HGCP 2021 Participants: CPHI Director, Elizabeth Shoyemi serves marginalized communities by providing for their sexual and reproductive health needs

I sat down with the Executive Director of the Centre for Population Health Initiatives (CPHI), Elizabeth Shoyemi to get to know her and the inspiration behind CPHI.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Elizabeth Shoyemi. I am the Executive Director of the Centre for Population Health Initiatives (CPHI), a non-governmental, non-profit organization that caters to the sexual and reproductive health needs of Nigeria’s underserved and marginalized populations. 

I am a Public Health Professional; I obtained my Bachelor’s of Science in Microbiology from the University of Calabar, Nigeria, Master’s of Science in Public health from the University of Lagos, Nigeria, and currently studying at Nexford University for a Master’s in Business Administration. 

I have over ten years of experience in the non-profit sector. I worked with the Population Council, DeltaWomen NGO, and the Nigeria Youth Aid Programme. I have also volunteered with the Society for Family Health and Youth Empowerment Foundation. At CPHI, I lead a diverse team of health care professionals creating positive impacts in the health sector.

I am from Akwa Ibom state, and I live in Lagos State, Nigeria. I am a mother of two children.  I am committed to saving living lives and ensuring that a healthy society is achieved. 

What do you feel are your biggest achievements?

My biggest achievement is the birth of CPHI, and being part of the growth process.

What do you do for fun/relaxation?

In my spare time,  enjoy watching movies, particularly drama and travelling to new places. 

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

My favorite part of being an entrepreneur is creating innovative solutions that enable me to feed my passion of saving people’s lives. 

Introduce your company the way you would to a potential customer.

The Centre for Population Health Initiatives is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that uses multi-dimensional approaches to meet underserved communities’ sexual and reproductive health needs. It was established in 2020 and has reached over 30,000 with sexual and reproductive health interventions.

CPHI provides clinical and community-based services ranging from prevention, screening, and treatment for various sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. In addition, we provide vaccination for Hepatitis B, mental health support, cervical cancer screening and treatment, family planning services, and general wellbeing.

Our clinics are located in Lagos and Rivers states. These clinics also serve as hubs for research, safe spaces for social activities, and capacity-building activities. All our services are provided at no cost to the client; we operate weekend and after-hours services. We also have a web application for appointments.

Where can people find out more about CPHI?

You can learn more about us on our website at https://cphinigeria.org. If you’d like to book an appointment for our services, you can do so through our web application at https://posha24.com/

You can also connect with us on social media. We are on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/cphi_24/, on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/cphi.lagos and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/centre-for-population-health-initiatives/mycompany/?viewAsMember=true.

You can also reach out to me (Elizabeth) directly on WhatsApp at +2348062952246, or connect with me on  LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabeth-shoyemi-17508a40/, on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/elizabeth.asuquo and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/elizabethshoyemi/.

You can also get hold of me on email at eshoyemi@cphinigeria.org 

How have you carved a niche for yourself in your industry?

CPHI is known to reach the underserved communities, including sex workers, LGBTQI, people who use drugs, adolescents, hard-to-reach young girls, and women. These populations face daily stigma and discrimination in various forms, and they are usually left out during program design interventions. CPHI acknowledges the sexual and reproductive health issues they face, which poses a public health challenge, hence the need to address them through innovative solutions. Our services are specialized, client-centered, zero cost, and hitch-free. 

What has been a make or break moment in your entrepreneurial journey?

Being in the non-profit sector where I solely depend on funding and grants, my make moments are moments I receive a “Yes” to a submitted grant application, and my break moments are the periods I receive a rejection mail. The make moments reassure me of the future, while my break moments remind me to keep pushing and be a better version next time. 

What’s been the most significant thing you’ve done to grow your business?

I have expanded the scope of services through partnerships and secured funding to sustain the service provision and the organization for at least two years. 

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, you must have good communication skills, negotiation skills, and Problem-solving skills.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our community?

