10 inspirational quotes from women leaders for when the going gets tough

Ellen Sirleaf Johnson

Starting and running a business, nonprofit, or working towards being in a position of leadership can be frustrating and onerous over time. We usually start out excited, ready to take on the next challenge of actualizing a vision, only to lose that spark over time. Besides getting external moral support, an important factor is learning how to constantly motivate yourself. If you’re finding it difficult to stay inspired and keep the vision alive, you are not alone!

Read the following advice from these inspirational women that have made or are making waves in various fields of leadership that also understand your plight.

1. “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough”- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Sirleaf is the current president of Liberia and the first female head of state in Africa. After being forced into exile during the 1980 military coup, she returned to speak against the regime, then later contested for the presidency in 2005. In 2011, she was part of trio of inspirational women awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her work with women’s safety and rights.

2. “Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you” – Hillary Clinton.

Clinton served as the 67th U.S. secretary of state in from 2009- 2013. She is the leading Democratic Presidential nominee for the upcoming American 2016 election.

3. “When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” Audre Lorde.

 Lorde was a Caribbean-American poet, civil rights activist, and feminist. Her writings addressed racial prejudices, homophobia, and male privilege, amongst other things. She empowered her readers to address prejudice they were faced with and also celebrate differences in race and class.

4. “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights and played an active role in American politics as First lady.

5. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain” – Maya Angelou.

Angelou is an award winning poet and author of seven published autobiographies, numerous essay collections and poetry. She is internationally acclaimed for her memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

6. “Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from” – Jodie Foster.

Foster is an American actor, director, and producer who has worked in films and on television. A recipient of several awards, she is often been cited as one of the best actresses of her generation. Her latest work involve directing episodes for Netflix original, Orange Is the New Black & House Of Cards.

7. “Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.” – Alice Walker

Walker  is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and activist, she wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple.

8. “If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” – Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher was Britain’s first female prime minister serving three consecutive terms in office. A dominant figure of conservative ideology during her time in her office, Thatcher created a conducive environment for entrepreneurs to thrive. By cutting taxes and regulation, she empowered people financially, and ultimately helped revitalize the British economy.

9. “You’re not obligated to win. You’re obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day” – Marian Wright Edelman.

Edelman is an American activist for children’s rights and is the president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. She has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans her entire professional life advocating for causes like pregnancy prevention, parental responsibility for educational values, and reducing the level of violence presented to children etc.

10. “As a girl, you should not be someone who tries to fit into a glass slipper. You should shatter the glass ceiling”  – Priyanka Chopra.

Chopra is an Indian film actress, singer and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador amongst other things. A former Miss World (2000), she is has advanced tremendously in her acting career and is the first Bollywood actor to play a lead-role in an American TV show (Quantico).

How about those words of inspiration? These Moguls clearly have things on lockdown – maybe not yet, as learning in life is a continual process. Nonetheless, they have been there, (or are still in the process) done that, and understand your plight, just as much. So pick yourself up, dust off the discouragement and take another shot at your goals.

To be most effective, grab a post-it note, or whatever medium is most convenient and visibly write down the most essential quote for your current success roadblock. The key is to have this quote ingrained in your memory through repeated exposure instead of trying to retain all the information at a go. Repeat this as often as is needed and see it make a difference. 

6 ways to stay fit on the entrepreneurial hustle

Serena Williams Stay fit

The initial stages of starting up are always the hardest. You’re working tirelessly to lay business foundations, you’re probably not getting much sleep and you might be working another job.

SLA founders managed 3-4 hours of sleep a night when starting the company as, they were both working full-time jobs at McKinsey. Becoming a Motherland Mogul means working hard, extremely hard, round the clock, so how does one stay fit when you have #nodaysoff?

1. Make it a priority

This is just one of those harsh realities. If working out isn’t on your daily to-do list, you will always find some excuse not to.

 There’s no such thing as not having time to exercise. You have to make time. Just thinking about it also won’t get you anywhere. That burns about 0 calories.

2. Make it short

You don’t have to run 10 miles every day. Chances are you don’t have the time. Unless you’re training for a marathon, you don’t actually need to. A thirty minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session four times a week should be sufficient.

