The Tech and STEM pioneer of Botswana

The goal is to have a national coding competition where all the students will come to Gaborone and showcase their projects. 

Captain Kgomotso Phatsima is best known in Botswana for her pioneering work as one of the few women pilots in the country. Her career began in the military, and she diligently worked her way up to becoming a real force to be reckoned with. 

Captain Phatsima’s work as a pilot and her passion for youth development led her to discover that there were very few girls who were adept at – or even interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, which are key for the aerodynamics space.

Not only are STEM subjects integral for becoming a pilot, or engaging in the aerospace industry, they are also essential for the development of human capital and the future of business in Botswana, Africa, and the world.

She founded the Dare to Dream Foundation (of which she is the President) in 2008 which deals with the advancement of youth, women and girls in STEM, aviation and aerospace as well as entrepreneurship development, with the intention to get young people interested in STEM-preneurship and the aviation and aerospace business.

Connect with Kgomotso Phatsima and her business on social media.


Why I founded Dare to Dream…

When I was growing up, I never had the chance to sit like this with a pilot or get into an airplane until I had the chance to fly one.

After I qualified as a pilot, I sat down and thought: ‘What can I do to give the upcoming generation – especially those who grew up in a village, like me – an opportunity to do that?’.

I started Dare to Dream to give back to the community and to try and open up their eyes to opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.

On the ‘barrier’ to girls’ entry into STEM & traditionally ‘female/male-dominated’ subjects…

I will talk about myself and my own experience here.

When I told my parents that I want to fly and be a pilot, my mother said ‘In our time, a girl could never fly a plane. You cannot be a soldier!’

Sometimes it goes back to our upbringing and the culture. A girl must be domestic, and boys also have prescribed activities.

So we separate ourselves from engaging in these things. The same mindset goes on to say that ‘Some things are hard, and are only for men’, like piloting or engineering.

With some of our families, their backgrounds are what can hinder the involvement of girls in certain subjects and limit girls to certain careers.

But as the times and technologies change, and with other women and organizations such as ours showing that it’s possible, there is more of an acceptance that you can be and do anything you want.

Is Africa / Botswana in a good position to keep up with the world’s “breakneck’ speed?

I think so because the demographic dividend of the youth in Africa indicates that young people make up most of Africa at 60 percent.

I think that the whole of Africa is at a good advantage to participate in the technological changes that are taking place right now.

There are a lot of young people who are interested in technology. I also think that Batswana are in a good position to take advantage of what is happening.

We just need to channel the youth in the right direction to take advantage of the technological era, and prepare them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the businesses of tomorrow, which will be different from the businesses of today.

How Botswana (and Africa) can prepare for ‘The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)’…

In other African countries such as Rwanda, you’ll find that coding and robotics are taught in schools and they are part of the curriculum.

Recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa stated that coding will be taught in schools. We in Botswana are a little slower in catching on to these developments.

At Dare to Dream, we partnered with Airbus to sponsor 1,500 students across the country in rural places and trained them in robotics in order to prepare them for 4IR.

We need to channel the youth in the right direction to take advantage of the technological era and prepare them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – @KPhatsima Click To Tweet

It was also important that they know that there are careers in the aerospace industry that are STEM-related that they can take advantage of.

We are looking forward to partnering with the Ministry of Education, but there have been some delays, which I hope will be overcome in the future.

Dare to Dream’s most engaged stakeholders…so far…

We have engaged Airbus and also partnered with Botswana Innovation Hub, the University of Botswana and Botswana International University for Science and Technology – BIUST.

BIUST created an initiative to encourage young girls to get into STEM subjects because they realized that the number of girls applying for these subjects was low. They had called 100 girls from Central District schools to participate. 

We form partnerships with organizations with the same mandate as us. For example, Debswana is interested in the 4IR and getting young people engaged in it, so we have partnered with them and they have assisted us to roll out our programs.

We have also done work with Major Blue Air, who own planes. The girls get a chance to get onto the planes, and I fly the children.

It’s not just about STEM, it’s about exposing the girls to new experiences and igniting the passion within them. There are other organizations doing work in the same area, and we are looking forward to also having them on board.

There is something very powerful about collaboration.

We have also recently partnered with EcoNet, who have chosen me to lead the Youth Development Programme in coding and entrepreneurship.

