Adedoyin Omotara: I tapped into resources that the Government made available to immigrants

Adedoyin Omotara is a Beauty Entrepreneur, Women’s empowerment advocate, Speaker, Life Coach, Business Coach and the leader of the unmask your beauty movement.

Born in Manchester, UK to Nigerian parents, her passion to live a fuller and more expressive life made her leave her successful Corporate Engineering career to become an entrepreneur.

Seeking the spiritually creative fulfillment missing in her successful corporate career, she was determined to resolve the concern that beauty today, far from being that poetic ‘joy forever’ is, unfortunately, a source of insecurity, shame, and stress for countless women.

She promotes beauty, inside and out, to an audience of women at all stages of life. Adedoyin believes in investing in the dream of girls and in the strength of women.

In this article, she talks about how she’s fought against the odds of being an immigrant and built a beauty brand for herself in Canada.

 What would you say is the innovative idea behind Adoniaa Beauty?

 Adoniaa beauty started from having a deep hunger within me to fully engage with who I was, my hunger for living a fuller and more expressive life. I was doing great in my career but felt dis-engaged with myself and the world as a whole.

I felt I was born for more so I decided to start a company for women doing what I love and fulfilling my purpose while doing it.

It was founded on four fundamental pillars: To uplift, validate, equip and inspire women to be their best selves at every stage of their life. We do this by using makeup and skincare products and services as a platform to connect with women.

People constantly ask me how @adoniaaworld intend to compete with Sephora, Loreal, Mac and the likes, my response is that those are not my competition. - Adedoyin Omotara Click To Tweet

How have you been able to maintain your brand consistency?

We have only one vision- To connect women to their individual and unique beauty through our brand. So everything we do aligns with the vision.

It’s easy to be consistent when you have a vision. It is the same vision I sell to my staff and the Adoniaabeauty tribe.

How have you grown your client base?

I have grown a tribe of women as my client base by focusing on why I started my company, which is our vision to connect women to their individual and unique beauty.

We have different vehicles to get to our vision, and we naturally attract women that want more out of life, women that want to re-write their stories and women that do not want to fit into society’s contrived image of beauty but create and define their own.

What challenges have you faced that are unique to your business idea?

Starting a business in the beauty industry is very challenging. The beauty industry is run by billionaires that own big companies.

People constantly ask me how I intend to compete with Sephora, Loreal, Mac and the likes, my response is that those are not my competition.

Makeup and Skincare are the physical products that we sell and that’s what people see, however, for me, makeup and skincare is only a vehicle or a platform to reach the Adoniaa women that want to unmask their beauty.

Since I developed the vision for my company @adoniaaworld, I started creating and got really innovative - Adedoyin Omotara Click To Tweet

Where there challenges owning a business in a foreign country?

Starting a new business as an immigrant in Canada has definitely not been the easiest of things. It’s easier to get a job and work 9-5. But this is not just a business for me, it’s my vehicle to fulfilling my purpose and changing the world.

I have embraced all the challenges and focused on my vision.

At times, I tell myself that if I were in my home country, I wouldn’t need to work this hard to be profitable. What I have done though is to change my mindset and focus on the vision.

I have also tapped into so many resources that the Government has made available to immigrants.

Do you believe in Feminism?

My take on Feminism is simple… It is the Adoniaa dream -The Adoniaa dream is a dream that is deeply rooted in every woman’s heart.

  • I have a dream that girls and women will have the resources and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.
  • I have a dream that girls and women will live free from violence ·
  • I have a dream that girls and women all over the world will have access to good education·
  • I have a dream that there would be equality in the workforce.
  • I have a dream that child brides will no longer be a thing.
  • I have a dream that female genital mutilation will become history.
  • I have a dream that girls and women will stand in their power and be empowered to defend themselves.
  • I have a dream that gender-based violence will stop be it domestic abuse, rape, or sexual trafficking.
  •  I have a dream that women will embrace their fears and be courageous enough to shine as their most beautiful self.
  • I have a dream that girls and women will no longer need to fit into society’s image of beauty but create and define our own beauty.
  • I have a dream I believe that we can only achieve this dream by taking action!
This is not just a business for me, it's my vehicle to fulfilling my purpose and changing the world - Adedoyin Omotara Click To Tweet

Adoniaa Beauty recently launched a campaign towards the above causes. Our 24hr Lipsticks of hope are our flagship product and we have partnered with non-profit organizations that address these issues.

$1 from every Adoniaa 24hr lipstick sale will go to our Non-Profit organization partners that actively work to end these problems.

When you buy the Adoniaa lipstick, know that you are empowering a woman. When you empower a woman, you have empowered a whole generation.

What skills have you found yourself using/learning frequently since starting Adoniaa Beauty?

People Management Skill and team-work. I read a lot of business books and self-development books as well – I believe that as I am growing, the company is growing as well.

How do you intend to balance work life and the home front?

I am fully aware that Entrepreneurship is very demanding and if I don’t structure my business, my kids and family will suffer. I ensure that I take care of myself first so I don’t on empty.

Self-care for me is the most important part of balancing work and life so I can be available and present for the people God has sent me to serve.

I put a lot of structure around my business and I am still doing that so that I can have time for the things that are important to me.



What’s your 5-year plan?

My 5-year plan is for Adoniaa beauty to expand by franchising. I want Adoniaa to be in every city all over the world.

