The Aspire story: Showcasing the beauty of mentorship and power women in Sierra Leone

Africa has a growing population of girls who need constant support in terms of guidance and counseling. They need to be handed on the blueprint for leadership, confidence and self -esteem mostly through role modeling.

Our societies need to share our stories of our successes and failures so that our girls would be challenged to lead better lives. We are looking at changing the narrative to create a scene were girls will seek to accomplish their goals and aspire to be like the leading women in Africa, this can only be achieved through mentorship.

The Aspire story showcases the beauty of mentorship and inspires women around the world to work together. Click To Tweet

In 2016/2017 a powerful collaboration between Power Women 232 and Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone was established.

Power Women 232 is a network for women professionals in Sierra Leone. The network aims to bring professional women and entrepreneurs together to promote career advancement and development in all fields, through networking, leadership development, social events and community service 

On the other hand Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone nurtures and enhances the leadership skills of young girls to become effective advocates and social change agents in their communities.

In August 2016, they launched ‘ASPIRE’ to mentor secondary school girls from various schools in Freetown.

The program was in the form of large group workshops, small group mentorship and experiential field trips focusing on 3 C’s – Communication, Community Development, and Career Exploration.

The aim was to directly impact the lives of 30 young Sierra Leonean girls by providing them with the skills, resources, and networks to become leaders and change agents in their communities.

All 14 Power Women mentors were assigned to 3-4 girls each; they were matched by specialized questionnaires in hope to create best-fit relationships; each power woman played a big sister role spanning a yearlong of camaraderie.

Field trips to tourist monuments, spending the day at office and centers that were their career of choice. Trips to the bank, the airport, hairdressing saloon and early learning centers.

The girls had an opportunity to catch a glimpse of their real-life sheroes in their most vulnerable states behind closed doors, in the comfort of their homes and the rigidity of their corner offices.

The women shared their daily life struggles such as multi-tasking, fighting to succeed in male-dominated careers, handling a full day’s job when on their period. The discussions ranged from discussing boys, dancing, cooking, to books and music.

Most importantly the program allowed them the chance to learn new skills, ranging from topics such as:

  • Utilizing journaling and writing as a means of telling our stories
  • Utilizing resources to effect and change our future
  • Budgeting & Fundraising
  • Savings and investing for our future
  • Conflict Resolution and effective communication  
  • Building and maintaining peer positive relationships

The focus on teambuilding, communication, and self-esteem helped develop positive behavior within the group of girls that were mentored. Mentor mentee relationships encouraged some of the girls to aspire to remain dedicated to their academics as well as seek further mentor relationships due to some of the strong relationships that were cultivated.

The partnership between Power Women232 and GESSL is a reminder of how powerful women are when they work together. This relationship has garnered more interest in girls and Power Women 232 has taken on education, health and empowerment for young girls as their community service project for 2017/2018.

The project was launched with a donation of 200 power hygiene packs and hygiene information booklets to adolescent girls at The Beheshti Islamic Secondary School in Freetown.

Their aim is to provide 500 more packs to young girls across Sierra Leone and introduce sustainable hygiene practices.

The group did their first fundraiser hosted by Ms. Anita Erskine on  Saturday 18th November 2017 during their 2nd Annual Networth Ball an event that attracted the movers and shakers in Sierra Leone’s business environment with a  good media coverage which includes been featured on Bella Naija.

One cannot deny that the Aspire story showcases the beauty of mentorship and inspire women around the world to work together.

 


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

Rinsola Abiola – Intellectual Capacity is key to career impact in politics for young women

Ms. ‘Rinsola Abiola is the SA (New Media) to the Speaker House of Representatives in Nigeria, President APC Young Women Forum (APC-YWF), Board Member – Young Women in Politics Forum (YWiPF) and a Youth Representative for the APC Board of Trustees

Her career journey in politics is one that has taken precision and determination and an example worthy for young women looking to make a change from a political platform to emulate.


The representation of women in politics and governance is dismal - @Bint_Moshood Click To Tweet

What is your career role? 

I’m a Public Relations consultant and a young woman in politics. I currently head the All Progressives Congress (APC) young women forum, a support, mentorship, and capacity building group for young women aged 18-35, who are members or supporters of the APC.

I am currently the youngest person appointed to the APC board of trustees, and one of the three youth representatives.

 

When did your career in politics begin?

My full-fledged political participation began in late 2013. Before then, I was a member of civil society, through a number of youth-focused NGO’s.

The decision to join mainstream politics was informed by a desire to be part of the process, as opposed to sitting outside of it and offering criticism. I came to the realization that a political office would enable me to do so much more, and for a larger number of people than I could as an individual.

 

What impact can women in politics bring to a nation? 

The involvement of young women through mentoring and capacity building would ensure the grooming of a new generation of women who are prepared to hold both elective and appointive positions and have a clear strategy for engagement.

 

Are there special qualifications you need to have a head start in politics?

For basic political involvement, no. But when it comes to the elective office, there are minimum requirements established by law, e.g – completing a secondary education.

