iDare.NotDread is a social Enterprise promoting innovation, creativity, and enterprise in Nigeria.
Our focus is primarily to build women communities and empower them with creative and innovative skills for business growth.
What’s one business tip you wish most business owners knew and could wield to their advantage?
Network. Meet people.
That money you want is in someone’s account. That unspoken challenge can be solved by someone. Attend workshops, events, and meet people. Most people don’t bite.
How can entrepreneurs begin to understand the power of conducting market validation, and collaboration with other SMEs?
I believe in collaboration. This is why I try to build communities. We started the Abuja food community in May, and its amazing to see how much collaboration has happened in a group full of women.
Yet, we probably thought women prefer to fight. No. The moment businesses understand that collaboration first means ‘here is what I can give you’, before ‘give me what I want’, they will lead better businesses.
With a lot of fake business coaches around, what makes your brand different?
We didn’t just arrive. We’ve been here a while. In 2013 we started with creating a platform for entrepreneurs to share their stories and inspire others.
Over time, we realized stories weren’t enough. Capacities needed to be built.
So we went all in to try to understand the real needs of the entrepreneurs we wished to serve, and since 2016, we started contributing to conversations around digital technology and creating a good impact in the digital space.
Since then, our efforts have birthed super brands.
In the past 3 years we have successfully trained 4,000 entrepreneurs on digital strategies as well as provided opportunities for business visibility.
Many thanks to the opportunity Google granted us through the Digital Skills for Africa programme and a host of other partners who have trusted us to work with them.
Why should SMEs understand their target markets before making an entrance into the market?
Because if we don’t, we would be hitting our heads on rocks. Hard rocks.
You can’t sell to everyone, and this is why research is key to identifying who your market is.
We are currently on our 3rd cohort and it’s been amazing!!! Every 2 months we launch a new set of authors who are super proud of their achievements. It feels great to empower people to create wealth with their knowledge.
We are looking to expand the community beyond eBooks to help more women create diverse digital products and generate more income.
How does the “Do It Afraid” catchphrase relate to entrepreneurs who don’t like taking risks?
We all have fear in us. It’s an emotion. I am still learning to tame my fears. And we all should. The best way to go about it is to go ahead and do that very thing you fear.
I have coached a number of businesses and one of the areas I tend to focus on is to help them fight those limitations – the little voices and beliefs that make them feel less of themselves and limited.
It’s important we act despite fear. Accept your fears but act.
What’s the worst that could happen? Failure? Then show me one person who NEVER failed.
Teach For Kenya is one of many independent chapters of the Teach For All Non-Profit organization, that is currently being set up in Nairobi, Kenya by Yukabeth Kidenda who is both its CEO and founder.
Passionate about education and mentorship, Yukabeth is on a mission to build a movement of ethical leaders to drive reforms in Kenya’s education ecosystem.
In this article, Yukabeth talks about her passion for teaching and her dream for education in Kenya.
What inspired the Teach For Kenya initiative?
Teach for Kenya is not the first of its kind, there are actually 50 other partner networks that exist all over the world.
Teach For All was started by Wendy Kopp, an American who actually started it as Teach For America initially. Her inspiration came from coming face to face with the inequities in education in her hometown and feeling a burden in her heart to help bridge those gaps.
From the success of that, she decided to replicate the model across other countries.
When I was done with college, I decided to take a gap year and went to serve as a teacher in Honduras, Central America.
That entire year was 365 of the happiest days of my life. I came back home, but for one and a half years, I couldn’t find a job.
That really made me question everything that I had believed. For a long time, I had this belief that education was what gets you to be successful.
I questioned that notion a lot and began to think –
How come the education that I received didn’t prepare me for this slump on the road?
How come this great education made me sit at home for over a year jobless?
Why didn’t it help me sell myself to a potential employer?
That is when things in my mind changed, I don’t want to just help people get access to education, I want to help them get access to QUALITY education that will enable them to thrive in this 21st century.
That’s why I dedicated my life to working in educational organizations.
I started with adult learning and corporate training, then worked with Microsoft with their education team to push ICT training and certification.