HIIT increases your metabolism and burns more calories than steady cardio and you don’t even need a gym to do this. Anything plyometric will get you well on your way.

3. Wakeup. Workout

The early bird catches the worm. Beginning your day with a workout kick starts your metabolism and helps you burn more calories during the day than you normally would. You’ll be more alert and happier (rise and shine by releasing some endorphins), which is sure to help with building your empire.

Morning exercise also frees up your day to focus on other things and you’re less likely to skip it if it’s the reason you  get up.

4. Keep it fresh. Keep it clean

The chances of any packaged food being healthier than a home cooked meal are slim to none. When you eat out or buy a packaged meal from the grocery store, you have no control over the quantity of butter, cream, or oil in it. Cooking your own meals affords you quality and quantity control.

If pressed for time, cook enough food over weekend to take you through the week.

  • Remember: Eat small meals through our the day to maintain your blood sugar levels.
  • Salads and fruit are healthy.
  • And your body will thank you if you eat lean protein.

5. Hydrate

H2O is your best friend, especially after working out. Water helps vitalize your muscles so you don’t end up feeling weak after exercise. Also, drinking water before and after you eat makes you feel full.

woman drinking water

Substituting good old water for juice or soda is an easy way to cut back on those unnecessary calories. Water is  also good for the skin. You’ll be a fine girl – no pimples.

6. R&R is a must

Give yourself breaks for muscle recovery. Overexercising doesn’t give your body time to repair, and you’ll end up fatigued, too restless, or sore to be productive.

Rest days reduce risks of injury and help you sleep better.

What tips are you using to stay fit in your journey? Share them with us.

Becoming a leader from the inside out

The Growing Ambitions CoFounders_Lusungu Kalanga, Chikondi Chabvuta & Umba Zalira

Irene Umba Zalira is a women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health advocate. In this piece, she shares the impact of Global Health Corps on her views on leadership and how she engages with her work. 

Global Health Corps is a leadership development organization that places young leaders under 30 from all backgrounds in year-long paid positions. Applications for the 160+ positions for the 2016-2017 class are due February 2nd, 2016. You can apply here


Is leadership something you’ve always desired?

I never wanted to be a leader, never saw myself as one. I took on small roles throughout my primary and secondary school life but nothing too serious. At least that is what I thought. I didn’t know these small roles were preparing me for bigger leadership roles that I would take on later in life.

Last year, I spent a year serving as a Global Health Corps fellow at the Ministry of Health in Malawi. Prior to being a Global Health Corps fellow, I shied away from leadership positions, aiming for roles with  less responsibility.

From your experience, do you think leadership skills can be taught? Or is it simply an innate skill?

People who know me now would never believe I once shied away from leadership roles. I truly believe my Global Health Corps experience molded me into the leader I am today. None of the leadership workshops and trainings I ever attended mentioned the need to work on your self-esteem.

Everyone spoke of leadership as something you did on the outside: how you talk, how you influence people and how you convince people. No one mentioned self-acceptance and confidence are the source of leadership. And because I was struggling on the inside, I couldn’t see myself as a leader.

What has been the greatest inspiration for you?

I remember being at Yale University in a room full of 127 young amazing people who had done extraordinary things in their lives: 127 change makers. There was one specific story that stuck with me.

One of the program participants had lived in Vietnam, and taught kids in the village how to swim because there had been a lot of drowning incidents during the rainy season. It made me think: ‘wow, I don’t even know how to swim!’

Global Health Corps

There were people younger than me who had already started organisations and initiatives in their own communities. That was definitely not me!

But there is something about being in such a space, a safe space with peers, where you can be vulnerable to say: ‘I am scared’. ‘I don’t know how I am going to do this.’ ‘Hell, I don’t even know how I got here!’ But, by the end of those 2 weeks at Yale, I was ready to own the GHC slogan of ‘change maker’.

The sessions with GHC staff and my peers, helped me see myself as a leader. I started working on my fears, passions, abilities, strengths and even weaknesses.