For appointive positions, one would require certain skills or qualifications in order to be deemed worthy of such a position. Intellectual capacity is key and formal education provides a level of refinement which helps a great deal.

It is also important to have good communication skills – this entails knowing the right way to engage a particular type of audience, from the highly educated to the not so educated.

 

What can young women do to be taken seriously in a male-dominated field?

Same as anyone needs to do if they want to be taken seriously, have something to offer, add value, develop a good number of skills required and seize good opportunities to prove your mettle.

Be loyal, dedicated and committed to the ideals of your environment. Take a professional approach to everything and distinguish yourself.

Do not leave room for doubt, and know how to be firm without being forceful or harsh Click To Tweet

 

What roles have you held in the past and how did that help in getting you to where you are now?

I served as the founding PRO of the APYF in 2014, and some months later, as the PRO/Secretary, when the APC Young Women Forum was formed, I also served 

These roles increased my knowledge of what young people actually desire from the government. I learned communication skills and how to view time as one of my most valuable resources. Most importantly, I learned how to have a strong work ethic.

I’ve worked with a magazine brand, in a bank, I got the required certification in public relations, a profession I had always admired and set up a firm

Politics is expensive and you need resources - @Bint_Moshood Click To Tweet

 

As one of the executives of the Young Women in Politics Forum (YWIPF), how will this help in empowering other young women to pursue a career in politics?

I’m set to begin a peer mentoring programme with young women both here in Abuja and other states of the federation, which will be aligned with the objectives of YWIPF. 

Also, knowing that a Forum exists for young women with similar interests will encourage many to join, as one thing I have noticed is that some are interested but are just at a loss as to how to begin.

Sela kasepa: Powering Zambia’s First Robotics Team

Sela Kasepa attended her first semester at Harvard University in August last year. Just months prior, the 21-year-old was mulling over her education, uncertain of her future plans. That changed after watching a CNN insert featuring the first Pan African Robotics competition founded by Dr. Sidy Ndao. Sela was captivated.

That same evening she took a chance and sent a cold email to Dr. Ndao inquiring about robotics, and he responded two days later, encouraging her to pursue robotics. Sela found inspiration from the Pan African robotics founder and her interaction with him made her believe that she too could create with her hands. This encounter set a trail for her journey as a robotics mentor.

Sela never imagined that one day she would take a mechanics class, let alone at the prestigious Harvard University. She completed her schooling with funding from the Zambia Institute of Sustainable Development (ZISD), acing her GCSEs with 10 distinctions in 10 subjects. She had excellent grades and big dreams, but two years after graduating grade twelve she had little else to show for it.

Her passion for astrophysics fueled her ambition to study at a university that encouraged holistic learning – she took her first SAT tests on her own and thereafter sent applications to Ivy League Universities in the United States. Her first attempts were futile, with no scholarship offers.

During those difficult years of uncertainty, Peter Lungu, executive director of ZISD, reached out to Sela because of her interest in the SAT programme the non-profit institution offers. That small action pivoted into a mentorship relationship, with Lungu urging Sela to continue applying to her desired universities. After redoing her SATs with her mentor’s guidance, she got a perfect score in Physics (800) and a 790 in Maths Level II.

On the final day of call for applications, Sela submitted her applications to Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Michigan State University, and the University of California Berkeley. She was successful with each admission offering scholarships.

Two semesters in, Sela signed up for an engineering robotics class. The joy of creating something that works rekindled her love for the functionality of machines.

“It’s a time when you realize your hands are capable of doing so much,” - Sela Click To Tweet

A lunch chat with a Rwandese friend turned to development talk. She was fascinated by how Rwanda, a country with few natural resources, was making groundbreaking progress far ahead of her own country. Her friend’s comment that a country’s’ top resource is its people, struck a chord. “If we the people don’t take the reins to develop our country, no matter our resources, we cannot develop,” she says.

In the coming days, Sela spent hours online looking for a competition her country could participate in until she eventually came across FIRST Global Robotics competition. Another cold email later, the organizers advised her to enlist Zambia. Even though she was above the age restriction to participate in the competition, she had the opportunity to mentor a Zambian team – if she could build one last minute. She picked up her phone to call Lungu to ask him to help prep a team to participate in the FIRST competition.

Peter Lungu mentoring a student

Lungu never expected to co-mentor a robotics team. He had never been versed in engineering or robotics. His role at ZISD was a vocational call after a long lucrative career as an auditor. When he was awakened in the middle of the night by Sela with the news that Zambia could participate in the FIRST Global Robotics if they got a team together, he did not hesitate.

While he already had access to the country’s most brilliant students, none of them had any knowledge of robotics before. The 2017 robotics challenge was about water and required tools, equipment, preparation, and travel for the competition. This meant that funding was needed for the team.

How to Approach and Connect with your Dream Mentor

A few days ago, I was reading a piece by one of my favorite bloggers and it started like this: “There will come a moment when all that matters to you is that you experience growth, not comfort. When that time comes, it will shake your world up. It will cause you to expand into areas of thought that you never thought possible”. As I read those first sentences, the words jumped out at me, and me stand up.