Thereafter I joined Metis where I was running a fellowship program for educators across all sectors and went on to work with the African Leadership Group as a leadership facilitator and now getting ready to launch Teach For Kenya.
I had been mulling over this with one of my mentors, Kennedy Odede for about one and a half years and by the beginning of 2019, I just decided to get on with it and actually do something. I think right now the country is ripe for such a great innovation and I’m glad to be at the forefront of it.
Why is education important to you?
I have a vast background in education, all the way back to my time in high school when my mother was diagnosed with cancer.
My parents really valued education a lot and still do, my siblings and I all went to very good schools. My mother’s illness did take a financial toll on the family but one thing I took note of, was that my father did not make us switch schools at any point.
We could have saved so much money by going to other schools that were not as costly and I could not understand why he chose to make that sacrifice. As I got older I realized the kind of doors that getting a good education and being exposed to that kind of learning could open for me.
During my university years, I approached my dad and told him that I want to support other people who don’t have people rooting for them the way he rooted for us.
My dad and I soon started doing a lot of projects in the community, going out to various areas, providing books, toiletries, things that just make the learning environment more habitable and more comfortable for the students.
That really generated the passion I have had since then to do more in the education field.
3. How is it going with putting together the launch?
It’s been a scary, engaging, challenging but exciting process all the same. One thing that has worked in my favor, is that this is my dream job. I’ve always wanted to work with people who don’t have anybody cheering them on and supporting them.
Teach For Kenya puts me in that unique position where I have basically taken the responsibility to run this organization that will help mentor recent graduates and put them in a position where they come face to face with the challenges facing their community, transitioning them on to the alumni face of the program and watching them go out into the world to impact and join initiatives that are seeking to address these challenges.
So I’d say right now that the education space in Kenya is very ripe. There are so many people who are very receptive to the idea of Teach For Kenya, and think it’s been a long time coming so the support has been overwhelming in a good way.
I plan to pilot this program with our first 20 fellows in January 2021 so what I’m focusing on right now is doing community research and going out into the areas where we will potentially get to speak to the communities, the teachers, students, and parents and find out what their needs are and how our skills can best match those needs.
It’s a lot of work but I feel like all of us as citizens of this country and this continent needs to do our part, this is me right now choosing to do my part.
I hope this encourages anyone who may think that their part may be too small – we’re all pieces in a puzzle of a beautiful bigger picture and by doing our part, we are working one day at a time to transform this country into one of the best.
With over 800,000 children in Kenya out of school, what do you think is a probable solution to this problem?
I’ll be very honest and say I really don’t have a solution myself but I will say that in everything that is done, there are pros and cons.
One of the reactions I remember that members of the community did was to start low cost private schools in the slum areas. These particular schools don’t have as much support as the government schools have.
The schools provided increased access to education at low costs but the level of accountability was reduced as a single teacher is not able to keep track of about 100 students alone.
What we need to do is champion more for the increase in the disbursement of resources especially to public schools, to enable them to absorb that high influx of students but also increase the level of accountability with teachers.
This goes back to a motivation issue because yes, they have more students to look out for but who is looking out for the teachers? That’s one thing that Teach For Kenya is really keen about – we want to celebrate and dignify the teaching profession because none of us would be where we are if it wasn’t for our teachers.
We need to place a bigger focus on teachers, building capacity for teachers, allocating bigger budgets to that sector.
We still have a lot of untrained teachers who are unemployed right now but the government just doesn’t have enough funds to train and employ them.
Children being out of school is a big issue and with Teach For Kenya, we really are committed to sending out more people to act as aspirational role models in the classrooms to try and dignify the teaching profession.
We will be recruiting recent graduates from every profession, we’ll have lawyers, engineers, musicians, etc in the classroom teaching.
That way, when a child looks up at their teacher, they will look at him/her with awe and because even after 4 years of law school, he/she still thinks it’s cool to be a teacher.
Which teacher/s in your life had the biggest impact on you?
I’d like to mention my high school principal – Mrs. Mbaya. I was always one of those well-performing kids in school, but I also did well in being naughty.
For most teachers, those two character traits could never reconcile, but for Mrs. Mbaya, I was just acting like a normal child. She made me feel like it was okay to be smart in class and also be a bit naughty.