That must have been a huge inspiration for you. What did you then do with all that fire?

I got back to my country and I was ready to serve! I was serving before, but this time around, it was different. I was more than willing to lead initiatives and own the title of a change maker. I was one of the founding members of the Rotaract Club of Lilongwe and served as the Director of Community Services in the first year.

The Rotaract Club of Lilongwe is a service club of young people between the ages of 18-30 from different professional and educational backgrounds. We use our diverse skills and resources to improve the communities we live through the implementation of various projects and programs.

We understand you’ve been involved in different projects. Tell us about them.

Two friends and I started a community initiative in Kauma, a peri urban area on the outskirts of Lilongwe City, Malawi after we noticed teenage pregnancies was prevalent, resulting in high school drop out rates for girls. Initially, the plan was to go through the project a local church in the area had started to address the issue, to talk to the girls and encouragement them, then move on with our lives. But my drive to make an impact didn’t let me be. When you start doing something you are passionate about, you have to see it through.

So 17 months later, we found ourselves as co-founders of an organization called Growing Ambitions. We are currently supporting more than 20 girls with school fees and school materials. We recently enrolled one of our girls, Esther, a 19-year-old mother of a beautiful baby boy, into Stella Maris, a prestigious catholic secondary school.

Our mission is to help girls make informed decisions through mentoring and career guidance. We envision a Malawi where girls, regardless of their socio-economic status or negative experiences, take charge of their lives and thrive.

Growing ambitions

Tell us more about Growing Ambitions

Growing Ambitions primary target group are girls and young women who have dropped out of school due to unplanned pregnancy. We re-enroll them into schools and provide support to ensure they stay in school. We conduct monthly sessions on different topics ranging from sexual reproductive health, human rights, feminism, gender, time management based on the girl’s interests.

So far, the initiative has been self-funded along contributions from well-wishers. But, seeing that we’re growing, there’s going to be need for an alternative source of funding. Currently, we are in the process of getting registered as a non-governmental organization with the Malawian Ministry of Justice, and look forward to serving more girls and young women in Kauma and beyond.

What inspires you to keep the initiative alive?

It’s been a new, and sometimes arduous journey for me, my co-founders and the girls as well. These girls and young women live in communities where their rights are disregarded and they’re treated as second class citizens. But every small step in the right direction ensures more girls complete their education, and knowing that keeps me going.

6 BOSS Kenyan women on balancing life and business

These 6 women are among the most successful Kenyan entrepreneurs, and this what said about balancing life and business.

Njeri Rionge – Serial entrepreneur

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 6.09.14 PMRionge co-founded internet service provider Wananchi Online. On balance: “The right skill-set balance is something we must have to allow for exponential development and growth.” 

Tabitha Karanja – Founder and CEO, Keroche Breweries

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 6.11.34 PM

Karanja founded Keroche Breweries in 1997 with her husband. On balance: “My word to women, when it comes to family, just strike a balance.

There is time for business and family. Always be there for your family.”

Eva Muraya – Founder and CEO, Brand Strategy and Design

Muraya is the founder and CEO of Brand Strategy and Design, a regional brand strategy development agency. 

On balance: “I am an advocate of business being an important instrument of development. In fact, business is the fabric for development.”

Joanne Mwangi – Founder and CEO, PMS Group

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 6.17.12 PM

Mwangi founded Professional Marketing Services (PMS), a group that currently has five subsidiaries and a presence across the east African region. In 2010 PMS was voted number one in the Top 100 SME competition in Kenya.

On balance: “You are a business leader but what other hats do you wear? If you don’t balance your other hats then you have a problem. Do not sacrifice all at the altar of making it in business.”

Flora Mutahi – Founder and C.E.O, Melvin’s Tea

Mutahi first got into business with money her mother lent her so that she could get a loan from the bank. She started off with manufacturing salt, later progressed into the tea business, and has now delved into rice.

On balance: “Try to find a balance between work and life for effectiveness.”

Susan Wokabi – Founder and C.E.O, Suzie Beauty

Suzie Beauty makes over 20 million shillings in sales yearly. On balance: “We (my husband and I) have learnt to work our schedules around our two son’s lives.”