For the next 5 years, our focus is to establish our roots in Canada and then expand to USA, Nigeria & other African Countries by collaborating with other like-minded women to spread the dream.

We will consider other countries once we have achieved our initial goal.

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The United Nations is using it’s Women’s Global HeforShe initiative to drive gender equality

Gender equality is a fundamental human right but remains a distant dream for many women worldwide.  The United Nations’ HeforShe is a solidarity campaign for the advancement of gender equality.  Its goal is to achieve equality by encouraging both genders to partake as agents of change and take action against negative stereotypes and behaviors, faced by people with feminine personalities/genders.

Grounded in the idea that gender inequality is an issue that affects all people—socially, economically and politically. It seeks to actively involve men and boys in a movement that was originally conceived as “a struggle for women by women”.

The HeForShe movement is gathering momentum globally as a cohort of select leaders from both the public and private sectors join the drive and stand out as visionaries on gender equality.

On behalf of Standard Bank Group, Chief Executive Sim Tshabalala, has become one of the global “Thematic Champions” in the HeForShe movement. These leaders have committed to implementing game-changing policies and concrete actions towards gender parity.

“Achieving gender equity is a moral duty, a business imperative, and just plain common sense. Women embody half the world’s talent, skill and energy – and more than half of its purchasing power.

So every sensible business leader must be committed to achieving gender equity in their company and to contributing to gender equity in the societies in which we operate,” says Tshabalala.

Sim Tshabalala
@StandardBankZA will improve the representation of women in executive positions from the current 35% to 40% by 2021. #HeforShe Click To Tweet

In the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap report, it is estimated that it will take more than 217 years to achieve workplace equality after gender parity took a step backward in the past year.

Concrete commitments made by Standard Bank Group in order to bring about tangible change include:

  • Reaching parity in executive positions and to improve the representation of women in executive positions from its current 32% to 40% by 2023.
  • Lift the representation of women on the Board from 22% to 33% by 2021.

Standard Bank is also committed to increasing the representation of women Chief Executives in its Africa Regions network from 10% to 20% by 2021, while Standard Bank South Africa will improve the representation of women in executive positions from the current 35% to 40% by 2021.

While progress has been made in certain countries in Africa to close gender gaps, others remain behind the curve. Namibia and South Africa both score in the Top 20 in the WEF global report on gender equality – after closing 78% to 76% of their gender gaps – but Sub-Saharan Africa still displays a wider range of gender gap outcomes than practically any other region.

Launched by Emma Watson and the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2014, HeForShe represented the first global effort to actively include men and boys as change agents for gender equality at a time when most gender programs were only targeting women.

The U.N. recently reported that nearly 20 percent of women surveyed said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the previous year. #HeforShe Click To Tweet

It was the beginning of a trend that only seems more relevant as stories emerge of sexual abuse and harassment suffered by women in the workplace.

The Sustainable Development Goals call for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, but campaigns such as the most recent International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women highlight that there is much work to be done.

The U.N. recently reported that nearly 20 percent of women surveyed said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the previous year.

Originally conceived as a one-year media campaign to raise awareness about the role of men and boys in gender equality, the HeForShe website garnered more than 100,000 male supporters in its first three days.

These males affirmed their commitment to the cause by declaring themselves “HeForShe” and saying that gender equality is not just a women’s issue. Early adopters included a clutch of celebrities and politicians, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and actor Matt Damon.

Since then, 1.6 million men have signed up online, including at least one man in every country of the world, and its “Impact Champions” include the presidents of Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, and Indonesia, among several other heads of state. 

The issue has also been the subject of 2 billion conversations on social media.

But HeForShe is not without its critics. Many in the gender equality community say they would like to see the movement make more concrete demands of its male champions, and have called for civil society to play a greater role in developing and monitoring the movement.

“Now is a good moment for reflection and discussion about HeForShe, which has achieved high visibility, clear successes, and also drawbacks,” said Gary Barker, co-founder of Promundo, an NGO working to engage men and boys for gender equality, which has advised the HeForShe campaign since its launch three years ago.

“Having that amount of reach and star power on board means there’s huge potential, but we need to harness it before the movement loses momentum … [and] we need to push UN Women to go further and ask more of men,” he added.

Johannesburg : 9th October 2018.

 Sponsored Post.

Kim Windvogel: I love posting pictures of my body that is not the standardized idea of beauty

Kim Windvogel is an online writer who writes under the name Blazing Non-Binary. Being Non-Binary means that you are fluid in your gender.

Kim believes that they can be masculine, feminine and all the other energies present on the gender spectrum.

Their writing focuses on breaking the taboos of sex, of being fat, of loving yourself, of questioning identity and the experience called life.

As a Non-Binary, they do a lot of panel discussion on representation and access. Kim who graduated with a degree in classical singing from the University of Cape Town is also the co-founder of a non- profit company called FemmeProjects NPC.

In this article, the controversially inspirational, versatile creative, Kim Windvogel shares their story to becoming a gender activist and advocate for body positivism, among other things.

Tell us about yourself

I grew up in a home that supported me in my journey to form my own opinions about life and I think that is why I am as opinionated as I am.

I went to predominantly white schools and this shaped a lot of my understanding when it comes to my experience of race relations in a post-apartheid country such as South Africa.