What we are doing differently is that we are teaching the kids how to code and build websites, but also entrepreneurship and leadership skills. We have enrolled the first 500 participants and we are starting in July this year. 

The role Dare to Dream is playing in the conversation (and action!) towards Africa’s readiness for 4IR…

Even though we have trained 1 500 students, we realized that there is a gap with the teachers, and so we are preparing to train teachers in order to fill that gap.

After going around the country and doing work in 40 schools, I realized that the teachers themselves don’t know about 4IR, coding or robotics. Coding isn’t part of our curriculum at the moment; only a few schools have robotics kits, but they don’t know how to use them.

So, then we pulled in Debswana and other sponsors to train the teachers for a week at the University of Botswana. From there, the teachers will go back to their respective schools and train the students.

The goal is to have a national coding competition where all the students will come to Gaborone and showcase their projects. 

How young African women can be a part of The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)…

We want young people to solve African problems using technology – @KPhatsima Click To Tweet

Also, we want to teach them that they can look around for themselves, and identify where the problems are, and create devices and apps to overcome them, and make money out of them.

The fact that we are training teachers and students is a good step because we are pushing them towards appreciating the importance of 4IR and the power of technology in building businesses.


Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.

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Catherine Lesetedi: Botswana’s Boss Woman

Botswana

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.

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The Queen of Representation – From Botswana to the world

“The A-Girls are exceptional, black vinyl dolls that appreciate the African girl of today, with all her versatility and diversity”.

Dolls are part of a girl’s introduction to what is considered ‘beautiful’. According to Bakani, creating the brand was essential in order to excavate and resuscitate what African beauty is. 

Until August 2016, Bakani July Johnson was a Lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB) in the Social Work Department. She holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work and has worked intensively in the psychosocial field since 2004, gaining experience with Botswana Baylor Children’s Clinic as a social welfare case manager.

Prior to that, she worked with the Government of Botswana as a Social Welfare officer. After years of ideating, planning and testing, Bakani left the UB and started her doll-making business.

Bakani is a social entrepreneur and is constantly looking for ways to enhance the lives of others.

She is also a founding trustee of Musani Family Care Foundation, an organization that focusses on the restoration of Botswana’s family unit, and offers accommodation to families in transition, mostly caregivers of hospitalized patients who come from far off villages.

Musani Family Care Foundation seeks to bridge the gap by providing temporary housing and support for these families who need it most, at no cost. 

Connect with Bakani and her business on social media.


Why it is important for me to make the dolls…

I have always loved children. I am forever looking for ways to enhance their wellbeing and this led to the realization that there were no black dolls to use during clinical sessions with my little patients.

As a social worker, dolls are some of the symbolic tools used for communication during sessions. However, more often than not, the dolls that were donated looked nothing like the children I worked with.

This became a query, to manufactures and it was not a pretty feeling as it was seen from the point of exclusion. 

I realized that I could continue with the feeling of being ‘left out’ as a black African girl, or I could do something about it.  The research allowed me to see that I, and others like me, were never a concern for doll-makers; they had their own market and concerns.

Whatever I could find was by sheer luck.  I refused to use divisive story-telling or to accept that it was ‘someone else’s fault’ that as Batswana – and Africans – we don’t have black dolls.

The more I searched, the more I was challenged to create the doll I was looking for. I worked from thought to product, beginning in 2007.

The effect representation has on young Batswana /African girls…

We have for the longest time been portrayed as ugly, and not a representation of beauty.

If you research dolls throughout history, you will not like what you see. We have been ‘caricatured’ through the years and our features ridiculed. Our natural hair is still a full-on debate today.

With the dolls, I am simply excavating and resuscitating a black girl’s beauty.

The idea of the @AGirls15 dolls was to trigger an emotional response and to ensure that we put African girls faces on beauty, with a clear understanding that it is our responsibility to raise a new, confident African girl. – Bakani… Click To Tweet

The idea of the dolls was to trigger an emotional response and to ensure that we put African girls faces on beauty, with a clear understanding that it is our responsibility to raise a new, confident African girl. 

The development of The African Girls Dolls is a winning communication tool targeting children.

These are one-of-a-kind vinyl dolls that appreciate the diversity of African girls and were created with the realization of a lack of representation both commercially and in messaging for African children.

Most props and toys used are of girls and boys are not of African descent. Through the African girls’ collection, I am constantly helping organizations to create a unique language of truths, trust, and symbols as part of visual storytelling and visual messaging.