What other Kenyan boss women need to be on this list? Are you or is someone in your network building the next big business on the continent? Drop us a line and let us know. 

How to spot a swag assist

You want to be a boss. You dream of being the type of woman who is on her grind, building an empire and taking no prisoners. Chairman by M.I, I’m a Boss by Rick Ross, and Looku Looku by The Mavins are key songs in the playlist of your life.

There’s only one big problem – you think your partner might be a hater, #SwagDeflator – every #MotherlandMogul’s worst nightmare.
Nicki Minaj - Hell No GifOne of the most critical factors that will impact your professional and entrepreneurial growth is your significant other. Having a partner who supports you is a godsend  – their belief in your talents and dreams will have you thinking you’re Oprah 2.0 or the female Dangote-in-waiting. Having a partner who actively blocks your shine is the worst.

With this in mind, we, at She Leads Africa, have come up with a few tips to help you spot a partner who will support your #MotherlandMogul swag. They’ll be your very own Swag Assist.

1. Was his mum a hustler?

To start, you have to take it all the way to the beginning. Our families and childhoods have a huge influence on what we think our lives should look like when we become adults.

Licia Ronzulli - EU parliament member with baby

If a guy grew up with a mum who was always on her hustle, he’s more likely to see your hustle as normal and ordinary. Additionally, if his mum is a hustler herself, she’s more likely to tell him to chill if he starts complaining too much about your work schedule.

This isn’t to say that sons of stay-at-home mums will want you to do the same. But understand that it may take him some time to get used to your hustle.

2. How much gendered language does he use?

Any potential partner who uses words like “men’s work” or “women’s work” should raise red flags.

Jasmine and tiger from Aladdin

To be a #SwagAssist, a guy needs to have his own beliefs about gender norms not what society has told him. He needs to be comfortable sharing the work at home. For example, if you’re running late at the office, he should put the kids to bed.

If you have a big meeting the next day and don’t have time to cook dinner, he needs to be fine with that. If your man sees the world in one particular way and thinks that you need to stay in your lane, he’s probably not going to be the Barack to your Michelle.

3. How hard does he try to upgrade you and your business?

Beyoncé told the world she wants to upgrade her man, but you should also have someone who wants your business to reach the next level.

Beyonce and Jay Z dancing

There are plenty of guys who pay lip service to supporting their partners, but in reality they couldn’t care less. Does your partner think about how their personal and professional networks can help you grow? If they have special skills, do they use them to support you? For example, if he’s a banker has he offered to look at your numbers? A #SwagAssist will energetically try to support your professional aspirations.


Align your partner with your ambition.”

–Bola Adesola, MD Standard Chartered Nigeria


4. What does he say when you complain about the hustle?

We all have times when nothing seems to be working, and we just want to roll up into the fetal  position and give up.

Biggest loser - Jillian Michaels

Yes, we all want a partner who is occasionally going to baby us and tell us everything is going to be okay. Here’s the thing though, building a business isn’t child’s play and having a partner who is going to let you give up is not helpful if you’re really trying to be a #MotherlandMogul.

You need someone who cares about you so deeply that they’ll listen to you complain, but believes in you so much that they force you to get back up.

5. How does he react to your business success?

When you’ve just signed a big deal and you tell him, pay attention to his expressions and tone of his voice. Does he give you a weak smile, like kind Yetunde gave her boyfriend when he proposed with an ugly ring? Does he say congrats quickly and then get back to how bad the traffic was in Lekki? If the answer is yes, then you’ve got yourself a certified #SwagDeflator. A #SwagAssist will make it clear that you da real MVP.

LA Galaxy soccer player celebrating

He will give you Azonto, Shoki and the running man all at the same time. All of his social media followers will know that you just won. He’ll be so excited people will think he won the lottery. That’s the sort of partner you need walking with you on the journey to professional success.

Everyone knows that one of the easiest ways to lose a war is to start fighting on two fronts. Just ask any German commander circa early 1940s.

It takes a village to raise an entrepreneur – and guess what? Your husband, your bae, your partner, your number 1 is a critical member of that village.