What you do

I co-founded a Non-Profit Company called FemmeProjects NPC. We go into schools and facilitate feminist sexual and menstrual health workshops to teenagers going through puberty.

We help them understand what is going on with their bodies and allow them to ask the burning questions they are afraid to ask their parents for fear of judgment.

Currently, I am working in collaboration with Women’s Net South Africa, Coloured Mentality and Soul City to create an online campaign around the 16 Days of activism.

We are creating a #16waysfor16days campaign, calling on online users to showcase what they are doing to change the way they and the world treat gender marginalized people, calling on people to discuss this in their online and offline circles.

As there is a big digital divide we have provided workshops to explain how social media works with various organizations in the weeks leading up to 16 days of activism. 

I have a lot of feelings about the world and I knew that I needed to share that with people Click To Tweet

What inspired you to become a polygonal creative and what challenges have you faced in the creative industry? 

I had a lot to say and a lot of feelings about the world which needs to be shared with people. Specifically people in my country and my continent.

I love posting pictures of my body that is not the standardized idea of beauty. Another passion of mine is writing about masturbation, self-love and being colored.

Creating workshops for young women is my passion, the type of workshops I hoped to have had access to as a kid.

If you are creative,  you should have a responsibility to create and then to share that with the world so that others can go through the same stream of consciousness you went through.

I have been fat-shamed, body-shamed, and shamed for having bodily hair - @Blazingnonbinry Click To Tweet

I have faced challenges like being fat-shamed, body-shamed, shamed for having bodily hair. Other and more dominant challenges include being silenced in spaces I thought were safe enough to talk about the issues that gender non-binary people experience daily.

Representation for genderfluid people is lacking and therefore, I decided to take my power and to write my own story. That is the power of social media. We should all seize that power.

Tell us more about FEMME and all about the work the organization is involved in

Femme is a rough acronym that stands for Freedom of Education Motivates Empowerment. We create workshops for young people about puberty, mentorship, and their potential career paths.

We hand out menstrual cup which is a sustainable sanitary product that is made out of medical grade silicone and lasts for 5 years. This means that learners do not have to miss school due to lack of resources.

We train other facilitators to go out into their own communities and to do the same empowerment we do with them. Femme is my baby and I co-direct it with two wonderful partners, Loren Loubster and Kelly Koopman of coloured mentality

What do you enjoy most about the path that you have chosen?

I get to live the type of life I always wanted to lead, speak my mind and manage my own time (which is a very difficult thing if you are not disciplined!).

I get to meet the most amazing people who are on the same journey to try and change the world in their own way. 


What are you most proud of in all that you’ve achieved so far?

I am proud of my self-published anthology: Resist: The Paradox of Love and Other Societal Disorders. I wrote and curated it, but had someone who assisted with the layout and an amazing illustrator who did the cover illustration.

The work that is included in this collection was written over a period of three years. Some of the pieces are old and some I wrote two days before going to print.

I organized my own launch and was surrounded by people who enjoy poetry and who listened intently as I shared my story. I am proud that an introvert like me (someone who writes predominantly online) brought people together and shared their work in person.

It took so much out of me and I didn’t know that I had the courage, but just when you think you cannot do something out of fear, it is that same fear that drives you towards success.

I am also proud that in 3 years of running Femme we have facilitated 4000 learners, registered our own Non-Profit, opened a business bank account, and that we are all people of color blazing the trail for those who come after us.


What future plans do you have for your career as a creative and for the work you do at FEMME?

I want to write a novel. I have many ideas as to what my topic will be, and this might happen sooner than later.

As for Femme, we want to create sustainable sanitary products through innovative technology. Watch this space.

How do you unwind?

I write about my day and find the poem between the lines and spend time alone to think how I can better on what I did yesterday. 

Also, I speak to friends and ask for advice. Advice does not mean you are going to take it, advice means you want to know all possible avenues before you make your decision. 

I surround myself with people who inspire me and spend a lot of time online, reading Everyday Feminism or any online platform that speaks on gender politics, whether that is internationally or locally. Recently, I stopped drinking and I must say it feels amazing.

Give us your top five tips for aspiring creatives.

  • You do not have to be perfect to be a creative.
  • In the same breath, engage with your own content and those of others critically.
  • Practice your craft and do not be ashamed of it.
  • Spend time alone.
  • Have just enough fun to still always be prepared when an opportunity comes along.

South Africa’s Digital Womxnist – Owethu Makhathini

Owethu is beyond a force to be reckoned with. This incredible Google Certified genius is taking over the digital sphere by holding workshops and talks across the country through her consultancy, Makhathini Media – which provides innovative ways to show young women how they can advance their careers using digital marketing.

Owethu created her platform to upskill young business-minded women and show others how you can liberate women through social media. Let’s take a look at Owethu’s journey on how she is making a difference in empowering women while making her mark in the digital industry.

Tell us more about Makhathini Media?

Makhathini Media is a creative consultancy that specializes in offering tailored digital marketing and ICT training. We tailor the content depending on the needs of the client, not just for young people but for large corporates and government parastatals. We have a long way to go in terms of digital literacy. I want to ultimately be in a position to fund creative projects, upskill people in digital skills, facilitate networking events and help big brands and businesses create compelling, perception-shifting work.

What projects do you have up your sleeve?