Be open-minded, make learning part of your lifestyle, and focus on how to grow your business, not your competitors. Rather than focusing on your competitors, conduct research and focus on creating your own unique selling point. 

What entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule?

I have discovered that networking is essential. It’s not enough to gather contacts but to ensure that you have active connections with the contacts. Setting short-term and long-term goals ranging from personal, family, and business to work towards it through daily tasks and to-dos is key for success. The management of the business can be overwhelming; creating time for self-care and learning is vital. 

What business-related book has inspired you the most? 

Silences in NGO Discourse: The role and future of NGOs in Africa by Issa Shivji and The Third sector: Community organizations, NGOs, and non-profit by Meghan Kallman.

Elizabeth is currently on the High Growth Coaching Program to grow herself and prepare CPHI to grow to new heights

HGCP 2021 Participants: Founder of Disney Foods NG Omolara Lawrence is helping people live healthier lives and women and youths become better versions of themselves

I sat down with Omolara Olayinka Lawrence, to get to know her and the Yoghurt manufacturing company that she founded, Disney Foods NG.

My name is Omolara Olayinka Lawrence, the Founder and CEO of Disney Foods NG, a Yoghurt manufacturing company duly incorporated in 2019.

I am a graduate of Economics, an alumnus of the Enterprise Development Centre (Growth Enterprise Program) and the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, a prolific author of seven books and a skill acquisition enthusiast with over 15 years experience across roles and industries.

I have trained at least 4,000 women and youths to become productive in their respective fields within the last 2 years through my NGO, The Faith and Business Initiatives. I am a Providus Bank SME Ambassador and a Coca-Cola Foundation Grant Awardee.

You can connect with me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/omolaraolayinkalawrence/.

What is your ‘why’ i.e. bottom line, and how do you stay motivated?

My drive is to help people live healthier lives, and to help women and youths become better versions of themselves.

What motivates me is knowing that I am creating value that keep our customers and clients satisfied.

What do you feel are your biggest achievements?

Starting my business from zero naira and seeing it metamorphose to what it is today. All we had then was suppliers’ credit.

What do you do for fun/relaxation?

I love playing board games such as scrabble, chess, monopoly and so on, because they bring excitement to my family time, and they help to boost our language skills. I also love visiting Nature Parks; they enhance my creativity

 If you had to write a book, what would it be on what and why?

I am currently writing another book (my eighth) titled “INFLUENCING YOUR MARKETPLACE.”

The title is pretty self explanatory as to why I am writing this book and speaks directly to my WHY; to clearly explain how my readers, women and youths especially, can discover who they really are, how they can maximize their potentials and influence their respective fields of endeavors positively. Simply put, the book intends to expose how one can become a better version of themselves.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur centres around these two words: Creativity and Co-ordination. 

Creativity speaks to my ability to create products and values that bring satisfaction to my customers; and co-ordination is about my ability to co-ordinate people, procedures and processes in business.

What was the inspiration behind DISNEY FOODS NG?

About 3 years ago, my mum had a craving for a healthy drink, and being diabetic, there weren’t a lot of options available to feed her craving, and the Yoghurt idea was birthed in my mind. I learnt how to make it and began producing it for her and others around me. The positive feedback encouraged me to engage in it as a business solution.

Introduce your company the way you would to a potential customer.

Disney Foods NG, since inception, has been providing healthy treats to our numerous customers, and we propose to surpass your expectation. We have a unique signature recipe using natural sweeteners, flavors and preservative.  

You can browse our product offerings on our website at www.disneyfoodsng.com. You can also connect with us on social media, we’re on Instagram at www.instagram.com/disneyfoodsng/ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/disneyfoodsng/.

We’re also on YouTube, you can subscribe to our channel at www.youtube.com/disneyfoodsng/.

How have you carved a niche for yourself in your industry?