I understand that symbolically, images help us to understand abstract concepts that cannot always be translated into words and dolls have throughout history been symbols to communicate, appreciate and represent.

Dolls are part of a girl’s introduction to what is considered ‘beautiful’, and speaking to that aspect we want to be able to say ‘she is so pretty, just like a doll’ – and actually talk about a doll that looks like her. 

Children are visual beings. They connect to things visually and will remember things seen more than things said. They connect with objects or pictures from memory.

Africa and Botswana are about symbolism, or what things represent and communicate.

By giving girls @AGirls15 dolls that look like them, we are communicating a million things without words. Silent messaging works well with children – Bakani July Johnson Click To Tweet

If you listen in on doll play, your child communicates with what she sees. If her dolly is wearing beads she will have a conversation about that. The idea was to have dolls that are relevant to the children, thus when one looks at the dolls, they will realize that some have tutu skirts and modern symbols which represents a ‘modern girl’ whereas others are dressed in traditional Tswana regalia.

Great dolls bring the thought of history, self, and admiration. Children from different ethnicities benefit from playing with dolls that are a different skin tone, make and versatility.

Though dolls are not photocopies of the individual, we believe that to a small child the most important thing is that her little dolly is beautiful just like her, validating who she is and how she relates to herself.

The role I see my dolls playing in a Motswana girl’s life

This product, created by an African woman for African children is girl-centered for now and is self-esteem/self-efficacy based.

More than play, the dolls are seen as communication tools that instill gender and ethnic pride as a foundation for social skills. What you see and is preached becomes a norm. If everyone talks about ‘light-skinned’ being better, children will want that.

I want parents to hand the dolls to the children without influencing the children’s taste about them. 

I have involved a few people in the crafting of the dolls from those that design the clothes to those that do the hair and packaging.

I am very committed from an economic point of view to create an ecosystem that will hire many people because the project has a lot of potential for growth.

I want a situation where the dolls will have ambassadors so that the young ones can appreciate the mortal presentations of the dolls, just the way they experience the princesses that they see at places like Disneyland.

I will build the momentum and I am open to ideas to help develop the brand even further. I am sending out a call to all African and Botswana girls to join the brand as re-sellers and distributors for their countries.

How I manufacture my dolls…

I have involved a few people in the crafting of the dolls, from those who design the clothes to those who do the hair and packaging.

Unfortunately, in Africa we don’t have companies that work with vinyl for doll making, so we have been forced to outsource.

However, we do have tailors and designers, crochet ladies and shoemakers working on other aspects of the dolls locally.

How the dolls have been recieved by people so far

The success of the dolls has transcended borders and continents, and they have reached international markets.

Botswana has been amazing! The relevance is clearly understood, the need is very apparent and we can only express gratitude for all the support.

Media has been keen at each stage of their development, and young, hopeful Batswana are eagerly working to join the brand and with open arms, we are welcoming ideas and collaborations.

The dolls are currently available across Botswana, as well as re-sellers in Johannesburg, the Netherlands and the United States of America.

We have worked with brands like the Netball World Youth Cup, International Women in Sport, Botswana Tourism Organization and we are currently working on a project with Botswana Netball.

The growth of the business will definitely be stimulated by partnerships.  Partnering at different levels with others is beneficial.

I am working with so many individuals who want to run with certain aspects of the product and I have never been as relieved as the agreements come to fruition. I know now I cannot do it alone! 


Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.

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The Tourism Queen of Botswana


Reinventing tourist experiences in Botswana

Cynthia Mothelesi is blazing a trail and carving out a unique space with bespoke experiences in the tourism landscape of Botswana.

She is somewhat of an ‘evolving soul’, constantly seeking out ways to deepen her life experiences and provide an opportunity for others to do the same with her travel agency, Happy Soul Adventures.

Trained as a graphic designer, she spent three years lecturing before deciding to expand her horizons. She applied for a job at the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), where she served as Marketing Manager for seven years.

Her experiences at BTO were an opportunity for her to travel, sharpen her marketing and PR skills and forge valuable relationships.

She then realized that there was a gap in the tourism sector, which became the catalyst for her foray into business. 

Cynthia Mothelesi uses her creativity and business savvyness to create bespoke experiences that allow her guests to engage with the soul, beauty and people of Botswana in an unimposing, intimate way. 

Connect with Cynthia and her business on her website and social media


What inspired you to go into tourism?