Those first few sentences resonated strongly with me because it took me back to how I felt at the beginning of this year.  I have noticed many of us desire growth, but we never really actively work towards it. On the other hand, some of us actually start to work towards it, but we never grow all the way because we lack a few things. One of the things that I discovered going into this year, is that I had been lacking having a mentor, specifically for my career path.

The truth is many of us have people we look up to from a distance. We admire them, we even observe what they do and try to emulate them. Very often, I would hear people refer to such individuals as their mentors. Can we really regard them as mentors if there is no interaction with them at all?

Can you imagine if these same people you refer to as your mentors actually had conversations with you on a monthly basis or quarterly basis? Imagine you being able to reach out to them whenever you needed advice, insight or help navigating a difficult stage in your life, job, business, academics or ministry. When these kind of interactions begin to happen, that’s where active mentoring takes place.

A mentor is someone who takes the initiative to join you on your life’s journey and willingly helps you become all that you were born to be, so that you are able to do all that you were born to do. A mentor can also be described as someone who gives you a vital push at a certain stage in your life and without whom you may not have done so well.

Sounds like a real life superhero right? Believe the hype! A great mentor is an invaluable asset to anyone who wants to grow. But how does one approach and connect with a mentor especially when the person is far away or sometimes has no idea that you need them? I will share three steps I have learned to use this year.

Step 1: Identify your Mentor

Approaching the right mentor to come along on your journey is extremely critical. In very rare cases, will your mentor approach you offering ‘mentoring’ services. Usually, it’s the person who wants to be mentored who will need to take the initiative.

In this step, it is also very important that you have a good grasp on who you are, where you want to go, and most importantly, why you need a mentor. You can’t invite someone to help you on your journey if you have no idea where you want to go.

After you have answered these questions, you can now begin to look for someone you would want to have by your side on your journey – as a student, wife, parent, entrepreneur, working professional, creative etc.

Great mentors have a variety of characteristics but here are a few that you can be on the lookout for. A great mentor is someone:

  1. Who has achieved what you hope to achieve, and could potentially provide you a platform to get started.
  2. Who could give you advice or insight and help you see the bigger picture.
  3. Who has values you would want to emulate.
  4. That can help you navigate difficult terrain.

After identifying this person, get your hands on any material about the person, do your research so that you are able to establish if the person is a good match.

 

Step 2: Making the First Connection


You will need to reach out. This is usually where most of us get stuck because we don’t know what to say. You can reach out physically if the person is close by, but if the person is in another city or country, you will need to reach out virtually. Email is a great way to make a first connection, but when email fails, try social media. In addition, if you know someone who already knows your mentor, you can ask the person to make an introduction on your behalf.

When it comes to what you have to say, keep it simple. Start by telling the person a little about who you are. Next, tell the person where you are right now and where you are hoping to go. This is a great time to share your story. Follow up with why you need a mentor and end by telling the person why you want him/her to mentor you. Be honest. Be real. Mentors see through ‘fakeness’ and flattery.

 

Step 3: The Pursuit

This can be one of the hardest aspects of establishing an active mentoring relationship. But when you know how valuable a mentor can be to your success, you’ll take this last step seriously. The pursuit involves following up, especially when the mentor is far away, in a different city, country or time zone. You will need to be deliberate and intentional about communicating, asking questions, and giving your mentor feedback on what is happening with you, so they are able to give you the input you need for your next step.

Be serious about the mentoring relationship. Even when you aren’t having that physical interaction in person, endeavor to keep learning from them. If they have books, blogs, or other material- read them. If they are active on social media – participate with them on those platforms. If they are members of a particular organization, volunteer at that organization. Observe what they do, and always keep a book of questions.

Finally, this year I’ve learnt and seen first-hand how valuable having an active mentor is for one’s growth. Mentors are growth catalysts that many of us are not exploring. My dad said something few months ago, that I can’t forget: “When people don’t know what they can become, what they have become blinds them.”.

That’s what I love about mentors- they make sure we see much more than we possibly could by ourselves. So take the plunge today, find a mentor who is willing to come along on your journey. Happy Growing!


Do you have an inspiring mentorship story to share?

Let us know here.

 

5 Ways To Utilize Social Media For Career Development

In the last decade, social media has become increasingly pivotal to our daily lives. From staying in touch with family and friends; to catching up with happenings around the world; and keeping up with the latest trends. Social media is indeed here to stay.

Depending how you have been utilizing social media, you might have hit the jackpot. Your life might have been changed by a stroke of luck. But for the rest of us, how have we tapped into the power of social media particularly in our personal lives? It’s so easy to get carried away with the glitz, glamor and the perfectly curated Instagram feeds that we forget to improve our daily lives.

Career wise, how has social media made a difference? We’re quick to relegate career discussions to LinkedIn, but ask yourself, when was the last time you checked your LinkedIn feed or even updated your account?  Has social media made any significant improvement in your career? Has a tweet inspired you to take a major career decision lately?