We have a wide range of SKUs (18 different flavors) which give our customers so many options to pick from. Each Cup of our Parfait has as much as five or more ‘different’ flavors. The feedback we get from many of our satisfied customers indicate that it is cost effective for them to have over five different flavors (varieties) for the price of one.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

  1. Customer Service Skill
  2. Adaptability Skill
  3. Emotional Intelligence Skill

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our community?

We should shun the Crab’s Mentality; we should desist from running others down. Rather, we should focus on helping one another grow; women supporting women should be our watchword!

What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?

Entrepreneurs must invest their time in both personal and business development activities.

If an entrepreneur is not growing personally, they may not be able to drive their business growth strategies. But if the entrepreneur grows as they should, it impacts positively on their business.

What business-related book has inspired you the most? 

The Enemy Called Average by John Mason

 

Omolara is currently on the High Growth Coaching Program to develop herself and her business and position Disney Foods NG for growth.

Disney Foods Nigeria

SHE LEADS AFRICA AND DARLING COLLABORATE TO INSPIRE CONFIDENCE IN YOUNG AFRICAN WOMEN

She Leads Africa in collaboration with Darling (Godrej Africa) champion young African women across Africa through the year-long “Confidence in Action” campaign starting in August 2021.

The campaign includes exciting initiatives like “Pass Me The Mic”- a dedicated video course series, the “Confidence In Action” virtual summits and “The Moment I” podcast featuring prominent African women and a pilot program to support entrepreneurs.

More information is available at www.confidentdarling.com

She Leads Africa is renowned for providing young African women with the tools and resources for success in their personal and professional lives. The campaign takes the vision a step further with Darling, a brand that is equally passionate about the success of African women. Darling helps African women present as their best selves physically and mentally and has committed to supporting partners who share that vision through its products and campaigns.

Ibironke Ugbaja, Regional Head of Marketing at Darling Africa says,

“We are really excited to work with She Leads Africa on the Confidence-In-Action campaign. Darling loves to see African women exude confidence and support them in going for their dreams and winning wherever they find themselves. We will encourage them through this project, and let them know they have it in them to go for it! That’s the goal, to help you ‘Find Your Beautiful.’”

The “Confidence in Action” collaboration aims to inspire young African women to take brave steps in their careers, businesses and personal lives. Through the campaign, young African women get to see themselves and their struggles with self-confidence reflected by African women from different walks of life and get insight on how to overcome these issues.

Another important goal of the campaign is to highlight that status or achievement does not prevent women from experiences issues with confidence. Thus, “The Moment I” video and audio podcast series features notable African women from countries like Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa as they speak about their journey of building self-confidence. Features include veteran Nigerian actress Nse-Ikpe Etim, South African media powerhouse Nomndeni Nonhle Mdakhi and more.

As Kofo Adebiyi, VP Content at She Leads Africa says,

“Young African women are incredibly ambitious, skilled and have a great deal to offer the world. Despite how awesome we are, we all struggle with moments of self-doubt. “Confidence in Action” is a unique year-long project to support women through these moments. We’re honoured to have a committed partner like Darling with us through the process. For me, Confidence in Action has been about making bold asks and constantly challenging what I think the limits are. I hope that through this project, women across Africa learn what Confidence in Action looks like for them and make bold moves at work, school and wherever they find themselves across the world.”

From August 2021, information about the campaign courses, podcast episodes and the summits will be shared via the She Leads Africa website, Instagram page and newsletter.

To learn more about the She Leads Africa x Darling campaign, please visit www.confidentdarling.com.

More about Darling

Darling is a global hair brand dedicated to providing African women with the trendiest styles and highest quality of hair at the best possible price. Darling is a subsidiary of Godrej Consumer Products.

More about She Leads Africa

She Leads African is a global media company that connects smart African women to resources, tools and advice to help them live their best personal and professional lives.SLA reaches more than 800,000 women across 35+ countries and 5 continents and has been featured in the Financial Times, Forbes, BBC, CNN, CNBC Africa, Black Enterprise and Huffington Post.