I saw so many opportunities and I realized that there were a lot of gaps in the industry that we were not tapping into.

In Botswana, we see tourism as going on safari, and we really only see it as valid in the Chobe or Okavango. However, I think that tourism has so many facets – @mothelesi Click To Tweet

While I was at BTO, I followed the AirBnB culture because I love hosting. Then in 2017, I decided to venture out on my own because I realized that I could grow. It could be enough for myself and I could do more with the experience and passion that I have.

How did you come up with the idea for Happy Soul Adventures?

I began by focusing on my Airbnb listing, and every week I would have guests from all over the world coming to stay with me. Most times, I would host them at my house, but I didn’t just want to give them accommodation.

I wanted to share what Botswana is all about – @mothelesi Click To Tweet

I wanted to tell them my Botswana story, especially in terms of our people. Not wanting them to just see Botswana as wildlife and safaris, but rather for them to come away knowing that we were more than what the Western media depicts us to be.

That experience taught me a lot and I decided that I would focus 100% on Happy Soul Adventures.

What kinds of tours / experiences do you offer?

Sometimes I take my guests on a city tour. It would include going to nightclubs like Zoom, or to a local pub, George’s, for karaoke night. We may go to Kilimanjaro, which has a place that sells really amazing local food.

I also have clients who come to learn how to milk a goat or bake bread the traditional way. Guests can learn how to do pottery or make a tapestry. It really goes to show that we have a beautiful story to share and that there is value that can be found in it.

What do you keep in mind when you design your tours?

I really want my guests to immerse themselves in our stories. I feel like we Africans can do more to celebrate who we are as people. We tend to shun our own culture and I want to rather celebrate what makes us unique.

Happy Soul Adventures also engages with communities. I don’t want to run a company that is only about me making a profit. So it is more of a collaborative effort.

With collaboration, we are able to build and grow more. Happy Soul Adventures is about connecting people.

What is the most important thing that you want your guests to take away from your tours?

I want people to be able to interact and break down social divides. I feel that at the end of the day, we are all human. – @mothelesi Click To Tweet

I want my guests to be able to experience this. I realized that people are looking for something new for the soul. People love simple, soulful and enriching experiences and I am happy that the responses have been great.

What does Botswana have to offer the world that is unique?

I realized that what we at home think is ‘backward’ or ‘unsophisticated’ is actually something that is unique about us. The fact that we take things slow, and keep things organic is something that people actually love about Botswana.

Guests who visit Mogobane village for example, really love the peace and quiet because it isn’t something that they get to experience often. They really get time to connect with themselves.

So, the most unique selling point about Botswana is that we are very peaceful, quiet and laid-back. It gives people the opportunity to reconnect with their soul and really get to love themselves even more.

Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.


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The HealthCare Giant of Botswana

“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.

“I am hoping that what I say will inspire young people to be able to ask themselves how they will be able to participate in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals because as far as I’m concerned, all 17 of them are… Click To Tweet

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.

One of the hallmarks of great leadership is the ability to translate ideas into plans that are actionable – Professor Sheila Tlou Click To Tweet

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.

Her Recognitions/Awards

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.

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Agang Ditlhogo – All we wanted was to teach kids and teens how to code

Agang Ditlhogo is passionate about education. She is a co-founder of The Clicking Generation ICT Academy for Kids and Teens. It is a social enterprise that offers computing and technology curriculum to kids and teens. Also, she is currently National Expert for UN-World Summit Award Organization, Ambassador-ITU Young Innovator Competition, Ambassador-Africa Code Week and PR Officer – Internet Society (ISOC) local chapter. Agang forms part of the prestigious Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship program. She is also a Mandela Washington Fellow 2016, an initiative by U.S. State Department. She was selected as OkayAfrica Magazine publication top 100 women in 2017. Agang is an Atlas Corps Fellow currently working at Tetra Tech as an International Energy and Internet Fellow.

 What led you to choose ICT as the path you wanted to work in?

When I first saw the computer back in Junior School I was beyond fascinated. I envisioned what I had previously seen in sci-fi movies and I wanted to learn more. Interestingly, I didn’t know then that I’ll be in a related career and I just forgot all about it. I had always known I wanted an engineering related career and when I found out about computer science I got excited. After a one year BSc program, I joined the Computer Information Systems stream. I have since evolved and I now have a focus on ICT4Development as an emerging field of focus.