I have 2 very special projects coming up and I couldn’t be more excited! One ties into the focus of the business which is the training aspect while the other ties into the secondary goal of the business which is creating a community underpinned by the restorative power of sisterhood.

We hope to create networks of women who inspire, uplift and collaborate with each other. 2018 is going to an exciting year for Makhathini Media!

The media industry has predominantly been male-dominated. How do you navigate this reality as a woman and leader in the digital industry?

If we are being honest, most industries are male-dominated. Patriarchy is maintained and is a tool of capitalism, that much is inescapable. I am fortunate that in the digital marketing space, one has the power to create a platform that can exist to challenge mainstream ideas.

Business is ruthless and as a young, black woman there are additional challenges we face to get into the room and be taken seriously, never mind having a seat at the table. As a businesswoman, you have to be able to stand in your truth and create an ecosystem of women that look like you to collaborate and make money with. There definitely is strength in numbers.

Young women are the most receptive to skills training- @owethumack Click To Tweet

How has the process and reception of educating the youth on the digital sphere been? 

Young women are the most receptive to skills training. They are often the ones that already have small-scale businesses running from home who just need a boost of knowledge. I have had mostly young women come up to me after my sessions to share their stories or to thank me for showing them that someone as young as them has found a niche and is making a business around it.

The project I am initiating in 2018 will attend to the needs of the young women who have attended one of my sessions. There is a need that must be met and I feel that I am the perfect position to facilitate it. It is very humbling, inspiring and truthfully, it is what keeps me going when I feel overwhelmed.

Can digital marketing play a role in liberating women, especially in South Africa?

Firstly, the internet is a borderless place, we are able to share ideas across the world in a matter of moments. This means that even if you feel isolated in your geographical area, you can find a community of like-minded individuals by simply searching for those people online.

Secondly, the information shared online can make people aware of the organizations that exist to help women out of situations where they feel helpless.

Thirdly, digital marketing is a business opportunity. If a woman is being financially abused, she is able to run a small business through WhatsApp or social media, therefore getting practical help.

The internet is a borderless place & digital marketing is a business opportunity Click To Tweet

As a mentor to other women, who do you go to for inspiration and why?

My great-grandmother, grandmothers, and my mother. Outside of my family, I look up to the Knowles sisters, Oprah Winfrey, Nunu Ntshingila, Zodwa Khumalo, Khanyi Dhlomo and Bonang Matheba.

I grew up in a matriarchal family with women who were equally strong and soft. They provided a firm foundation that I have built my version of womanhood on. The women in my family are not too different from women around the world. We are resilient because we must be. We are people who can get things done without disregarding our empathy.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your line of work?

I would say take yourself on as a project. Critically assess where you fall short, unpack the ways you dishonor yourself and show yourself grace. As women, we are socialized to constantly give and made to feel selfish when we finally erect boundaries.

Make sure you have boundaries and a standard for your life, don’t ever compromise yourself for the comfort of another because you aren’t giving from a place of love but from a place of obligation which leads down a path of resentment.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Nana Ama Agyemang Asante: Women journalists endure misogyny, sexism and general disrespect in their line of duty

I've been called ugly, angry and disrespectful because I shared my view on a national conversation Click To Tweet

It’s a busy Monday morning. You are stuck in the horrid traffic on your work commute to the country’s capital, Accra, silently cursing yourself for not having left home earlier.

You refuse to let the sun’s heat, drivers’ honkings, and conductor’s arrogance get to you. You know you need your daily dose of whatever seems to be happening in the nation so you tune into the one station where it all makes sense; Citi FM.

As usual, there’s a lively discussion. There are three male voices and the one female voice. Her voice quite strident but just right. Her tone is firm and her take on the issue is different and outrightly expressed, occasionally warranting an interjection from the host. Yet she stands her ground. Unwavering. She’s the lone wolf. Unpopular yet resolute.

Fellow SLAyers, let me introduce you to Nana Ama Agyemang Asante, Deputy Online Editor at Citi FM, one of Ghana’s top radio stations. With a solid background in human right activism and broadcast journalism, Nana Ama continuously remains a strong female voice, relentlessly advocating for the cause of women, children and the underprivileged. She shared her life story and musings with SLA contributor Emma Kwenu Smith.

Growing up, have you always wanted to be a journalist and why?

Not really. My aim was to become a writer and a lawyer. A lawyer because my father decided that law was where my love for reading would be useful. I didn’t really care for law, but again, my dad said writers always ended up broke so combining law and writing was the compromise.

I stumbled into journalism when I started listening to Matilda Asante, who was an anchor at Joy FM. I wanted to be able to query officials without fear or favour like she did.

People argue that female journalists endure more compared to their male counterparts. There are issues of misogyny, sexism and being constantly intimidated.  Have you had any such experiences and how do you manage this?

There is no debating this. There are men constantly hitting on you because you need an interview or information, colleagues who think they are smarter because they are men and officials who will give information to only male journalists because they are considered more serious.

To be an outspoken woman journalist for me worsens it all because our Ghanaian culture requires women to be deferential at all times, to be seen but not heard. And so being on radio dispensing opinion, sometimes very harsh commentary on the powerful and privileged annoys many.

The abuse is intense on social media where people can troll you for days. It’s hard to understand because I believe I must have a seat at the table, to provide a woman’s perspective on issues. I try not to let it get to me, especially the personal attacks that focus on my looks. I own a mirror, I know I’m fabulous.