For more information about She Leads Africa, join the online community at https://sheleadsafrica.org/community/ and follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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 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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6 ways to tone down your stress levels

It is not uncommon to see someone you know, perhaps your friend, a family member, or a colleague whose demeanor is looking unusual, and you show concern by asking the question: ‘why is your appearance looking so dull today?’  and their reply goes ‘it is stress’.

Recently, I attended a meetup where young women discussed ‘creating balance’. In the heat of the discussion, one woman mentioned that she was on an official assignment to a psychiatric ward and found that the leading cause of psychosis in women admitted was stress.

I was both alarmed and pained.

The term stress seems to be something everyone takes for granted but its effect on our physical, emotional and mental well-being is often disastrous.

More women than men are prone to stress partly because besides the everyday hustle to support the family income is the added responsibility of taking care of the home front.

Many studies have confirmed that stress could lead to deli-bating diseases like high blood pressure (which is constantly on the rise in recent times), heart attack, nervous breakdown, and many others. Hence, there is an urgent need for us to take the matter of stress very seriously.

On the scale of 1 - 10, how high is your stress levels? @awunliwomanup highlight 6 ways to manage stress. Read more... Click To Tweet

Stress cannot be eliminated completely, however, here are six ways to manage it.

KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE WORK BEHIND

Some women are naturally workaholics, while others are in the hustle just to outdo their contemporaries in terms of material acquisition.

Whichever end of the divide you find yourself, be kind to your health and long term well being, you have to know when to stop.

LEARN HOW TO RELAX

Some people know when to unwind after a hard days job while some people see it as unnecessary. For example, I have a friend who stays glued to his laptop watching one series or the other after work and I get so angry until he explained that it was one of the ways he cools off after a hard days job.

Whatever works for you, make sure you go for it.

STRIVE FOR BALANCE

It has been emphasized more often than not that being busy does not translate into being productive. To increase your productivity, prioritize your activities and determine when you have reached your limit.

ASK FOR HELP

This is especially for those who have the perfectionist syndrome. They believe no one can do it the way they can. Sister, if anything happens to you, there will be someone else who will do the job better than you, so put your health first.

Leave those things you can delegate to someone else at work, outsource some tasks if you can afford it, and ask family members and friends to help out as a way of reducing your workload.

PLAN AND PREPARE AHEAD

We all know how what last-minute tension feels like. you begin to sweat profusely, you get jittery all over. To avoid this kind of scenario, do things well ahead of time.

LET GO OF WORRY

I have a friend who says worry is her recipe for losing weight.

Worrying over an issue does not get the problem solved. Worry and anxiety tend to the release of stress hormones in your body. Rather than worry, pray, believe and take the steps you need to solve the problem.


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Need some zoning out? – 4 quick ways to create mini escapes

An average African woman is strong. There is no argument.

Her strength is not basically physical. She is emotional, mentally, psychologically and spiritually strong. Nobody expects her to need an escape, once in a while.

Naturally, mental health or exhaustion is mostly not discussed in Africa (we are improving but not yet).
Nobody likes to be labeled “abnormal” or “possessed” due to being bi-polar, depressed or schizophrenic.

It always baffles me when I say I am mentally tired and people ask “how?”. Some even go ahead to suggest that I might be possessed. LolMental health and wellbeing are often overlooked because they are not physical. They do not show up in blood or urine tests, neither do they have noticeable symptoms.

Therefore, we sometimes see it as a shameful thing and never admit that as women, wives, employees, employers, business owners, we need some escape space.

Truth is, whether you are a working-class woman or you own a business, There are moments when you want to forget everything and have a brief respite, escape.

Regardless of your state or status, there comes a time in everyone’s life when we just want to drop the reins and unravel in peace for a little while.

We might not all get enough time for a long respite but, in-between the day, we can steal bits of escapes to help us power through the day.