While you’re mulling over those questions, here are 5 ways you can actually utilize social media for career development:

Stay informed and keep up with industry trends

The best thing about social media is real time information. Search engines are generally flooded with tons of information from a million websites. But with social media, you can decide the kind of relevant and valuable content you want to see. If you are lucky, your industry has a consistent social media presence that you can keep up with to stay informed.

 

Connect with virtual and potential mentors

The importance of having mentors at different stages of our careers cannot be overemphasized. Some of us still don’t have one for various reasons. But the beauty of social media is that we don’t have any excuse anymore. We can connect with them virtually until we’re ready to approach them.

 

Get inspiration and motivation on a daily basis

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I wake with zero motivation to work, but then I log into my Instagram and a quote jumps at me and changes the course of my morning. So, anytime you’re feeling generally unmotivated or lethargic, social media can be the perfect pick-me-up.

 

Network with thought-leaders

This is probably a no-brainer, but if you are a solo worker/entrepreneur or you have a very demanding job which takes literally all your time, social media can be a good place to network with your peers in and outside your industry. Just decide to strategically follow people you would like you cultivate a relationship with, and engage them. You never know where it might lead.
PRO TIP: Most people tend to remember the most engaging handles on their feed. So, if you meet them offline, chances are, they will remember you and you can kick off right where you stopped.

Get ideas and identify business opportunities

I cannot count how many ideas I’ve had since I became fully active on social media. On a daily basis there are ideas flowing right, left and center. It takes a lot of courage, determination and foresight to identify the idea, act on it and execute it. If you are lucky, that idea might become a profitable business.


How has social media helped your career development?

Let us know more here.

Lynda Aphing-Kouassi: I have brought back with me this mindset of a winner and the power of excellence

If you want a career that fulfils you, you need to focus on your interests rather than your qualifications -Lynda Aphing-Kouassi Click To Tweet

Lynda Aphing-Kouassi is a former banker and Founder and Director of Kaizene, a firm specializing in training, coaching and networking conferences. The process of creating African leaders and encouraging the inclusion of women is the core of her business which she tries to achieve by her coaching and training sessions.

Passionate and rigorous, Lynda has extensive experience in the management of companies and employees in the following sectors, portfolio management; training, coaching, and seminars; conferences organization for more than a decade.

For Lynda, the biggest resource a successful company should rely on is its workforce. Not being visible on the balance sheets it’s often relegated to the bottom rank. Via its various initiatives on leadership and training seminars organized, Kaizene accompanies multinationals and SME’s by reminding them of the best leadership techniques to use in order to enhance the skills, inspire the employees, create partnerships and synergies and ensure a stable and sustainable development.

“Our beautiful Africa is full of leaders we just have to accompany them to the best of our abilities, mentor them, remind them of their potential and reiterate to them the soundness of excellent leadership in order to give back to Africa the place that it should have: “the provider of excellence”.


You spent 19 years abroad, fill us in on your experience in a foreign land.

As a French speaker who disliked English at the time, living in London was a most difficult experience. My sister who was married to an Englishman lived in London already and they kindly allowed me to live with them. I soon found I could express my fears and got to speak English more often. My brother-in-law’s help was tremendous because he was patient and understanding despite the many mistakes that I made. I then started uni and work during which I experienced a lot of setbacks and a feeling of non-belonging as far as the lifestyle was concerned. It is at that time I realised that to belong you had to embrace the new culture. But I could see that others embraced it to the point of forgetting their own!

I then decided that the authenticity of my culture would take me far. So, while learning and understanding the lifestyle in the UK I was also bringing my own to the table. For example, I would make my country’s food during parties and lunches and wear my African print dresses as often as possible. I became an object of curiosity which brought people near me to try and understand where I was from and slowly the feeling of not belonging disappeared. I started to make real friends and began to really enjoy and understand the country. The UK became my home.

LyndaAp

At work in a FTSE 100 company and being a black person, you can imagine that every disagreement or difference of opinion may well be perceived as aggression. I considered this as a form of bullying and refused to be bullied. I worked hard and developed this mindset of a winner where nothing was good enough until it was excellent. Also, I made sure that I was going to be accepted, not just tolerated. This is what you can do if you value and believe in yourself.

I learnt from this experience that only you have the answer to your own doubts and that the only judge is God. So, I have brought back with me this mindset of a winner and the power of excellence. My dream is to influence my peers with this belief so we can be proud individuals, strong, developed and authentic and to then become an example to others. I believe we can and will, with our young population and this mindset of confidence and excellence, have a better Africa.

Awesome! So what did you experience in terms of mindset and lifestyle that you wish to bring to your own country or Africa as a whole?

During my time in Europe, I found the development of infrastructure so important that it created a great communication between companies and people. The buildings are often rehabilitated and well maintained, communities put themselves together to ensure development and the cleanliness of their spaces in order to have a decent living environment.