For some days, the intensity is unbearable especially when I think that my male colleagues do not get attacked for their looks. Sometimes I respond, other times I ignore people. I’ve noticed, nothing offends many internet trolls more than being ignored. So I am mastering indifference.

You have developed a strong character on the Citi Breakfast Show as a staunch feminist. Have you always been this way, and what was the pivotal point for you?

I’m not sure there has been a pivotal point, I have always been opinionated -a rebel of sorts. I suppose this is because my dad insisted on hearing our opinions on issues even if he disagreed.  I haven’t always identified as feminist, though I believe I was one even when I didn’t know the language and the label.

When I came across the label in Women and Development class in University, it wasn’t cool to call oneself a feminist. It was what boys called you for being stubborn, and I did care about likability so I didn’t call myself feminist for a long time. But through it all, I had my opinions and I’ll challenge sexist notions of women.

I think my dad is the reason I became a feminist. He had eight daughters, it was important for him to raise us to be independent women. So he went through, sometimes extreme measures to make sure we studied, taught us the needed skills to make it with or without partners. I suspect the reason I come across on the Citi Breakfast Show as a staunch feminist (which I am) is that radio amplifies what I say.

Your blog continuously explores the flaws in how the Ghanaian society (and by extension, Africa) poorly handles issues relating to women. How do you envisage an egalitarian society with regards to gender and sex?

Well, again, I’m not sure an egalitarian society is possible, at least not in my lifetime but if we could make it happen, that would be a place where women are seen as equal human beings and have access to the opportunities and privileges available to men.

Which means, our bodies and sexual choices would not be policed. In that society, men wouldn’t have to embody the toxic masculinity that harms them and us.

If you could, what are some of the current journalism practices in Ghana that you would like to change?

Journalists are overworked and underpaid, if I could, I would advocate for better working conditions and scrap the practice of paying “soli”.

I really think “soli”, which is this practice where newsmakers and event organizers pay journalists who attend their events or interview them, is not good for the industry.

Stories get skewed/buried if someone’s meals depends on the benevolence of news-makers. Click To Tweet

What can women journalists do differently to enhance the cause of women empowerment in Africa?

Women’s voices are often missing from news stories, even former dominant voices are being erased.

I believe it is up to all journalists, especially women journalists to take note and make sure, we include women voices in the stories we tell. And we must always provide the feminine perspective when we can to create balance and also to ensure inclusion.

Stories of women and girls that are often neglected must be emphasized. Click To Tweet

Who/what inspires you?

Too many people and too many things. All the rebellious Ghanaian women like Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo who courageously told many truths about us are always a source of inspiration.

Who are your favorite African bloggers?

I have so many favorites. Minna Salami of Msafropolitan because of her coverage of feminism. Nana Darkoa Sekyiama and all the women who blog on are a delight.

I do love the work Cosmic Yoruba does on her blog and websites. To understand economics, I go to Jerome Kuseh. And even though she doesn’t blog often, is my go-to site for everything on books.

Watch Nana Ama in the March against Misogyny

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Rebecca Rwakabukoza: Stay humble, Stay hungry!

It actually gives hope to have media see women as more than the boxes they have ticked us on Click To Tweet

Rebecca Rwakabukoza is a Ugandan feminist blogger and freelance journalist who writes at the intersection of gender, feminism, health, and social justice. She is currently co-organising dialogue initiatives to improve gender equity in the Ugandan media sphere. As a 2014-2015 Global Health Corps fellow at ACODEV in Uganda, she led efforts to improve knowledge management and communications for the organization.

Rebecca completed her undergraduate studies at Amherst College where she was a United States Student Achiever’s Program Scholar and Koenig Scholar. She spent her summers during college with the Uganda Village Project in Iganga, Uganda Rural Fund in Masaka, and interning at the national daily newspaper, Daily Monitor.

As someone who majored English in college, are you surprised to find yourself working in the global health space? What drew you to the field?

I was lucky that I studied in a liberal arts curriculum so while I majored in English, I took classes across several fields. I was not surprised to find myself in the global health space because while public health was not offered as a major at Amherst College, I was able to take plenty of classes in the field, both at Amherst and at the other colleges in the 5-college area. Also, I interned in the field.

Global health was one of the fields that I knew I would always end up in because it just felt natural. My mother is a nurse, and I grew up knowing that conversations about health were especially important outside the doctor’s room.

You’ve spoken widely on global health and social justice, including at TEDx Live in Kampala. For so many of us, public speaking can be overwhelming.

Why is it important that we raise our voices for what we believe in? Any advice on how to stay calm on stage?

For me too! It was very scary to stand on the stage. I had practiced several times with friends, and the TEDx organizers in Kampala. Some friends in GHC had also filmed me while I practiced and I got to watch myself before. I went over my script several times and was afraid it would sound practiced, so definitely getting to watch myself before braving the stage was good.

This might sound cliche but I think ultimately what helped was choosing a topic I was most passionate about. Speaking from the heart should be scary, but it does have a way of calming you when on a stage. Because you know, if anything, at least I was true to myself.

Rebecca Rwakabukoza 1

What is your major source of inspiration in the face of challenges and obstacles?