I have over the years developed quick escape spaces that help me zone out at times when I get overwhelmed. Here are some of them:

Music

The power of music cannot be overemphasized. There have been more times when I get overwhelmed with the work on my desk and the work waiting for me back home (i run a business too).

Right there on my desk, I plug in my earphones, sit back for 2 minutes and listen to something. My go-to choices are slow blues or classical music. Beethoven’s is a staple.

 

It gives me a little reprieve and escapes. Little is enough

BOOKS

I have loved sappy romance novels from when I was 8 years old. It took me a while to understand that they provided an escape for me.

Right now as I type, I have an appointment with one chapter of a sappy romance novel.

It is a long day.

Old Movies

I cannot count the number of days I have gotten home, work on my business and snuggle under the blankets for an old movie. I mostly end up falling asleep most time, but for a while, the whole world falls away.

Me time

Me time means different things to different persons. It could be an alone moment with your thoughts or a 2-minute cup of tea. There are long “me times|’ and short ones.

It could be savoring a piece of chocolate while at your desk or a reasonable drink after work. Personally, I take snatches of “me time” whenever I can.

Just me. No work, No business.

In this second month of the year, we may have done a lot and still have a whole lot to do. However, let us remember it is okay to escape briefly, unwind and revive.

Most importantly:

  • Plan your dream vacation and work towards it.
  • Take your mental health seriously.

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The Deep Rations of a Mental War: How It Affects You and Your Career

 Triggers are not always pulled, some are attended to by planting seeds where the soil has no intention to grow or build - @go_itse. Click To Tweet

As a content creator or simply a writer, you would think that the only thing that one has to deal with is pen and paper. The conception of an idea and putting it to paper, and then once you’re done, it defines you.

However, we tend to forget that our career or business is a journey.

If at any point you find yourself thinking of quitting, changing the name/industry of your business or switching careers and starting afresh, remember these points coined from The Art of War.

Discovering

The author of The Art of War, Sun Tzu, would say,

Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security, open ground and narrow passes, the chances of life and death.”

Mental health, depression as most would relate to, takes us to the depths of fighting between small and great distances, vis-à-vis, that we would want to take ourselves to, especially with our business and career goals, with the same breath try to balance it all with the personal ones.

And what I’ve learned and still I’m still learning is that it brings great danger than security. Allowing narrow passes over open grounds, bringing about confusion and a high risk of certain aspects of your career lying dormant.

In Point 21 of Laying Plans, Tzu explains,If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.”

In as much as we take the detriment of mental health as sickness, it is more psychological as it is. The more we allow the elements to grow greater than our will to succeed, the more we are aligned to derail.

 

To evade is an individual mystery, which is aligned as to how we got there in the first place. As we go through this state in a unique way that in some cases, no mantras can maintain let alone anti-depressants.

It is more like trying to evade the police in Need For Speed Most Wanted. Wherein this matter, we are trying to evade the state of being “less wanted” by the essence of life and you’re either marching, running or sinking in the art of war with your mind.

The best thing about knowing and acknowledging the state of our own mental health is through self-mastery - @Go_Itse Click To Tweet

Uncovering

When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.

On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people’s substance to be drained away.”

Waging War, The Art of War.

Defining what we go through as a mental illness whereas it’s a result of unattended life aspects that stack up, cause friction and then the heat goes to the head.

That’s when we start to wonder why life sucks and then the idea of being stuck sucks life away from that which we love. From managing people, careers to a detrimental state of not being able to manage the major key to all, ourselves.

 

A high price to pay that I learned by the means of losing a job, as you couldn’t talk to anyone.

You see yourself as the go-to person and the happy-go-lucky person with a great beautiful smile. Failing to deliver on time and lack of communication were the failures derived from this state.