Technology is well advanced allowing sustainable environment and every child understands the value of a prosperous technology.  I truly wish we have the same type of developed infrastructure in Africa, and I am sure we will get there. All services ( water, electricity, transport etc) go through the infrastructure and ensure the development of the community. This prompted me to plan the organisation of a conference on infrastructure in October this year to discuss our lack of infrastructures and how to ensure a sustainable development for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Africans have all the necessary tools to be excellent - Lynda Aphing-Kouassi Click To Tweet

What does a better Africa look like to you?

A better Africa to me is a stable Africa where we understand politics and don’t use it against ourselves. It is one where we realise that Africans have all the necessary tools to be excellent and should therefore collaborate. A better Africa is one where Africans can freely travel across Africa and use our own products, learn to transform our raw materials and understand our values.

A better Africa is one where one African can’t tolerate seeing another one begging but where possible help others and grow together.  And most of all where we do not envy Europe and strive to be the best.

Lyyynda

Walk us through the journey of starting up Kaizene.

Kaizene is a baby that was born on the underground in London whilst talking to a friend about setting a business. Then the idea was put to bed. I had a job opportunity in Abidjan and although I had never experienced the working life in Abidjan, I had a fantastic manager. There were some difficult moments of integration and being someone who has just returned from the Diaspora, the situation was somehow different and I was not fully assisted in terms of integration.

I felt that my Director could not do it all, it was also upon the team to open up. Alternatively, I had to adjust myself to our realities and accept the fact that I was back home. I was always in tears in my Director’s office because of the absence of integration. It was the most difficult experience and I felt that the training for staff was not sufficient and there was not enough autonomy or empowerment.

After a discussion with my Director, we decided to part ways. This experience was helpful for the successful creation of Kaizene. I will always thank my Director for his understanding, time and belief in me.  I came back to London, opened the drawer that contained my business plan and knew that I wanted to set up a training company where I can use my experience to help develop talent and at the same time secure the development of the companies in Africa. Then came back to set up the company and started selling our services. It’s a rocky road but a passionate and truly rewarding one.

To this day we provide training, coaching, and organise various leadership and mentorship seminars to individuals and companies. We also organise conferences for the creation of partnership and synergies. To me, a true entrepreneur is the one who thinks of transferring some knowledge or skills to others before thinking of the cash advantage associated with it. Only with passion can we ensure the success of our enterprises, and being an entrepreneur is not all about success it comes with a lot of failures but the most important is what we learn from it and how we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off to carry on.

A true entrepreneur is the one who thinks of transferring some knowledge/skills to others before thinking of cash - Lynda Aphing-Kouassi Click To Tweet

Kaizene is now two years old, almost three and we are known in the market. We have a good client base but we still need to carry on to ensure that we reach our main goal; which is putting training and education in the heart of everything we do to ensure a sustainable development and become role models for the younger generations.

So, after your experience in Abidjan what measures did you put in place in your own company that prevents other people from facing the same issues?

I have put in place a strong integration scheme in order to welcome all our newcomers. I also have a mentoring system where one is assigned to a mentor to assist them in their duties and also introduce them to the rest of the team in a better way.

This develops their team spirit and it automatically allows the individual to have a sense of belonging, therefore, increase productivity. To also assist companies that we collaborate with we also provide a tailor-made service based on their visions and objectives.

Lyndaa

You also mentioned that you have a good client base, please advice the reader who might be struggling with creating trust relationships with their clients.

Honesty and passion are important in our company and we believe that our clients sense that we have their best interests at heart. To create this trust we have learned to know our clients and prospects, understand their vision and value, protect their brand in developing seminars and training that responds to their needs and objectives.

We have also learned to respect our deadlines and produced all our tasks with quality and efficiency.

What are your core values and what do they mean to you?

Authenticity, religion, integrity, honesty, passion, determination, discipline and hard work. They represent the defining point of my personality and Kaizene.

Those points must be followed at any given point to allow our development and the development of others. They represent my rule of life and my line of conduct.

What techniques can you give #MotherlandMoguls today to focus on to strengthen their internal teams?

  • Communication
  • Strong Leadership and knowledge of their teams to define the type of leadership to apply to ensure success
  • Empowerment
  • Humility
  • Collaboration

In Africa sadly we realise that with strong management strong egos are also born. This prevents sometimes the effective and efficient leadership. We also work on coaching sessions in order to ensure that leaders are capable of empowering the younger generation and leave a legacy of development.

“If you want a career that fulfils you, you need to focus on your interests rather than your qualifications.” Why is this?

Your interests are part of your dreams and your being and as they say dream big and you will achieve it. Not only this but you have a passion and with passion long lasting great things are achieved.

In your interest, you also have the practical skills and the desire to excel and excelling make this interest a durable source of living which is also socially responsible.

For Kaizene, where do the great ideas come from?

I have a daughter and my ideas come with the need to be an inspiration for her and others. I also know that God plays a strong part in the generation of my ideas. As a team great ideas come from big dreams and passion, they also come from the kids we deal with in whom we can truly identify as a better Africa.