We hope you find someone who cares about your professional happiness and success just as much as you do.

If you’re married and yourMaya Rudolph Saying No guy is a swag deflator, please don’t cite us in the divorce proceedings.

 

 

 

Yay or nay? To have and to hold his last name after marriage

Glenview-Mansion-Maryland-Ethiopian-Wedding-Ceremony-Recessional

It seems that the custom of taking one’s husband’s name after marriage is slowly fading. Women the world over are opting to keep their maiden names after tying the knot. African women are choosing to do the same to the dismay of some and intrigue of others.

There are people who do not understand why a woman would not want to change her surname. It is a PSA that a certain someone put a ring on it, after all.  In a culture that wrongfully values women based on their relationships with men, this decision is being met with resistance.

Who started it

It turns out this custom isn’t even African. It was started by the French and spread to Britain during the  Norman Conquest in the 11th century. A wife was considered a husband’s possession, and, hence had to adopt his name.

Over time, the custom changed to include the scriptural notion of unity that marriage brings to a couple. The tradition then spread to the Motherland through colonialism.

Not everyone finds it necessary

It is actually illegal in some places  to change one’s name for marriage or other reasons. Quebec does not allow women to change their names after they get married. This law exists to extend the Quebec Charter of Rights (1976) statement on gender equality to names, according to Time.com. The same applies in Greece and Belgium.

Even in France,where the custom started, citizens are required to keep the names on their birth certificates for life, though women can take their husband’s names socially, but not legally. The situation is similar in the Netherlands where women can only take their husband’s name under special circumstances.

Italian women can’t legally change their names, but are permitted to hyphenate their surnames by adding their husband’s. Women in Malaysia and Korea customarily keep their maiden names. Burundian women also do not adopt their husband’s names, according to allAfrica.com.

Reason behind rebellion

So why don’t you use your husband’s name? For Nigerian journalist, Amma Ogan, the answer is in the question: “Because it is his name, not mine,” she says in an interview with us.

In her article “Of Marriage and Ownership,” (published on the discontinued 234Next website) she writes about her choice to keep her maiden name and the bewilderment that met her decision. Of the custom she writes:

“Ask a Nigerian man to change his name and he will consider it an insult of the highest order. This means that women are considered fair game, mothers, sisters, daughters, all. The first retort when a woman protests is: Why don’t you want people to know you are married? But that is really a side bar. The people for whom that knowledge is most important are the ones who are in it. Are you married? Yes. Move on.”

For Ogan, and others like Dr. Sophie Coulombeau, keeping their maiden names is a matter of maintaining  their identity, and upholding equality. For them, marriage does not equal validation, as the custom may suggest.

So what could this mean for us?

As a wife, changing your surname to your husband’s can be symbolic. The function of marriage is to unite two people and sharing a name can represent this unity.

Ugandan Anita Arinaitwe Mugisha chose to use her husband’s name, telling allAfrica.com that it signified a new beginning and gave her a sense of belonging. In the same article, Joshua Nshuti, a Ugandan man, said that sharing his name with his wife made him proud and is a constant reminder of his responsibilities to her.

Women opt to keep their maiden names for various reasons whether it be maintaining their identity or asserting equality. Some of them have worked hard to create a name for themselves professionally and don’t want to give that up.

Others marry people from across the world and find keeping their maiden names less confusing. And a few are just trying to avoid all the legal paperwork that comes with changing your name on identity cards, passports, health insurance and bank accounts plus more.

As  businesswomen on the rise, ready to disrupt the old boys’ club, and take the world by storm, one could argue we should abandon a practice that is in its very origin dehumanizing. On the other hand, as I mentioned, taking one’s husband’s name symbolizes unity for some.

Ultimately what is important, I think, is to leave it up to the woman to decide what changing or keeping her name means to her. Perhaps in order to allow that to happen, women shouldn’t be judged for choosing to do either.
Change your last name after marriageWhat do you think Motherland Moguls? Do you plan on changing or keeping your name when you get married? If you are married, did you opt to adopt your husband’s name or keep your maiden name? Let us know in the comments below.