We define what we go through as a mental illness whereas it’s a result of unattended life aspects that stack up, cause friction and then the heat goes to the head - @go_itse Click To Tweet

Recovery

”If equally matched, we can offer battle, if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy, if quite an equal in every way, we can flee from him”

Attack by Stratagem, The Art of War.

Triggers are not always pulled, some are attended to by planting seeds where the soil has no intention to grow or build.

The energy it takes for an attack or a relapse to occur, (as some deal with it well enough to know the triggers and some don’t), requires one to have an equal or greater strength as the infirmity.

Be it consistency in therapy (talking, writing etc.), yoga, meditation or exercising. Trying to avoid such a state can be easy at an early stage by doing the most with therapy and other forms of it, from someone who discovered at a very early age.

Mastery

”One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.”

– Tactical Disposition, The Art of War.

We may read all the self-help books to gain knowledge on how to break through an anxiety/depression state. But the will of the author of the book and of another individual may not correspond.

The best thing about knowing and acknowledging the state of our own mental health is through self-mastery. From that point of perspective and execution will we be able to master other things, even when there are triggers.

Then we can become effective motherland moguls and not be faint-hearted.

5 Take Home Points from The Art of War on Mental Health

  1. “Energy may be likened to the bending of a crossbow. A decision, to the releasing of a trigger.” – Energy
  2.  “Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something that the enemy may snatch at it.” – Energy
  3. “By discovering the enemy’s dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy must be divided.” – The Weak Point and Strong
  4.  ”So in war, the way to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.” – The Weak Points and Strong.
  5.  ”In order to carry out an attack, we must have means available. The material for raising fire should always be kept in readiness.” – Attack By Fire

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Anita Benson: The Anti-Skin Lightening Activist

Anita Oghenekome Benson is a Medical Doctor specializing in Dermatology. She is also a Public Health Specialist with a Masters in Public Health from the University of Sheffield.

Anita is a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and a Fellow of the Center for Global Business Studies at Howard University. She is an award-winning blogger and the founder of the Embrace Melanin Initiative, an NGO that focuses on eradicating colorism and harmful skin-lightening practices from Africa.

Anita is raising a generation of young Africans who embrace their melanin and are empowered, educated and self-aware.

The Embrace Melanin Initiative is quite a unique project, what led you to start it?

I was starting my final year as a Dermatology resident and I had to choose a topic for my thesis. I had always considered myself an anti-skin lightening activist because I had seen too many patients pay the price for their skin lightening practices.
Being a very dark skinned woman, I was constantly offered the option to lighten my skin by cosmetologists and well-meaning friends.

This motivated me to do a community survey to find out why people lightened their skin. I wanted to know what products they used and if they were aware of the side effects which included obesity, hypertension, diabetes, liver and kidney disease, skin cancer, premature aging, fragile skin, stretch marks, body odor, skin infections, and discolored skin.
A young woman is content with her skin color until the first time someone points out that it is 'too dark', 'dirty', 'less attractive than fair skin' - Anita Benson Click To Tweet
In a few months, I had interacted with more than 400 people and I realized that the magnitude of the problem and the level of ignorance surrounding the possible complications of skin lightening was way beyond the scope of my thesis.

The Embrace Melanin Initiative was established to address this problem.

What would you say are the major reasons African women engage in this trend?

Colorism is the major reason African women engage in skin lightening practices. It is a silent problem that exists in our communities and is simply defined as the discrimination of a person because of her darker skin tone by members of her own race/tribe/community/family.

A young woman is content with her skin color until the first time someone points out that it is ‘too dark’, ‘dirty’, ‘less attractive than fair skin’. Or she begins to notice the affiliation of some males and the media for lighter skinned women.
Kicking colorism out of Africa is the only way skin-lightening practices will ever be truly eradicated - Anita Benson Click To Tweet
She may even face discrimination at her job or a reduction in marriage suitors. Whatever the case may be, this silent discrimination leads to poor self-esteem and an unshakeable belief that lighter skin is the answer to all of her problems regardless of the potential dangers of skin lightening practices.