When I got so much backlash from other teachers, she was the one person on my side. We had such a great bond that she would invite me to her house for tea over the school holidays, I really felt seen and understood by her.
Because of that, I was able to thrive in school. All the backlash I was constantly getting would have forced me to decide what part of the spectrum I wanted to be in, but thanks to her I successfully managed to be naughty and brainy until the end of my time at that school.
I am someone who loves people a lot so everywhere I have been, I have fallen in love with the people there.
For example, my kindergarten principal, Ms. Mildred Obuye, is still my friend to this day, we are now working in the education space together and we collaborate on various projects together.
All through my life though, my greatest teachers have been my parents, I can attribute 98% of what I have learned in life to them.
They are the greatest embodiment of what a teacher should be in this life which is engaging and willing to make a genuine human connection with a student.
What do you foresee for the future of education in Kenya?
Right now there are so many amazing things happening in the education space. Everyone is beginning to plant their small seeds of change with so many privately owned education ventures already taking off in Kenya.
It’s a great time to be alive as an educator in Kenya, we saw Peter Tabichi win the Global Teacher Prize and it shows that we are on the map and that it’s the right time to nurture those seeds that we have planted to continue the fight.
Kenyans are beginning to think outside the box, they are taking risks and being disruptive and what I can say to that is – keep doing what you’re doing. I’m really excited for all the innovation that is happening for all the alternative education systems.
What are your thoughts on homeschooling versus traditional schooling methods?
To speak for myself, I think it’s best that you find what works for you and for your child. This means connecting and knowing your child, understanding what they want and what they need and figuring out if it’s you who will be able to give it to them or the traditional school.
So I wouldn’t say I prefer the traditional system over homeschooling or vice versa but I would just say the center of education needs to be the learner, connect with the learner, find out their needs and then put them in the best place that would be able to satisfy those needs.
What mantra do you live by?
Honesty – You need to be honest in your dealings
Humility – You need to be humble because if you’re not you’ll never be able to hire people who are smarter than you to join your team and get you to success
Responsibility – We all have a responsibility first because God put us on this earth for a reason and we are responsible for the positions that we find ourselves in.
Prayer – This is what has gotten me through everything in my life. My biggest supporter and cheerleader has been God, he has been my best friend through this whole journey and prayer is how I connect with him.
This month of July, we’re telling stories about boss ladies breaking boundaries, and how you also can hit your #BossLadyGoals. Got a boss lady story to share with us? Click here.
Grounded in the idea that gender inequality is an issue that affects all people—socially, economically and politically. It seeks to actively involve men and boys in a movement that was originally conceived as “a struggle for women by women”.
The HeForShe movement is gathering momentum globally as a cohort of select leaders from both the public and private sectors join the drive and stand out as visionaries on gender equality.
On behalf of Standard Bank Group, Chief Executive Sim Tshabalala, has become one of the global “Thematic Champions” in the HeForShe movement. These leaders have committed to implementing game-changing policies and concrete actions towards gender parity.
“Achieving gender equity is a moral duty, a business imperative, and just plain common sense. Women embody half the world’s talent, skill and energy – and more than half of its purchasing power.
So every sensible business leader must be committed to achieving gender equity in their company and to contributing to gender equity in the societies in which we operate,” says Tshabalala.
In the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap report, it is estimated that it will take more than 217 years to achieve workplace equality after gender parity took a step backward in the past year.
Concrete commitments made by Standard Bank Group in order to bring about tangible change include:
Reaching parity in executive positions and to improve the representation of women in executive positions from its current 32% to 40% by 2023.
Lift the representation of women on the Board from 22% to 33% by 2021.
Standard Bank is also committed to increasing the representation of women Chief Executives in its Africa Regions network from 10% to 20% by 2021, while Standard Bank South Africa will improve the representation of women in executive positions from the current 35% to 40% by 2021.
While progress has been made in certain countries in Africa to close gender gaps, others remain behind the curve. Namibia and South Africa both score in the Top 20 in the WEF global report on gender equality – after closing 78% to 76% of their gender gaps – but Sub-Saharan Africa still displays a wider range of gender gap outcomes than practically any other region.