I draw inspiration from so many places, depending on the gravity of the challenge. If it feels like Rwenzori Mountain level stuff, then I have to call in the big guns: my mother and grans. They field many calls and sometimes we don’t even talk about what the issue is, but just speaking to them about something random helps.

I am really big on history so I suspect some of my attachment to them is the stories they tell. Plus they are pretty incredible women. I also get a lot of inspiration from archives so I listen to a lot of history podcasts and visit the Uganda Society library to read old books. Digging through history is my happy place. But also, food. I am a stress eater.

Can you tell us about a mentor or advisor who really made a positive impact on your life?

There are so many! There has always been someone holding my hand through life, from primary school to now, seeing a better, more hardworking, more focused, smarter, more empowered version of me and helping me work towards her.

If I had to pick just one, I would say my college advisor, Professor Rhonda Cobham-Sander. I don’t know how she believed in me or why, but she did and it made all the difference.

Rebecca Rwakabukoza says better media coverage is good for women’s health Click To Tweet

You’re currently working on improving gender equity and representation of women in the media in Uganda -so cool! What’s the tie in with health?

Health ties into everything. Some of the biggest issues women face right now are health-related: access to family planning, gender-based violence, maternal health. The most direct answer, therefore, is better coverage is good for women’s health. But the project I am co-organising however, is more than health and the specific women-related issues. It actually gives hope to have media see women as more than the boxes they have ticked us on -boxes that either have to do with our reproductive health or that see us as caregivers in society.

Media that allows for the presence, and wisdom, of women in their coverage and sourcing is good media. It is what media should be period. Anything else is a disservice to the community.

Rebecca Rwakabukoza 3

And you recently became a mother -congrats! As a woman who is identified as a feminist, what are your hopes and dreams for your daughter’s future?

Thank you! My wish for her is that she gets to choose. To choose how she wants to live her life, to choose who she would like to be, and how she would like to contribute to the universe. And if she doesn’t want to contribute, that’s fine too.

Now, the hardest part I suspect is going to be my role in this. I hope I am able to teach her enough and may she -goddesses willing- be an even better, stronger, more badass feminist than I will ever be.

Which accomplishment -personal or professional- are you most proud of?

I am yet to do something and look at it and think of it as my biggest, or best, achievement. I am still working on things and it all only goes higher. My next one is my biggest.

What is one leadership mantra that you live by?

“Stay humble. Stay hungry.”

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Nigeria’s President falls our hand

In one fell swoop, President Buhari lived up to every single stereotype that exists about Nigerian men Click To Tweet

Earlier today, the BBC released an interview with Nigeria’s First Lady Aisha Buhari. In the interview, Aisha Buhari “warned President Buhari that she may not back him at the next election unless he shakes up his government. She was concerned that his government had been hijacked by only a “few people”, who were behind presidential appointments.”

Whilst many may debate the merits or demerits of a President’s wife so publicly denouncing her husband’s presidency, what is simply not up for debate is the appropriateness of President Buhari’s response.


For those of you who didn’t hear what he said lemme write it out for you in black and white. I’ll even centre it so it’s real clear.

“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen, my living room and the other room.”


And in one fell swoop, President Buhari lived up to every single stereotype that exists about northern, Muslim, Nigerian men and African men more broadly. Owa Oga.. you for try small nahh … More generally, please stop making us look crazy to the white people.

The President of Africa’s second largest economy, Africa’s most populous country and, arguably, one of Africa’s most powerful countries just said on live TV that women are here to cook, lounge and have sex.

I’ll let you digest that for one moment because no people … THIS IS NOT A DRILL. He really said it and we never esperrerit.


What makes his remarks even more shocking is that he said them whilst with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and arguably one of the most powerful women (in fact people) in the world …. only 3 days after the International Day of the Girl Child which is meant to encourage families to educate their female children and allow them to live their best lives.

Baba… you didn’t try for us at all.


The look on Angie’s face tho … she really never esperrerit


President Buhari hasn’t really been the women’s president. Under his administration the % of women in ministerial positions has gone from 31% to 16%. In fact, when we look at President Buhari’s inner circle, it seems to be seriously lacking in the estrogen department.

Nigeria's President Buhari hasn’t really been the women’s president Click To Tweet

Given this context, the excuse that his comments were simply a “joke” is a little difficult for us to swallow…. That and the fact that he’s the President of a country, not a comedian.

Obviously GIFAt She Leads Africa, one of the challenges we see a lot of female professionals and entrepreneurs facing is a lack of self-confidence. Many women simply do not have the confidence to believe that they can be leaders.

And yet, how will they feel confident when their President, their leader and their Commander-in-Chief, implies that their place is in the kitchen, living room and the bedroom?

At one of our SheHive workshops in Abuja, we had a young woman give a teary testimonial about how her family discouraged her entrepreneurial dreams. They made her feel like she had no place outside of the home and she struggled to balance her hunger to build a thriving business with the weight of tradition and familial pressures. I’m proud and happy to say that she left our training programs energized and ready to forge ahead with her plans to open a spa. A spa which, mind you, will create jobs in an economy struggling under the burden of high unemployment.

Nigerian women struggle between wanting to build businesses and the weight of tradition Click To Tweet

On days like this I feel happy.

And then there are days like today where I realise how far we have to go.