Our great ideas also come from experience and the way we wish to see our Africa and Africans. Mostly the Kaizene ideas come from the desire to positively impact and change the world. Our role is to develop the talents in Africa, create leaders and ensure that within our conferences great synergies and partnerships are created. With the talents have a more developed Africa well equipped to became the hub of humanity.

Lynda yess

You also have leadership programs. What is the must-have trait for a powerful leader?

Inspiration.

Although there are other important traits that make a powerful leader such as humility, self-assurance, social boldness, decisiveness, optimism, focus, and honesty.

For those who don’t have these traits, how can they also possess them?

Following our Leadership programme.😊

What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?

I must travel a lot for the business and the hardest thing that I had to do was to leave my daughter behind with her nanny for work reasons.


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

Mutetelenu Kalama: My drive has always been the notion for change

Mutetelenu Kalama she leads africa
l have always been passionate about girls having the same opportunities as boys Click To Tweet

Zambian by birth, Mutetelenu Kakalama was born last into a family of four. Growing up a shy kid, she grew up thinking only her friends could do certain things and she always discredited herself. Little did this young lady know all she needed was a little push to come out of her shell.

Mutetelenu is currently a fourth-year student at the Zambia Catholic University studying Development Studies. She has been volunteering for the past six years and this path directed her to go with that degree. Starting out as a UNICEF Zambia Climate/HIV ambassador in 2010, the brilliant young lady fell in love with radio.

Entering the industry, Mutetelenu co-hosted a local radio show that was directly centered on advocacy for climate change and HIV and Aids. In 2011, the World Bank awarded her for the second best African photo story teller on Climate change. A year later she was given an opportunity to volunteer with grassroots soccer to fulfill her HIV advocacy mission. 

Later that year, Mutetelenu along with five of her friends co-founded Agents of Change Foundation. Their focus was and still is to empower young people with radio and leadership skills and to date they have been successful. Despite running the foundation, Mutetelenu still finds time to volunteer with the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia and Global Platform Zambia where she seats on the Youth Board.

As if that is not enough, an initiative called Istand4her was birthed as a result of Mutetelenu’s passion for grooming and empowering the girl child and she has been giving it all her love and attention.


What was the drive for you to start doing voluntary work?

My drive has always been the notion of change. I am a thinker and so most times I always try to find solutions that I would want to see. When growing up I was always interested in media and sometimes I would pretend sitting on my bed and answering questions from an invisible interviewer.

In my last year at high school, I came across a UNICEF advertisement that was looking for children to apply. I did this and became a UNICEF child HIV/Climate ambassador. My drive for activism started from here because I was exposed to problems facing young people and how to address them. Then I decided to take the step and advocate for others who don’t have the voice to do so.

Mutetelenu Kalama's drive for activism started from a UNICEF child HIV/Climate ambassador Click To Tweet

Can you share your experience with Istandup4her mentorship?

Growing up, l have always been passionate about the need for girls to be given the same life chances and opportunities as boys. The Istandup4her mentorship program came as a fulfillment of a need l felt was there. This is an initiative that I co-started with a friend of mine Niza Phiri. It is a program that mentors girls in different spheres of life with an emphasis on education and leadership.

We use basketball rules as a tool to train girls in leadership. We also connect them to lifetime mentors who willingly give their time to girls and act as guides. Our goal is empowerment and changing the mindset of girls. We’re showing them that they have what they need to achieve what they put their heart to.

Apart from that we also hold Girls Talks on diverse issues —these talks are facilitated by girls themselves. This initiative has created a great momentum for girls. I have experienced firsthand conversations with girls and got to understand the urgent need to inspire them. I am really amazed by the progress that we have seen. Through this initiative, girls are now growing up into responsible women who are taking on roles that they never thought they would, my relationship with this puts them at a comfortable space to talk freely.

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You volunteer, you seat on the board of Global Platform and you are a Development Studies student! How do you manage to do all that at such a young age?

For me, l treat every work as part of my lifestyle. I believe in having fun while working, so this helps me to manage my time well. It also ensures that when planning for each activity, value for my time is the greatest factor. The fact that the course that I am studying compliments my volunteer work is my greatest blessing too. Sometimes it appears hard trying to manage my time with my many commitments in between school but in the end, it is determination.

Most of the time I move with books. There have been times when I have had to study for a test while on the bus and finished an assignment on the plane. There was this time I arrived back from a consignment at 1 am and went to write a test at 7 am. All in all, God just paves the way for me.

What does success look like to you?

For me, success is being able to achieve the targeted goals set for my life and ensuring that my work grows into something that will inspire others.

Success to me looks like a river that l am swimming in and I’m almost at its banks. For the journey to our success means flying on wings of giants.

Radio is a very powerful tool that you can use to disseminate information Click To Tweet

How are the youth in Zambia responding to the radio and leadership workshops you do?

The youth in Zambia are responding to radio and leadership training positively and the momentum of discussions on radio has now been growing. Most of the time our Facebook page is filled with messages from young people across the country asking how they can be part of such a great initiative.