Launched by Emma Watson and the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2014, HeForShe represented the first global effort to actively include men and boys as change agents for gender equality at a time when most gender programs were only targeting women.
The U.N. recently reported that nearly 20 percent of women surveyed said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the previous year.
Originally conceived as a one-year media campaign to raise awareness about the role of men and boys in gender equality, the HeForShe website garnered more than 100,000 male supporters in its first three days.
These males affirmed their commitment to the cause by declaring themselves “HeForShe” and saying that gender equality is not just a women’s issue. Early adopters included a clutch of celebrities and politicians, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and actor Matt Damon.
Since then, 1.6 million men have signed up online, including at least one man in every country of the world, and its “Impact Champions” include the presidents of Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, and Indonesia, among several other heads of state.
The issue has also been the subject of 2 billion conversations on social media.
But HeForShe is not without its critics. Many in the gender equality community say they would like to see the movement make more concrete demands of its male champions, and have called for civil society to play a greater role in developing and monitoring the movement.
“Now is a good moment for reflection and discussion about HeForShe, which has achieved high visibility, clear successes, and also drawbacks,” said Gary Barker, co-founder of Promundo, an NGO working to engage men and boys for gender equality, which has advised the HeForShe campaign since its launch three years ago.
“Having that amount of reach and star power on board means there’s huge potential, but we need to harness it before the movement loses momentum … [and] we need to push UN Women to go further and ask more of men,” he added.
Fatou Wurie is the founder of (SDP). She is also an AWDF 2015 African Women Writers Workshop for Social Change participant, an Imperial NEXTe Award Recipient for ‘Young Professional of the year 2015’ and Illumessence Women’s National Award Honoree 2016.
Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Forbes, MamaYe Campaign, UNICEF Innovations Blog, Amnesty International Digital Blog, The Journalist, and others. She is a passion-driven social activist, public speaker, and storyteller.
Fatou is committed to project design that employs creativity and advocacy for policy impact which is influenced by her background in strategic communications for development.
I’m from Sierra Leone. I have been working on different projects in general health, women’s health, and women activism.
During the Ebola crisis, I started an NGO that focused on looking at centralizing psycho-social health, women’s health, mental health as an intricate part of public health. We keep talking about service delivery and about fixing social institutions such as health care, but we don’t look at the fact that the country is in a constant state of crisis, and trauma.
We need to create safe spaces where people can access mental health services to be able to ensure that we can increase the efficacy of service delivery. So, I did.
I look at innovation and use it as a tool to deal with issues in health, education, and in gender issues through artistic means. So, I look at how we use tools to power our lives, especially African women’s lives and I try to broaden how we conceptualize and think about innovation.
I guess I am not a business women in the traditional sense of the term.
What inspired you to start the Survivor Dream project?
SDB was born out of complete frustration. I worked in the development space for about five years, mainly in the sector of regional health and reproductive health.
At that time, I was working as the gender and communication advisor for UNMEER. It was a very difficult time in Sierra Leone and I was frustrated with the development space. During the Ebola crisis and we were so overwhelmed that we were only focusing on breaking the transmission of the disease and getting more people to survive.
We really didn’t focus as much on what happened to them after they had survived. We would give them fifty dollars, a mattress, and a certificate saying: “you are a survivor”, meaning that people would now be able to interact with them.
I was interested in what happened after people had survived. We started the survivor dream project because we saw two gaps.
First, we saw that, due to their role as caregiver, women were disproportionately affected by the crisis and disproportionately unsupported when they survived the disease, so we wanted to focus women and young.
The second gap we identified was that apart from the people at the front line of the response, there wasn’t an actual national space for psycho-social support. People were surviving but they had no way to process what had happened to them. They had no means of dealing with internal trauma, PTSD, and anxiety.
That’s how the project was born. I do not come from that background, I just saw a need and I was frustrated. I talked about it with a friend and two weeks later we had found a space.
At the time, survivor conferences were held where they would provide food, give great speeches, do some artwork, and they would call it a day, which I thought was ridiculous. So, we just took twenty women we saw that was continuously going to the survivor conferences, and through a friend of mine, we gathered them and started working with them.