Men are not left out and some women even bleach their children. Pregnant women have also been reported to take certain pills to lighten their babies in the womb which can lead to all sorts of potential complications.

What can we as well as the government do to reduce this problem? 

We can stop the discrimination. It happens in the marketplaces, in the home, in church, at social events, in the media, at work.

Africa has been freed from slavery for hundreds of years yet we still mentally attribute more beauty and importance to anything or person that looks more foreign than native African. We need our women to know that they are beautiful not in spite of their dark skin but because of their dark skin.

The government can provide tighter regulations on the sale of skin lightening agents in the open market and ensure that the ones that have been banned by NAFDAC are not still freely available for sale.

Another very important role the government can play is to ensure that the side effects of every skin lightening agent are boldly printed on the bottle so that consumers can make an informed decision.

Too many women are suffering due to their ignorance. One of my patients died of kidney disease a couple of years ago due to chronic use of mercury-containing skin lightening agents.

What would you say has been your key learning points on this journey?

These have been my key learning points:

1. You can’t change the practice till you change the perception about black skin.

2. Kicking colorism out of Africa is the only way skin-lightening practices will ever be truly eradicated.

3. There’s a need to change the narrative on what it means to be black which goes past our perception of our skin color to dissociating being black from words like corruption, self-hate, crime, ignorance, illiteracy, and mental slavery.

4. Do not judge a person till you have heard their story. So many women who chose to bleach did not feel like they had any other viable option at the time.
Colorism is the major reason African women engage in skin lightening practices - Anita Benson Click To Tweet

What are the possible business ideas/solutions that can arise from solving this problem?

African skin-friendly products. Not the ones that promise to tone the skin but those that make the dark skin shine and keep it healthy and protected from the UV rays of the sun.

The cosmetic industry is a billion dollar industry however right now the focus of the majority is on skin lightening agents and solving this problem will create a vacuum for healthy skin care products suitable for the African skin.

What is your advice to women seeking to advance their career while getting involved in personal passion projects?

 

Women are amazing multitaskers and what makes us really special is that there’s no limit to the number of caps we can wear as long as we are able to manage our time effectively.

The best way to juggle a career with personal projects is simply to maximize the number of hours you have each day. Every morning I write a to-do list and try to get through each one before the end of the day.

Whatever your passion is, let it connect with your purpose - Anita Benson Click To Tweet

So many hours are spent doing things that are either distraction with high urgency or activities with little or no value. A to-do list will guide you toward achieving important deadlines with high urgency and give enough time for long-term development and strategizing.

You are allowed to slip from time to time and just do nothing because that’s what makes us human. Take it as an opportunity to get re-energized and come back better, stronger and more motivated!

Final words for our motherland moguls?

Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

When I started this project, all I had was my passion to make a difference and my experience as a skin doctor. So many people tried to talk me out of it, even fellow colleagues because they felt it was a problem too great to tackle, too entrenched in our culture to ever be eradicated.

Whatever your passion is, let it connect with your purpose so that on the days when you feel down, you can draw from the inner strength that comes from actually making a difference in the world.

That inner strength will keep you moving till the sun comes out again.

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Meet the Young African Women Shaking Up the Global Health Sector

Around the world, women make 75 percent of the health workforce and continue to be the primary caretakers in communities and families. They also experience heightened health risks.

This is thanks to persistent gender-based violence and stigma that prevents access to preventive care and treatment. Despite these realities, women occupy fewer than 25 percent of leadership roles in the health sector.

Adanna Chukwuma, Karen Maniraho, and Favorite Iradukunda are slaying the game when it comes to demonstrating that young women of African descent can lead – and are leading – the global health equity movement.

As Global Health Corps (GHC) alumni, these ladies are committed to playing their part in realizing health as a human right for all. 

GHC’s Brittany Cesarini caught up with these ladies to learn about how they’re crafting their own unique leadership journeys. And how they are disrupting the status quo in global health leadership along the way.  