We have facilitated the need for young people to realise that radio is a very powerful tool that you can use to disseminate information. Through this, they can use their leadership skills to fully understand the environment around them and realise their full potential of achieving whatever they set their heart to.

Now some of the young people that we have been training are taking journalism seriously. They are going to school to study it, some are been offered jobs in the radio stations and are strong activists.

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You co-founded Agents of Africa with 5 of your friends, how do you motivate and empower each other so that each person brings forth the best of their abilities to the projects.

Agents of Change Foundation has helped us to grow in many spheres of life. The fact is that we are all friends and over the years have come to know each other’s strengths and weakness. We are honest with each other to ensure that we deliver the best to the betterment of young people.

Appreciating and complimenting each other for a job well done keeps us going as it motivates us to deliver the best. And throughout we have continued to empower each other with the available opportunities.

Do you intend to take your projects international? If so how?

Yes we do intend to take these projects on an international scale because we believe that young people have similar needs.

We intend do to this with the right kind of connections and creating a good base for the projects to be relevant in those contexts.

What’s your favourite movie quote?

My favourite movie quote comes from The Lorax movie; “Only if someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better…..IT’S NOT”


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

Help! I don’t have a mentor

If you’ve read articles and stories of successful entrepreneurs, the word ‘mentor’ must have stood out. Even the established entrepreneurs still have mentors. And you wonder, what more do they still need to learn?

Successful entrepreneurs know the benefits of having a mentor and one of those benefits is the opportunities for learning.

So what happens if you don’t have a mentor? Relax, it’s not the end of the world. However, here are a few things you should do:

Read books

What do you need a mentor for? Do you need a guide or someone to share their business journey with you? Do you need to learn from their mistakes? Do you want to learn how to manage time, make a sales pitch or form partnerships?

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What better way to learn all that than reading books written by successful entrepreneurs? Reading is the way, ladies! It can’t be that hard.

Try peer-to-peer mentorship

When founders talk about mentors, they refer to business owners who have had about fifteen years or so of business experience. Unfortunately, very few of these business owners have time to dedicate to mentoring startups.

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Now, you could consider being mentored by a founder within your age group. The good thing about this is that being in the same business environment, you can relate with this mentor. He or she can prove the best person to bounce off ideas with as they’re probably also among your target clients.

Quit with the attitude

One thing that can put your mentors off is the I-know-it-all attitude. As an entrepreneur, be prepared to be criticized, shaken and moulded. Keep in touch with your mentor(s) and update them on your progress. You would need to be that proactive.download (1)

Leave the sour attitude at the door and be ready to be guided. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs give up along the way, and complain about their mentor not making time for them and criticizing them too much. Well, guess what, it’s all part of the learning process.

In conclusion, to be mentored, you’d need an open mind and a teachable attitude.

Thembelihle Terry-Lynne Zulu: Every woman needs a big sister

The idea of women helping other women, benefits both parties and demonstrates just how powerful every woman can be with the right support. Thembelihle Terry-Lynne Zulu, through Girl Grandeur Zimbabwe which she co-founded, is going the extra mile to encourage women to pursue their dreams. Here is what she is doing to support other women. 


How have you used your personal challenges to inspire other  young women?

Women shouldn’t be shamed for sharing their pains, struggles and life experiences. No woman deserves to be slammed or termed ‘attention-seeking’ or ‘too sensitive’ for sharing her story. Our stories need to be told because in them is the hope for survival for every woman.

My life’s journey epitomizes, to a great extent, the challenges faced by the African girl child. I have been through most of the issues plaguing young women, from abuse to pregnancy, and everything else in between. I once wrote on my personal blog, “I went through some mistakes so that you don’t have too.” Walking young women through their ordeals is a mutual healing process as it helps me as much as it does them.

Tell us more about Girl Grandeur Zimbabwe, how did it come to be?

As the first of five girls, I considered it my duty to help my sisters make the right life choices. Gradually, this mentoring circle grew to include their friends. Our goal is to help every woman, especially the young ones access safe and comfortable adult counsel. We need them to be able to do this without the fear of being judged or unduly reprimanded. To address this, Girl Grandeur Zimbabwe has a mentorship program for business newbies, as well as a Big Sister program for the little girls.

In addition, to debunk the myth that women are naturally unable to work together, we created a platform that has some semblance of a sisterhood. Here, women come together in an informal setting to discuss issues relevant to them, share opportunities, advertise their businesses and have meaningful debates about womanhood in Zimbabwe.

How does a social club in Zimbabwe function?

Girl Grandeur Zimbabwe may not be the first social club for Zimbabwean women, but our approach is the first of its kind. We have branched out into various income generating programs and it’s a constant learning process. The club is accessible to every young woman in Zimbabwe, subscription fees are affordable and within reach. Our structure includes a board, a committee, and ordinary members. Our diversity reveals the implicit beauty of our differences and we are determined to do much more.

How do you provide support when needed?

Through our several social media platforms, we invite Girl Grandeur Zimbabwe members to contribute to planned projects or offer free services. For example, one of our members in Harare identified a pregnant homeless woman who needed help. To alleviate her plight, we brainstormed on possible support solutions.