What we initially offered that was revolutionary was space for women, who had lost everything, to come to cry to think, and to deal with trauma. A space that has the tools to manage their PTSD, their anxiety, and their depression. A space where we could bring in professionals to facilitate workshops and to link them with the resources available at the time.
We tried to figure out the women and understand their issues. Their wants, their needs, and their demands are dictating what we offer while remaining as ethical as possible.
These are people minds, spirits, and hearts we are dealing with. We are not dealing with building hospitals. We are dealing with people’s core so we must be careful about how we went about creating and maintaining that space.
This period must have been very hard emotionally and physically. How did you survive it?
I always feel that during these types of conversations I have to take a step back and check myself. Many people were playing their part and we were all so depressed.
Unless you were in Sierra Leone, you wouldn’t understand. The entire country was in a state of shock. It was such a dark part of our reality, of our history. We had just come out of a cholera outbreak and a war. There were so many series of shocks that had daunted our community. And then the Ebola crisis came.
People at first were not believing it, until their aunts, their cousins, and doctors started dying. And we were wondering how we could this. How do you tell someone who lives in a small room with ten other people not to touch them?
How do you tell a woman whose mother is sick not to touch her? That is her mother, that is her husband, that is her daughter. You have to understand that this is a poverty-driven disease and it is poor people that are dying.
For me, it was a duty. I wasn’t there during the war, I am very privileged, so I live in a very different kind of Sierra Leone. There is no way I cannot give back to the community.
I am also a survivor of a different kind of trauma, so I understand what it means to be labeled a survivor, and to erase that label. In fact, I was very lucky and privileged to have the resources to deal with my own trauma. This is why I wanted to help my other Sierra Leon women with the resources to deal with theirs.
We, as an NGO, have a huge mission in terms of what we want to do. Our messaging and our programs have evolved over time and I think that moving forward we will be focusing on social innovation. We need to be able to look at mental wellbeing as a critical component of understanding public health in general, and understanding how to build resilient communities. Just because someone is doing well doesn’t mean they are resilient.
Those are the many reasons that influenced how I kept on powering through even when the women didn’t trust that I was doing this because I cared. They thought I was making money out of them.
Having come this far, what hopes do you have for the future?
If you look at the Survivor Dream Project and where it has brought me, it really is around innovating and finding a new and fresh way of looking at development, of empowering, and of creating resilient communities. It is a form of innovation.
We are trying to re-create a space that can function differently. You know, the old ways of doing things don’t work. We are therefore constantly having to find new ways to do the same things.
In the future, we need to begin talking about how people function, their mental health, and their mental wellbeing. It is a conversation I want to pick up in West Africa, especially in Sierra Leone which has been in a constant state of trauma.
I also want to be able to link mental health and mental wellbeing as tools to reimagine how we do development and how we impact the lives of young women, girls, and maybe in the long-term boys as well.
The future is very much about positioning myself within a policy activism and mobilisation space where I can take this conversation to the next level, so that communities can freely talk about the vitality of their mental state and policymaker take it into account when they are building and designing service delivery, health care systems, and business enterprise initiatives.
I want more and more West Africans to talk about mental health, PTSD, anxiety, depression, the trauma they’ve experienced—especially women.
I see the trajectory of my future really going around wellness, health, and policy advocacy. But truly it comes down to enriching the lives of women and girls.
We want to continue to create safe spaces. We want to continue to build educational and business capacity for women who are survivors of all kind of trauma. And, we want to continue their stories not only with the tools for healing but also with the tools for advocating for what we believe is important—which comes back to mental wellbeing.
What advice would you have liked to receive when you were starting?
I actually received it and I didn’t listen to it, and now I wish I had listened.
Someone once told me that it was okay to not have it all figured out. It is okay to slowly build your project. Whatever you dreamed of and have a vision for, you should realize that sometimes it is going to take a long time to manage.
You must look at, hold, and nurture every block before you lay it. It might take two years or twenty years. It doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as you are working towards it.
Even though we’ve been open for three years we have been operational for one and a half year out the three, and that’s okay.