You co-founded your social enterprise, The Clicking Generation, what has that journey been like?

The Clicking Generation (TCG) is an ICT Academy for kids and teens. We offer age-appropriate, fun and explorative learning of ICT and computing concepts for boys and girls in both rural and urban Botswana. We are loud, colorful and fun! The mandate is simple, we want to contribute to the education system of Botswana. Our programs are designed to expose learners to tools and resources that will not only enhance their logic and creative thinking but encourage them to become innovators of socially relevant technology solutions. It has been an interesting journey thus far. Imagine this, two ‘naïve’ techies Tsaone Gaborone and myself with zero experience in curriculum design, financial management principles, and many other elements. All we knew was we wanted to teach kids and teens how to code. We have since come a long way and through professional and self-development efforts continue to embrace the principles of social change and all the related technical factors.

What prompted your decision not to work a full-time job?

I had worked in an Academic Institution for seven years both on the academic and IT technical aspects. Crazy notion! I left a permanent and pensionable job for a dream, who does that? The intention was to focus on business strategy for the social enterprise. I quickly realized what it takes to be an entrepreneur, it is a specialized field that requires bravery and a distinct DNA. I remain a devoted social- entrepreneur and believe in change maker ideals that foster change. Fast forward a couple of years, I decided to take up working as a local United Nations volunteer and continued technical development work. It has been an interesting career journey and I currently serve as International Energy & Internet Fellow with Tetra Tech based in Washington, DC through the Atlas Corps Fellowship.You were a Tony Elumelu Fund Recipient and have been selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, and Atlas Corps Fellowship, how has this shaped your journey? It has been a blessing being selected for these leadership opportunities. The technical takeaways of these programs have positioned both my personal and professional outlook. I have had moments to self-reflect which have allowed me to apply servant leadership strategies and principles to my current efforts. However, I continue to meet inspirational young leaders across the world whose bravery is depicted in their various efforts to contribute to their communities. These moments are treasured and I’ll continue to be encouraged and validated. I would encourage young changemakers to seek these opportunities, apply and be ready to teach and learn.

Why did you think is philanthropy important for your career or personal growth?

I have in the past volunteered with both local and international organizations. There is power in willingness to learn, genuine willingness always reveals limitless possibilities. It is a simple principle really but may as well be the opportunity that announces you to your next level. I have realized that there is something that you have that the next person needs big or small you have something to offer, this has been a great lesson.

What has been your greatest achievement, and what disappointments have you dealt with since you started your journey?

One of my highlights in recent months has been part of the coordinating team with SIMI Movement (She.Is.My.Inspiration). This is a mentorship program for young women matched with industry’s influential women from various sectors. The interaction has brought several personal AHA! moments that I was in much need of. I also treasure time spent on implementing GirlsInICT and #eSkills4Girls programs. Far too many disappointments! They come in sometimes being unsure of this journey, constantly requiring personal validation and income statements that make you question WHY? Why do I continue to do this? I will testify of God’s goodness during these times because amidst many reasons to give up there is always assurance unexplainable.

What’s your advice for Motherland Moguls interested in starting a social enterprise? Where should they start?

  •  Be intentional! Identify your value-add and be deliberate about your personal and professional branding. It is all about character and discipline in the journey to ‘becoming’. Genuine work and effort have the ability to introduce you to your targeted audience.
 
  •  Be teachable in the Potter’s hands! God is the revealer of destiny and if you complement your journey with hard work and faith you will be well on your way.

What passions do you explore outside of your business?

I love poetry. Although I do not write as often as I used to, poetry has been a fulfilling passion of mine. I also aim to keep up with reading current opinion media pieces.
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Gogontlejang Phaladi: Where there is passion, there is an undying spirit of persistence

Gogontlejang Phaladi is a philanthropist and development practitioner from Botswana. She is the founder and executive director of a non-profit making NGO called the Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope Project (GPPHP). 

She founded the organization over 10 years ago in response to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children affected and infected with HIV in Botswana. She is currently a Board Member of the Global Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), and a member of the National Vision 2036 Council.

GPPHP is an NGO that is mandated in capacity building, civic education, human rights advocacy, promoting gender equality and doing humanitarian work.

Gogontlejang is also the team leader of a company called SWAHIBA (PTY) LTD which provides leading Technology and Innovation solutions for human and social development issues and broad internet services.