President Buhari’s remarks are a stark reminder that for us, the women of Africa, our battle to prove our competency, our relevance and our ability to meaningfully contribute to the development of this continent is only just beginning.

In any case President Buhari –I can guarantee you that we are very much up to the challenge.


SLA Team - Nigeria's President falls our hand

PS. We want to give a special shout out to all our male #SwagAssists who’ve come to our defence. Your tweets and social media support were the business. #SwagAssist

Third wave feminism from a millennial’s perspective


I recently published an article in the Huffington Post about African feminists and received mixed reviews. While everyone agreed it was a good piece, many gave me the “so you are a feminist talk?”

I responded in the affirmative and smiled when a friend remarked feminists were the opposite of alpha-males.

In an attempt to end these conversations, I usually conclude with these words “Yes I am a feminist and I will get married.” Alas, this proclamation often leads to further discussions bordering on feminism and marriage.

I insert a smiley face and reply “I fell in love with a good man”, before further explaining that marriage is a personal decision. I cite examples of married African feminists including author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who is married to Ivana Esege, professor Amina Mama married to Nuruddin Farah and Bisi Fayemi married to Kayode Fayemi and the list goes on.

Analyzing comments I received from my article, I came to the conclusion that there are many assumptions about what feminism is.

Let me give a little education.

Feminism speaks about equal opportunities for men and women in all spheres of life.  It is not a gathering of men-hating and ambition-loving, unmarried women.

Being a feminist doesn’t in any way mean I woke up one fine morning with ‘feminist’ imprinted on my forehead. It’s simply a result of having strong opinions on issues and tending to gravitate towards strong women characters in books, movies and real life. I truly didn’t know the word was feminism not until much later.

Even as a person not inclined to appreciating labels, yet I do not mind being part of the third wave of a movement that seeks the well-being of humanity by promoting the cause of women.

Third wave feminism and social media

Feminism did not start with social media. It has always been and is now in its third wave. First wave feminism focused on the de-domestication of women. The second wave focused on the gender pay gap and the oppressive systems of acceptable standards of beauty. While with third wave feminism, millennials find themselves riding and focusing on the same issues as the second wave.

This wave of feminism is strongly characterized by the use of communication especially social media to raise awareness on women issues. Remember #HeForShe?

Being a third wave feminist, it is hilarious to see certain issues promoted by “topic inspired feminists” under the banner of feminism on social media. Honestly, not everything is a feminist topic.

The Noble Igwe #WifeNotCook debacle was hilarious. When I was asked to comment on it, I was of the opinion that who gets to cook depends on what angle parties concerned view their relationship. It really is not a topic that calls for liberation from male domination.

What are real third wave feminists discussing on social media?

While I understand the goodwill attached to the promotion of certain matters under feminism, it is important we recognize what issues are being discussed in third wave feminism.

For those who have feminist mothers, as third wave feminists, we are very much our mothers’ feminism. We still seek change and equality as found in the second wave.

However, despite our similarities, our difference is borne out of our use of media, especially social media to start conversations online and offline. These conversations include discussions on equal opportunities including politically, socially and economically. We raise awareness and educate  the public on sexism, calling for the inclusion of women in political spaces and sharing female success stories.

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Our discussions take this nature because many still see women as properties and ultimate block-heads. I once had a lecturer who openly admitted women where a burden fit for mostly house work and children.

I have also come across a lot of educated men in the corporate sector; educated being they have more than a college degree, who dare their spouses to contradict them in any form. Marriage is not a partnership to them, it’s a place to flex their alpha-male egos.

Marriage and the millennial

I am of the opinion that marriage should be a partnership built on respect, love, and support for one another and I encourage people to see it at such. Healthy marriages lead to healthy homes filled with love and laughter. One would think with all the benefits of a partnership based marriage, educated men would embrace it.

While social media is being used as a platform for discussions about women issues, conventional media is still stereotypical about women. Watching the Olympics, I noticed the commentary about women winners have been sexist, undercutting female achievements and turning the lens on their husbands.

Yes, by all means, acknowledge the men but do not turn away the spotlight from the winners. I observed there was no commentary about the wives of male winners.

While I respect freedom of perspective, the above category of people make me wonder. What kind of world would we live in if egoistic individuals had the power to map out destinies?

The Olympics coverage, people I have met online and offline and other daily encounters are the reason why feminism is still relevant. Narratives about women need to change. The stories about women achievers should be told in its entirety as a success story without gender bias.

As a millennial African feminist, I agree with Chimamanda Adichie that we should all be feminists and be proud of this label. There is totally nothing wrong in being part of something directed towards a greater good.

I conclude this write up with a quote from Australian feminist scholar Dale Spencer’s book – Man Made Language;

“Feminism has fought no wars.  It has killed no opponents.  It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties.

Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions… for safety on the streets… for child care, for social welfare… for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law.

If someone says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,”  I ask, “Why, what’s your problem?”.

Why we need to start empowering girls

zimbabwe girls empowering

A number of African cultures traditionally sideline girls leaving few opportunities for us to talk about the prevention of abuse. While some African governments have introduced laws aimed at protecting girls, protection alone is insufficient. We need the platform to show who we are and what we can do without being viewed as “just girls”.