For the longest time, I thought I was a failure, but I am not. Because it is something I am passionate about, it is about the work and the community, I can’t set a deadline on it.
It is okay to take your time to build your vision and to design the change you want to see. You must be patient and kind with yourself in that process.
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Gogontlejang Phaladi is a philanthropist and development practitioner from Botswana. She is the founder and executive director of a non-profit making NGO called the Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope Project (GPPHP).
She founded the organization over 10 years ago in response to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children affected and infected with HIV in Botswana. She is currently a Board Member of the Global Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), and a member of the National Vision 2036 Council.
GPPHP is an NGO that is mandated in capacity building, civic education, human rights advocacy, promoting gender equality and doing humanitarian work.
Gogontlejang is also the team leader of a company called SWAHIBA (PTY) LTD which provides leading Technology and Innovation solutions for human and social development issues and broad internet services.
In this interview, Gogontlejang talks about her humanitarian work, running a non-profit organization, and how she manages her leadership roles.
Tell us what we don’t know about Gogontlejang in detail
Gogontlejang Phaladi is an African woman leader who is passionate about transforming lives and believes a world free of poverty, with equity and dignity, is possible with more youth driving the development agenda as agents of change.
You can say I’m a seasoned human and social development expert who has served as a member of the African Union High Level Advisory Group on Humanitarian Effectiveness in Africa, Botswana Presidential Task Team of Vision 2036, UNICEF Botswana Child Ambassador, a former Radio Presenter, member of the WHO external advisory group on the Accelerated Action for the Health of Adolescents (AA-HA) Framework and a Motivational Speaker.
I am also a trained SRHR, CSE and HIV and AIDS educator, Governance and Leadership trainee and campaign facilitator having worked on several campaigns aligned with UNFPA, UNAIDS, WHO and UNESCO.
I am currently pursuing my undergraduate studies and doing humanitarian work, motivational speaking as well as development work consultancy. During my spare time, I mentor girls and women through an initiative dubbed #SIMI (She Is My Inspiration) and I also enjoy farming.
You became a leader from the age of five. As a young woman now, what three personal values have you appreciated that are transcendental to the Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope?
I think three things are essential for a leader regardless of at what level you are:
Discipline and integrity
These two values were central to my upbringing. My mom is a tough disciplinarian and continues to instill discipline in me and everyone around her. She is an innate leader and does not tolerate any form of indiscipline. So I have always known that wherever I want to get to in life, discipline is the vehicle to take me there
Doing my best to apply discipline in every aspect of my daily living has been very helpful in getting to where I am today. My dad believes in being a person of integrity so that part was instilled in me by him. He is a man of principle and consistency, often says little and shows more through his actions what he values most.
My parents have always taught me to do my best to stand by my principles no matter how compromising them may seem temporarily convenient.
Not leaning on your own understanding
It is important to appreciate that there is value in listening to others’ opinions. Even if you may not agree, they bring the much-needed objectivity to your point of view.
I value conversations with people who come from a different background from me. There is a lot of humility you learn through listening to others and allowing yourself to be guided by the wisdom of others. This also helped me a lot professionally, personally and socially.
If you don’t love what you do how will you get the motivation to keep doing it? Challenges are inevitable. Obstacles, setbacks and even sabotages are all things you will face in your workplace and as a leader.
If there is no passion you will quit, be consumed by your detractors’ negativity and give in to their predictions of your downfall. But where there is passion, there is an undying spirit of persistence, perseverance and a thirst to thrive and succeed.
What are the responsibilities of the GPPHP with being a member of these local and international organizations?
The GPPHP is a member of the UNFPA African Youth and Adolescent Network (AfriYAN) and of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) Adolescents and Youth Constituency.
Membership is sought once an organization believes they align with the core mandates of the global/ regional bodies. The purpose of belonging to such entities is to encourage a culture of fostering partnerships with stakeholders who work together in order to harness and enhance capacity.
The networks also enable a space of learning from all the other members.
There is strength in numbers when advocating for certain issues, in concerted efforts, consistent messaging and capacity building. Currently, the GPPHP is a member of the two networks and is involved in various initiatives of both networks. it is also in the executive leadership positions.