In this interview, Gogontlejang talks about her humanitarian work, running a non-profit organization, and how she manages her leadership roles.


 

Tell us what we don’t know about Gogontlejang in detail

Gogontlejang Phaladi is an African woman leader who is passionate about transforming lives and believes a world free of poverty, with equity and dignity, is possible with more youth driving the development agenda as agents of change.

You can say I’m a seasoned human and social development expert who has served as a member of the African Union High Level Advisory Group on Humanitarian Effectiveness in Africa, Botswana Presidential Task Team of Vision 2036, UNICEF Botswana Child Ambassador, a former Radio Presenter, member of the WHO external advisory group on the Accelerated Action for the Health of Adolescents (AA-HA) Framework and a Motivational Speaker.

I am also a trained SRHR, CSE and HIV and AIDS educator, Governance and Leadership trainee and campaign facilitator having worked on several campaigns aligned with UNFPA, UNAIDS, WHO and UNESCO.

I am currently pursuing my undergraduate studies and doing humanitarian work, motivational speaking as well as development work consultancy. During my spare time, I mentor girls and women through an initiative dubbed #SIMI (She Is My Inspiration) and I also enjoy farming.

We must continue encouraging a culture of giving back no matter how trivial the gesture may seem Click To Tweet

You became a leader from the age of five. As a young woman now, what three personal values have you appreciated that are transcendental to the Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope?

I think three things are essential for a leader regardless of at what level you are:

Discipline and integrity

These two values were central to my upbringing. My mom is a tough disciplinarian and continues to instill discipline in me and everyone around her. She is an innate leader and does not tolerate any form of indiscipline. So I have always known that wherever I want to get to in life, discipline is the vehicle to take me there

Doing my best to apply discipline in every aspect of my daily living has been very helpful in getting to where I am today. My dad believes in being a person of integrity so that part was instilled in me by him. He is a man of principle and consistency, often says little and shows more through his actions what he values most.

My parents have always taught me to do my best to stand by my principles no matter how compromising them may seem temporarily convenient.

Not leaning on your own understanding

It is important to appreciate that there is value in listening to others’ opinions. Even if you may not agree, they bring the much-needed objectivity to your point of view.

I value conversations with people who come from a different background from me. There is a lot of humility you learn through listening to others and allowing yourself to be guided by the wisdom of others. This also helped me a lot professionally, personally and socially.

Passion

If you don’t love what you do how will you get the motivation to keep doing it? Challenges are inevitable. Obstacles, setbacks and even sabotages are all things you will face in your workplace and as a leader.

If there is no passion you will quit, be consumed by your detractors’ negativity and give in to their predictions of your downfall. But where there is passion, there is an undying spirit of persistence, perseverance and a thirst to thrive and succeed.

 

What are the responsibilities of the GPPHP with being a member of these local and international organizations?

The GPPHP is a member of the UNFPA African Youth and Adolescent Network (AfriYAN) and of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn &  Child Health (PMNCH) Adolescents and Youth Constituency.

Membership is sought once an organization believes they align with the core mandates of the global/ regional bodies. The purpose of belonging to such entities is to encourage a culture of fostering partnerships with stakeholders who work together in order to harness and enhance capacity.

The networks also enable a space of learning from all the other members.

There is strength in numbers when advocating for certain issues, in concerted efforts, consistent messaging and capacity building. Currently, the GPPHP is a member of the two networks and is involved in various initiatives of both networks. it is also in the executive leadership positions.

I am the board chair of the Adolescents and Youth Constituency of the PMNCH while one of my colleagues is an executive committee member of the AfriYAN network in Africa.

Give us an insight into how your typical day looks like

It’s difficult to say what a typical day looks like for me. To be honest I would be worried if I saw a 23-year-old with a typical day. We are at a lucrative and fertile time to take risks, try out new things, apply ourselves fully and be active.

I think at this point in my life, it makes sense to have days that add value and growth in all aspects of my life.

During the month I’m doing plenty of NGO work, the mentorship programme I run for young women, traveling locally or internationally, visiting the farms, spending time with my parents and nieces, watching a lot of comedy/ sarcastic shows and audio books and a lot of alone time which I value highly. Oh yes, watching football whenever I get a free weekend.

About twice a month I am traveling, either outside the country on UN, AU or NGO missions, or locally visiting local communities and doing community outreach initiatives. Every quarter, I spend the time at the Bokaa farm vaccinating livestock and dogs.