 

Adanna Chukwuma

Why do you think we need more women leaders in global health?

Adanna: There is overwhelming evidence that diversity of team membership and leadership promotes creativity and productivity in teams. Therefore, increasing the proportion of female leaders in global health will increase our effectiveness at addressing the pressing health problems we face.

One can also make an ethical argument. We know that bias partly shapes the gaps between male-female representation in leadership. This bias does not always reflect performance. It may be a matter of discomfort with the idea of women in leadership. This is a wrong that must be righted.

Karen: Health and who has access to it will always be a discussion of power. Without women in positions of power, we cannot tackle the systemic inequalities that affect women and our communities.

Favorite: I think this is a matter of logic and holding true to what we believe. If global health values equity, equality, and social justice, if we are advocating for these values for other people. Doesn’t it make sense to start at home?

Where is equality and justice, when women make up to 75% of the healthcare workforce but occupy less than 25% of the leadership positions?

We are all leaders and learners - @favourtieiradukunda Click To Tweet

What lessons did you learn from the Women Leaders in Global Health conference at Stanford University last October?

Adanna: In one session at the conference, Laurie Garrett and Agnes Binagwaho shared personal stories about the bias they encountered and overcame to excel in their careers. Their conversation stuck with me because of the understanding that excellence can be female, and it can be black African.

A paraphrased version of my favorite quote, uttered by Laurie Garrett, is: 

Women need to shove their modesty through the back door. There are billions of lives at stake - @Laurie_Garrett Click To Tweet

Karen: It was quite inspiring to hear Dr. Afaf Meleis talk about the ways “women are vulnerable and at risk in their productive and reproductive lives.” 

There was also a panel titled “How to Become a Change Agent in Global Health” moderated by Donna Shalala. It featuring Ambassador Deborah Birx, Patricia Garcia, and Vanessa Kerry, among others.

They all so candidly discussed successes and the importance of failures in their global health journeys in refreshingly honest ways.

Favorite: Dr. Afaf Meleis brought up the issue of missing nurses. Nurses are continuously under-represented in global health leadership. They have also missed out on discussions meaningful to the advancement of healthcare, yet we all know that nurses are the backbone of healthcare.

Karen Maniraho

What advice can you give young women aspiring to have leadership roles in global health and to those supporting them? 

Adanna: We can start where we are to influence the gender imbalance in global health in the right direction by challenging ourselves to take risks and more responsibility in our careers. 

Karen: 1. Mentoring at least one girl will help change the status of women in leadership today. Secondly, don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, failure is something we should celebrate. 3. Don’t “lean in” if it’s only to replicate male models.

Our work as women leaders can’t simply be about breaking the glass ceiling. Rather, it must be about rebuilding the whole building so that its doors are open to all. 

As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. — Marianne Williamson Click To Tweet

Favorite: We have a lot of female leaders in global health, yet they are not considered as leaders because we measure their leadership abilities against a biased definition of leadership.

We need to redefine leadership and not be intimidated by all the biased definitions out there. We need to realize that women are not just leaders but also innovators. 

Favorite Iradukunda

How are you committing to investing in your own professional development as a young leader in global health?

Adanna: I recently joined a Lean In Circle primarily so that I can be intentional about confronting my fears, taking career risks, and developing strategies for dealing with bias.

Karen: After my Global Health Corps fellowship in Burundi, that I realized elevating underrepresented voices through storytelling had a key role in amplifying health conversations. Also, reconnecting with my homeland and working with people taught me innovative ways of communicating health and social needs.  

Favorite: I have always considered professional growth as a result of receiving and giving. receiving 2. giving. My mentors’ help in achieving my goals is part of the receiving.  

With regards to giving, I have invested in younger women. However, I need to redefine my mentorship strategies to be more intentional with clear expectations and deliverables on both sides.

Have the courage to use your own reason - Karen Click To Tweet.


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