I am the board chair of the Adolescents and Youth Constituency of the PMNCH while one of my colleagues is an executive committee member of the AfriYAN network in Africa.
Give us an insight into how your typical day looks like
It’s difficult to say what a typical day looks like for me. To be honest I would be worried if I saw a 23-year-old with a typical day. We are at a lucrative and fertile time to take risks, try out new things, apply ourselves fully and be active.
I think at this point in my life, it makes sense to have days that add value and growth in all aspects of my life.
During the month I’m doing plenty of NGO work, the mentorship programme I run for young women, traveling locally or internationally, visiting the farms, spending time with my parents and nieces, watching a lot of comedy/ sarcastic shows and audio books and a lot of alone time which I value highly. Oh yes, watching football whenever I get a free weekend.
About twice a month I am traveling, either outside the country on UN, AU or NGO missions, or locally visiting local communities and doing community outreach initiatives. Every quarter, I spend the time at the Bokaa farm vaccinating livestock and dogs.
Sometimes, twice or three times in a week I can be found inside an office like any other employee and of course the usual meeting drills. I spend several afternoons and weekends doing school work. I spend many nights up working. Most of the time, I work at night as it is quiet and the internet is also faster at that time.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about establishing a non-profit organization, especially with a small society?
The misconception that the main motive is money. I have been doing this for almost 20 years and have never received a pay cheque with my name on it for doing humanitarian work.
This has never stopped me from doing the work I love. When I started my organization, I was using my parent’s resources. I have since continued to do work and have successfully undertaken several projects using my own resources and kind efforts of people who are also passionate about human rights advocacy and philanthropic work.
I believe there are more people who are active agents of change and catalysts of development in good faith than those ulterior motives. Nevertheless, we must continue encouraging a culture of giving back no matter how trivial the gesture may seem – our collective efforts are what eventually make the world a better place.
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Francine Irakoze was born in Burundi and grew up in many countries including Japan, Germany, and Belgium. Francine held various positions including Team Leader, Program Coordination/Liaison, and Interim Program Manager at Mckesson Canada before starting her global health career.
In 2015, she was selected to join the 2015 – 2016 Global Health Corps Fellowship cohort as an Operations Officer in Rwanda She was later promoted to Operations Manager/Program Specialist.
Francine now works in Toronto for Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR) as a Program Coordinator/Proposal Writer.
In this article, she talks about returning to Africa, her work with CPAR, the projects she worked on as a GHC fellow and her humanitarian work across Africa.
What does a typical day look like for you and what projects are you currently focusing on with CPAR?
CPAR is a sustainable development NGO in Ethiopia, Malawi, and Tanzania. My daily tasks include providing operational and programmatic support to the headquarters and the field offices in Africa.
My workload ranges from closely monitoring programmatic activities reviewing narrative and financial reports, working on multi-annual funding applications to recruiting Emergency Canadian Physicians for our Medical Placement Program among other tasks.
I sometimes travel to meet field teams. Last month I visited Malawi to conduct research on the country’s Sexual Reproductive Health landscape and secure partnerships with local organizations.
Overall, the varieties of my tasks make it hard to predict my day, but my one constant regardless of country or time zone – is my light cup of coffee every morning.
You once interviewed civil war health workers in Burundi, what did you learn from the experience?
In 2015, Burundi faced a social-political crisis that sparked deadly protests and violence between state forces and suspected opposition. In the same year, I moved from Toronto to Kigali, Rwanda as a GHC fellow with Health Builders.
I would wake up every morning worried about my family and friends living in Burundi. It was very hard for me to grasp how different life in Kigali was compared to my hometown of Bujumbura.
Writing became my coping mechanism. “Letter to Burundi”, wasn’t meant to be published but the positive comments I gained reminded me of the incredible power of using one’s story and voice to raise awareness.
With “White Coats, Dark Times.” I felt compelled to share this story of the conflict evolving in Bujumbura. More importantly, I wrote this article to honor my friends who were fighting, as physicians to save lives.
Around the world, conflicts stretch everything thin: a person’s sense of safety and security, emotional stability, and resources. On the other hand, conflicts also create heroes whose courage and resilience become inspirational.