Sometimes, twice or three times in a week I can be found inside an office like any other employee and of course the usual meeting drills. I spend several afternoons and weekends doing school work. I spend many nights up working. Most of the time, I work at night as it is quiet and the internet is also faster at that time.

Listening to others also opens up your mind to other possibilities beyond your level of reasoning Click To Tweet.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about establishing a non-profit organization, especially with a small society?

The misconception that the main motive is money. I have been doing this for almost 20 years and have never received a pay cheque with my name on it for doing humanitarian work.

This has never stopped me from doing the work I love. When I started my organization, I was using my parent’s resources. I have since continued to do work and have successfully undertaken several projects using my own resources and kind efforts of people who are also passionate about human rights advocacy and philanthropic work.

I believe there are more people who are active agents of change and catalysts of development in good faith than those ulterior motives. Nevertheless, we must continue encouraging a culture of giving back no matter how trivial the gesture may seem – our collective efforts are what eventually make the world a better place.


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Shathani Somolekae: My desire to make an impact as a lawyer has kept me going

After graduating from law school and becoming an attorney, Shathani Somolekae wished she would have had assistance during her journey. This then inspired her to help other law students in need of the guidance she never received.

Shathani founded a Facebook community titled ‘How to Survive Law School’ (HTSLaws) where she mentors other young Lawyers. With her been-there-done-that and tutorials, she shares her experiences as a law student and provides advice on different things that law students would experience. 

Although tailored to Botswana’s legal system, the principles and lessons are essential to any law student. Shathani’s story is that of a young woman with the desire to blaze the trail, do what has never been done and make an impact in society.


 

What inspired you to go into law?

Numerous events, people, and experiences have inspired my legal career. I was firstly inspired by my mother who studied law at the University of Botswana and went on to become a Magistrate.

I was fascinated by her tales of being a lawyer and the different cases she handled such as theft, assault, and abortions. When her colleagues came over for meals, they would also feed into my curiosity with their tales. From then, I knew I wanted to become a litigation lawyer and enjoy its unpredictable nature.

My hero’s also inspired me to pursue law. These included Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela who all had some kind of legal background. It was clear to me that if I wanted to one-day national impact, I would need to study law to do so.

How has your life changed since the genesis of HTSLawS?

The most surprising and positive thing about the project is that it has actually deepened my passion for law and energized me in a way I never thought possible. Encouraging others to try harder, strive for more, be bold and unapologetic, has also motivated me to do the same.

On the other hand, I am now busier than before. I now have to juggle work, HTSLawS, and other personal projects. This hasn’t been easy, but my desire to make an impact has kept me going.

 

What challenges have you faced that are unique to your social venture and target audience?

My biggest challenge is time. I don’t have as much time as wish I had to interact with law students as I also have work clients.

Secondly, I have also witnessed different attitudes in the law students that keep them from succeeding. For example, there are law students who believe that just because they will probably not pursue a law-related career after they graduate that they should not apply themselves.

My take is that first of all, you never know where life will take you. You could also merge your degree with other extra-curricular that will give you a competitive advantage. Even if you don’t practice law, you can provide assistance as many issues are often interconnected with the law.

Ultimately the most important reason one must apply themselves. Not only is it important to finish what you started, but this also evokes confidence in knowing you are committed to complete something despite your lack of passion.

What advice would you give a law graduate on next steps to take after graduation?

My advice is, wherever you find yourself – be it in academia, government or private practice, it is often difficult but a necessary process of learning. Life and what’s expected of you will change so drastically post-graduation.

However, if you accept that you are always a student, you will be more open to learning. That eagerness and desire to be relevant and competent in your field will be the springboard to your success.


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Mmakgosi Tau: Choose a cause that is closest to your heart

Mmakgosi Ophadile Anita Tau is a performing, recording and literary arts specialist who recently released her poetry single titled “Popcorns.” She recorded a Jazz ensemble album in Pretoria, South Africa with “It Has to be Jazz,” in 2016.

Mmakgosi is currently a scriptwriter for the ‘Colors’ Drama Series which is in production. Previously, she was the Head Scriptwriter for ‘Property 4U Television Show’.  Mmakgosi also co-founded  Sekei girls and MO Scripts which are both Arts activism organizations.