Our growing membership increases the need to incorporate a wide range of issues facing every woman. We work closely with other NGOs while monitoring progress through the appropriate authorities.

IMG_20160610_211957As a co-founder, what advice will you give any woman looking to start a business with someone else?

When starting out, it’s easy to go for people who are within your reach and that’s usually kith or kin. In getting the right hands, be drawn to people who are not only passionate about your vision but who have proved that they can deliver results. You won’t always end up with the ones you started out with and you need to be okay with that. Appreciate small beginnings and don’t mess with the growing process.

Among other things, Girl Grandeur aspires to bridge the generational gap between mothers and daughters. How can young modern women overcome this gap?

A friend once suffered vaginal thrush but couldn’t tell her mother for fear of receiving retribution. There’s no gainsaying the fact that mothers need to create more time for their daughters. These days, more women work as hard and long as most men. And so, inadvertently abandon the formative training of their children to maids, nannies, the media, peers and even Google.

Some parents have been distracted by the cash-stretched times but good parenting isn’t just about money. Making time for your children is paramount – you can’t put a price tag on a thing like that.

Tell us about your relationship with your mother, was there any tension? How was it resolved?

When is there never any tension between mothers and daughters?! As a young girl, I didn’t understand half of the policies she’d put in place. As cliché as this sounds, as I grew older, I began to understand why she did what she did. Now, I understand that she didn’t ‘hate’ me but had to curb some of my rebellious tendencies.

Open and honest communication is key to the mother-daughter relationship. I strongly believe that when a child understands the reason(s) for a reprimand or punishment, he/she is more unlikely to repeat offense.

What do you love best about your mother?

I consider my mother a warrior!  A warrior who never let societal beliefs stop my sisters and I from finding our identities and flourishing in them. In retrospect, she understood that everything I did was in preparation for who I was to become.  Never did she ask me to be who I was not.


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

Naomi Kamau’s 5 tips on success and mentorship

Mentorship needs to be built, enforced and embraced. This is what creates the next generation of leaders, to spur the growth and prosperity of a country. Through mentorship, I know I will leave a lasting legacy

– Naomi Kamau, Kenyan producer, actress and scriptwriter

There isn’t a soul in Kenya right now in love with local television drama that hasn’t heard of Naomi Kamau. Naomi is by far one of Kenya’s leading television producers and actresses. From her acting roles in “Mother in law” and “Shamba Shape-Up” to her popular TV production “Machachari”, she is described as an iron lady when it comes to the Kenyan production arena. It is evident that Naomi has done a lot for the Kenyan TV industry. Hers is a passion to tell the African story for what it really is. To showcase the ordinary Kenyan life, to use drama to solve social problems and to help others embrace their heritage and be proud of who they are.

As a mentor and a mother, what gives her the greatest gratification is when Kenyan’s appreciate their own, when they rave about Kenyan productions and when they see themselves or others they know of in the characters created. Naomi posits that this is the path to greatness for any country -embracing their own abilities, heritage, culture and splendor.

“Africans need to create content that is commensurate with the lives they live for this is what will entice and draw the audience into appreciating their own”, she says.

When mentoring the young people. First and foremost it is important to recognize that we cannot as entrepreneurs implement the dream forever and that we have to pass the baton on to the youth in order to create a culture of sustainability in quality TV productions.

“I have great mentors myself like Wachira Waruru, Latifah Ngunjiri, Catherine Wamuyu and David Campbell. Successful people, most of the time, have to have mentors who are older and younger than they are”, she quips.

IMG_0022Having studied air-ticketing and taught History and English to secondary school students at some point in her life, Naomi shared five steps that she believes is the sure pathway to a successful production career.

1. Identify your passion

“Passion should be what drives you to surge forward. My parents wanted me to be a teacher but the passion within me couldn’t let me pursue that. I ended up teaching for two years but the passion was at it again stirring deeply
within me. The one strange thing about passion is that it’s almost spiritual and so strong and real that it will not let you rest until you embark on the journey to your dreams.”

2. Take the first step

“It is evident that God will certainly not bless someone who isn’t working toward the dream. You have got to be on the journey that will take you to your passion irregardless of the circumstances. A lot of young people view money as a great impediment but it shouldn’t be, you can work for the people who you want to be like, that is a path that will somehow lead you to where you are looking to go.”

3. Be creative and resilient

In this industry young people can be anything they would like to be if they put their minds and hearts into it. There are vast opportunities in wardrobe, make-up, animation, graphics and writing that young people can explore and excel in.

4. Work hard

This is the essence of success. It means literally getting down and dirty. When things seem not to be working, strive on, Rome was not built in a day. It takes hard work and time to build a successful and thriving career.

5. Read and Research

You need to know what others in the industry have done so that you can create something better. Better still you can liaise with the people already there in order to create something better. Production is an expensive venture especially for a young person and mistakes cost money. It would be good to know what other people who’ve made it think of your work. That is the essence of having a mentor.