and Ageing and Older Persons.
She has played a key role in the development of national nursing and medical education curricula, working to broaden the scope of Health Sciences education in Botswana.
Her work on HIV/AIDS
The first case of HIV in Botswana was reported in 1985.
As was the case with the pandemic in the early years, the virus spread quickly, and with Botswana’s small population, the implications for social and economic stability were devastating.
However, Botswana responded to the pandemic and implemented a number of health care reforms and programs including the PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) in 1999 and universal access to ARVs (antiretrovirals) to those who were at an advanced stage of the disease.
The management of the virus in Botswana is due in large part to the role that Professor Tlou played in those years, and she continues to lend her voice, wisdom, and expertise to the healthcare space worldwide, today.
For example, the transmission of HIV from mother to child decreased from about 30 percent in 2003 to about 8 percent in 2008. Maternal mortality due to AIDS also decreased from 34 percent to 9 percent under her leadership.
Her work is ‘numbers’ and report-based, however, one cannot forget that the work that Prof. Tlou continues to do has a major impact on the lives of women, and by extension, their families and communities.
Professor Tlou worked tirelessly at the intersection of gender and health, to generate research and forge important partnerships between academia, government, and civil society.
She advocated for real change at the grassroots level in Botswana.
As Minister of Health, she led a forward-thinking and focused HIV care, prevention, treatment, support, and care programme that is used as a model all over the world today; a testament to her knowledge, resolve and leadership.
Professor Tlou is aware of the role that young people have to play in continuing the challenge of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths – effectively ending the disease by 2030.
Her work on gender health
Professor Tlou is the United Nations Eminent Person for Women, Girls, and HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa. She is also the International Council of Nurses Goodwill Ambassador for Girl Child Education.
In her past assignment as UNAIDS Regional Director, Professor Tlou provided leadership and Political Advocacy for quality sustainable AIDS response in 21 African countries, from Eritrea to South Africa, including the Indian Ocean Islands of Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Comoros.
She has been instrumental in the formation of advocacy bodies such as The Pan-African Positive Women’s Coalition (PAPWC) and the High-Level Task Force on Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV in Africa.
Professor Tlou initiated and chaired a High-Level task force on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Services for Young People in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Because of the uniqueness and peculiarity of the cultural context of African societies, HIV/AIDS thrived in a thick cloak of ignorance, denial, and secrecy that Prof. Tlou has recognized as a deterrent to the success of any programs that may be implemented.
Again, her sensitivity to the fact that women empowerment is a key issue that lies at the heart of HIV/AIDS prevention means that her work is alive to the issues that are particular to African women.
“Gender inequality, gender-based violence, including sexual violence and sexual exploitation, are at the core of young women’s vulnerability and need to be addressed if we are to achieve that SDG of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030″.
This very goal gives us a platform to deliver services based on rights, inclusiveness, universality and ensuring that no one is left behind.
Professor Tlou has received many national and international awards. Among them are… “the Botswana Presidential Order of Honor, the Florence Nightingale Award from the International Red Cross Society, the Trailblazer Woman Leading Change Award from the World YWCA, the Leadership in Health award from the Global Business Council (Health)”.
She also got “the President award from the US National Academy of Nursing, the President award from the US National League for Nursing, the Princess Srinagarindra award from Thailand, the Christianne Reimann award from the International Council of Nurses, and The Princess Muna Al Hussein award from the American Nurses Credentialing Centre”.
“Leaders who are able to communicate the importance of their activism are often able to inspire groups to pull together towards a common goal”.
Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.
As a boss, learning is your superpower. You don’t know what you don’t know, but there is now a multitude of ways to find out.
After completing my Marketing & Spanish degree at London Metropolitan University, I vowed that I was never going to study again.
Not because I didn’t enjoy my course or my studying experience – I actually really loved my uni days and not just because of the socializing! However, I was eager to get into the world of work and at the time thought that what I had studied was all I needed to launch and sustain me in my career.
However, over time, I have developed a totally different perspective on education and studying and realise that in order to grow it is imperative to continue learning throughout your life.
Working in the digital field as I do is exciting. Technological advances and changes in consumer behaviour ensure that it’s an industry that is ever evolving and in order to keep up and remain an authority in my field.
Just recently, I completed a Fintech course with Oxford University. I had zero knowledge of financial markets but understood that it’s an area that is being disrupted by technology particularly in Africa.
It was important that I improved my knowledge in this area. As a result, I am now part of a group of alumni working on a great project– so two wins – knowledge of a new field and a potential business opportunity!
But it’s more than just keeping abreast of your industry, it’s equally important to learn new things in general, and to stay curious.
In order to grow and live a fulfilled life, it’s important to expand past your comfort zone, increase your skills and knowledge and deepen your understanding and perceptions around areas that you may not often be exposed to.
Haven struggled with weight issues for most of my life, I challenged myself to complete a fitness qualification with YMCA in a bid to better understand health and fitness and to spur on my weight loss.
In fact, I am now a fully qualified Group ETM (Exercise to Music) instructor and whilst I don’t teach classes I definitely have a different approach to my health and have incorporated new elements into my daily lifestyle to maintain a certain level of fitness.
Encouraging yourself to try new and different experiences, setting yourself challenges, not necessarily knowing how to get there but knowing your why which propels you along your path of achievement.
My Top 5 Reasons for continued learning
It gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride and helps build self-confidence. Psychologists say that learning makes us happier!
It gives you access to new and different opportunities. My network has expanded exponentially – the number of new friends I’ve made and the projects I’ve been able to work on with people I’ve met through learning has been incredible
It fuels creativity. You can learn something in a seemingly un-related area which can trigger an idea in another.
It fuel change
It fuels productivity. Developing a new skill influences the way you do things day to day and can make doing things quicker and easier, saving time, energy and stress.
Having lived and worked in the UK my whole life, I have no experience of living in another country let alone starting a business in one.
But my aptitude for learning, whether it’s reading, taking courses or training is what’s prepping me on this journey and helped me one step at a time to steadily achieve my dream.
I like to believe that learning is our superpower. You don’t know what you don’t know, but there is now a multitude of ways to find out.
I reckon it’s definitely time to redefine the phrase CPD from Continued Professional Development to Continue Pushing for your Dreams.