As a mental health awareness advocate, Mmakgosi fuses performing arts and film to sensitize people on mental health issues and social concerns. She also has an annual show, “Mmakgosi Live,” which raises awareness and funds for her initiatives.

Mmakgosi loves travelling, networking, experiencing different cultures and sharing her truth through film. Her passion has seen her perform across Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa. 


What led you to becoming a poet?

Destiny! My life is a composition of God’s gifts bundled up to serve humanity.

 

Poetry is a medium that has cultivated my oratory skills, boldness, creativity, confidence and mental agility. I perceive poetry as my springboard, a channel that has pieced together the fragments of my purpose in life.

My first poem was published at the age of ten and I have never put the pen down since. Art is the truth that enables me to live through words and create works that change lives.

In art, there is no oppression or grief. There is healing, power and although personal, art has a ripple effect of impacting other people’s lives. I survived and overcame bipolar and depression through writing. It is through writing that I have found my purpose in life.

Art has a ripple effect of impacting other people’s lives - Mmakgosi Tau Click To Tweet

Tell us about the social impact you’ve created through your work.

My art is a healing platform for every unspoken emotion that my fellow countrymen have been subjected to. It’s a collage of different art forms that enable artists to collaborate and generate income as a united front.

Being vocal about overcoming bipolar and depression has catapulted me to platforms that reach masses of people. People from all walks of life can relate to my experiences and draw inspiration to rise triumphantly in the midst of their trials.

This has allowed me to encourage and counsel those I speak to about mental health. It has also sparked conversations about patients, the mental health care system and policy refinement.

Have people been receptive to your art or work?

Yes, I find that the years I’ve spent writing, reciting and dreaming were all building my audience.

My storytelling comes in the form of various art mediums and which have pleased the souls they ministered to. My short films have received positive reviews, so has the “Words Unspoken,” album and my latest single “Popcorns.”

I cherish everyone who has granted me the opportunity to take them on a journey with my mind and words powered by the Holy Spirit.

What challenges have you faced in an industry that is not popular in regards to our context?

Firstly, as a professional poet, I found my art used to cost me more than it made me. Though people love poetry, not all of them consider the depth of its monetary, social and holistic intrinsic value.

As a tool for social advocacy, poetry is an art that attracts those waging wars on social ills. Despite not feeling the gender disparities in poetry, I realized that there were few women writers and directors in the film industry. I opted to study this course because I wanted to bridge the gap and influence more young women to pursue careers in filmmaking.

Thirdly, creating awareness for mental health issues is difficult when there are financial limitations. There are not many corporate social investment policies that fund mental health campaigns and tours.

What fears did you overcome to get into the business?

  • Taking risks, which I now do almost daily
  • Rigorous networking
  • Bearing my scars in their nakedness to the world
  • Not being able to spend time with my family

What were your biggest regrets and biggest achievements?

My biggest regret was not attending the five international invitations I received in 2017 to perform and facilities workshops. It moved me to realize that my work has captivated the hearts of art enthusiasts around the world.

Yet, I learned to accept the things I cannot change, and when I don’t have the strength to do that, it’s God I look to. I am a firm believer in my intentional God and know that my life is ordered by His authority.

My biggest achievement was my first ever live show held on 8th September 2017. For a long time, I organized shows for people, performed for various audiences yet never once held my own exclusive poetry show of this magnitude.

It is my greatest achievement because it signified my evolution from being a poet combating social ills. Botswana’s Minister of Health and Wellness, Honorable Dorcas Makgato, officially launched me as a mental health activist.

The show was a fusion of poetry, film, music, fine art and fashion. I collaborated with various artists of great repute. I also made powerful connections that relayed my intentions to the people I was born to serve.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to venture into creative arts as a business?

Recognize your value, gifts and potential before you expect the world to do that - Click To Tweet

Once you do, never sell yourself short for anything or anyone. Empower your mind, read and research about strategic tools that will position your brand purposively to your target audience.

Don’t ever think like an artist when you handle business deals. I struggled with that for a while, when I had merchandise it always wound up as someone’s gift. Creativity is impulse and spirit oriented. What you give freely with your art is not a trait you need in your business.

As a creative, choose a cause that is closest to your heart. Pour into it with your intellect, resources and as you grow, sow into it financially. Learn from other established creatives but also take the time to mentor those who are rising.

Finally, develop some self-discipline. Take care of yourself with the knowledge that you are the brand, however, do not splurge unnecessarily.


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