Over the years, more women locally and internationally have responded positively to the upliftment of girls by taking on higher positions of authority in society and government, and pushing for change. Successful women respond to criticism by proving that life is not about being at home and raising the kids, but there is so much more we can do out there to change the political and economic situations all over. This stresses the need for us, as sisters to stand up and act.  Surely in a world where girls outnumber boys by 52 to 48 percent, the scales of authority should tip in our favour? We can’t have patriarchy controlling us from all corners.

The situation in Zimbabwe

Where I’m from, we are slowly reaching a far yet near destination in total emancipating girls. I say its far because of the mountains and obstacles to be moved and grappled with along the way. The situation of girls in Zimbabwe is a sorry state of oppression disguised as norms heavily imposed on girls. To adjust and adapt to the hostile environment and curve their own space in the world, girls use methods that often diminish their being.

Take for instance, the Blesser-Blessee “situationships”, where girls offer men sexual favours in return for their needs being met. It is exploitation, yet it happens because girls don’t see a way out. Then, some of us are criticized for our choices to remain single or childfree, even when it’s our choice to create our own path and not fall into traps created by society. Zimbabwean society even gives unmarried women nicknames such as “Chipo Chiroorwa”, which translates to “get married now or risk becoming ridiculed.”

quote-by-empowering-a-woman-we-empower-a-child-by-educating-a-girl-child-we-make-it-possible-winnie-byanyima-81-69-76Girls are good for more than marriage

I met a young girl from my hometown once, Ruvimbo. She fell pregnant at the age of 14 leading to a loss of parental love, education and deterioration of her physical health. She dropped out of school to look for work and fend for herself and the baby after been chased away from home and forced to elope. The boy, on the other hand, was allowed to continue with his studies. Ruvimbo suffered silently, unable to share her concerns for fear of rejection, stigma and discrimination. Her story brings to light how girls are more often than not, overpowered by societal pressure to get married even when they don’t want to.

Many young girls and women out there put on brave smiles that hide sad stories about the detrimental effects that adolescent pregnancy has had on their lives. By succumbing to such pressure, girls are forced to deal with the overwhelming psychological trauma of giving up their dreams, and being forced into parenthood at a young age without necessarily being prepared for it.

Stereotypes can be changed

We are brought up in a culture that indirectly promotes male chauvinism. Some of us believe that the only way to belong to society is to abide by social standards and chauvinistic rules. The problem is, behind these rules is a false idea that gendered roles, emotions and behaviors are biological. They say it’s natural for men to show superiority, dominance and aggression and for women to be weak and servile. Really? The truth is, these stereotypes can all be changed. Women need to kick start the revolution and increase the volume of voices to prove that we too can be superior and aggressive.

Ladies, let’s avoid people that try to belittle us and our ambitions. Small people always do that but the really great people make you feel that you too, can become great. Let’s review our own beliefs, attitudes and stop perpetuating the male chauvinism that limits our opportunities. We all want to see girls doing good for themselves. If each successful woman can hold one girl’s hand, imagine how many of our girls will be at peace.

How to be career focused and not disappoint your mother

It started as a conversation with my friend. We were talking about topics we’d love to read about and I said I wished someone would write a manual on how to not disappoint your mom.

Mothers…bless their souls, we love them but there’s something about knowing you’ve disappointed your mother that leaves an indelible mark on your consciousness. A mark you’ll continue trying to obliterate or make amends for -both exercises in futility really because how do you fix what you didn’t set out to ruin?

See I’m 26 and I’m a single girl living and working in Lagos, far away from the comfort of my family. That on its own is enough to cause most parents to worry, my parents don’t live in Nigeria.

Thus the responsibility of parenting me has been outsourced to a gaggle of well-intentioned, if incredibly parochial, aunts whose reports about my actions are the only things my parents have going for them right now.

This unfortunately means that over the last year and a half since arriving in Nigeria, every other phone call to my mother has been an episode of ‘New Ways to Break a Mom’s Heart’. Often due to one aunt or the other complaining about something I’ve done to her.

By all accounts, the aunties have valid cases against me. My job means that I work long days that often become longer nights; and on days when I simply can’t go home, I stay in hotels.

When you factor in that according to Nigerian aunties, only a certain type of lady regularly patronizes hotels, you begin to understand why my innocuous actions are an affront to their quiet sensibilities. By focusing on work, I disappoint their expectations of proper Nigerian womanhood.

I get it, I don’t agree with it but I get it.

I used to obsess about my work-life balance and how I was not fulfilling some arbitrary Nigerian ideas I believed I had to satisfy. But now I step away from it all. It’s really just BS. I came across an article once that argued there shouldn’t be anything like work-life balance.

The writer stated that this way of thinking doomed us into thinking it was a zero sum game. They instead chose to think of work and life as a delicate relationship that although might sometimes appear to be skewed, are in reality both being satisfied in different ways. This helped me understand that I do not disappoint, and neither do you.

I’m still not sure how to balance my work with my life or perhaps more importantly how to ensure my mother doesn’t get disappointed with me (everyday). Yet if there’s one thing I know, it’s the inevitability of mistakes.

Sometimes, your work will appear to take precedence for months on end and you won’t always do what’s right by mom. So, maybe don’t obsess over assumed failures?

These days, when I get to steal time away from work to gossip with mom over phone about bosses or new opportunities, I can hear her pride.  I feel how proud she is of my ability to make things work in my career despite not being the daughter she might have wanted me to be. That’s really all there is to it at the end of the day.