“White Coats, Dark Times” turned out to be, for me, a bridge between these two conflict-generated realities.
Why do you think many other young Africans decide not to return home?
As I grew older, I started having a strong desire to return to the continent to contribute to change from there.
Everyone needs to develop various skill sets, explore their talents, master them, and then find a way to shine on the continent – not just in the international development sector but in finance, fashion, technology, the arts, and more.
My hope is that one main factor will drive our common homecoming journey, to play our part (however small) and to lift our continent up with hard work and positive contributions so it can thrive both politically and economically.
Why prompted you to return to Africa?
When I went back to Burundi as a teenager I was exposed to the harsh reality of life in an impoverished environment. Sadly, I saw family members struggling to afford prescriptions drugs and others dying of preventable disease.
After a few years, I gained more perspective on the dangerous combination of poverty, infectious disease, and inaccessibility to primary health care.
This was such a systemic problem in my country that, I felt compelled to get involved in the field of global health.
What advice would you share with other young leaders interested in the global health sector?
Global health is hard work because it’s about fighting for health as a human right and any fight against injustice is not easy. My advice would be for young leaders to be vigilant and always analyze power dynamics at play.
As you prepare to enter the fight for health equity, equip yourself with the knowledge of where disparities stem from in the first place. Stay engaged.
We need more people to join this sector to drive concrete change to eliminate health disparities. We should use the fullness of our diverse personalities, professional experiences, backgrounds, and talents, to fight health inequality.
I call this D against D: diversity against disparity. We should not tolerate such big gaps in the way people receive medical care or are able to access health insurance, and/or even live or die based on their financial status.
What’s your leadership mantra?
“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.” —Brian Tracy, motivational speaker
Working in such a challenging sector, how do you stay inspired and hopeful?
I stay connected to other changemakers. I read and stay in tune with other organizations, global health professionals, GHC friends, present and past co-workers. Their vision, drive, approach, and impact are a source of motivation for me.
When I was in Malawi, I attended the Segal Family Foundation (SFF), Social Impact Incubator (SII) event. During a small group exercise, I had the opportunity to sit with young leaders tackling issues ranging from improving cervical cancer services to advocating for climate change prevention in Malawi.
Listening to them explaining their source of motivations, and describing their organizations’ respective approach to solve local challenges was very informative.
It’s during moments like these, when my passion for transformative change aligns with others, that my sense of purpose is always reignited.
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While humanitarian work is often portrayed as “Westerners” coming to provide aid, it’s often “local” people who do a big part of the important field work. This is because they understand the context better.
Here are three young women who are inspiring us with their humanitarian work. While working with Oxfam, they sometimes spend weeks working in remote areas to ensure aid is provided to vulnerable communities and families.
In this interview, we learn more about Oxfam’s humanitarian superwomen who are working hard on the field to bring impact to their societies.
Tell us about your job
Umulkhair: I am currently a Food Security Officer working for Oxfam in Somaliland. I love my job because besides delivering food and creating livelihoods to people in need, I get to change the way communities view Muslim Somali women.
Gloria: My first ambition was to become a doctor but I instead became a water and sanitation engineer. As a WASH coordinator for the Burundi Refugee Response Program in Tanzania, my work includes conducting topographical surveys in villages.
I also design and supervise the construction of water supply systems to ensure that people don’t get sick from sanitary issues. Finally, I am a leading advocate for HIV/AIDS and women’s rights in my community.
Aimeline: I joined Oxfam in 2011 and have since been working as a Public Health Engineer assistant in South Kivu, DRC. I was inspired to join the humanitarian field so that I could save lives and make a difference in people’s lives. For the last 5 years, I’ve made an impact on building springs and waste latrines for communities.
As a local NGO worker,what makes you special?
Umulkhair: Despite all the challenges the country is facing, my work at Oxfam provides me with a platform to give hope to people in need. We try to show people that both the local and international NGO world is aware of their suffering and are trying the best to provide relief.
Gloria: It feels different and great to show your own people that it’s possible to make a real difference. More than that, I feel that as a Tanzanian and Swahili speaker, I can relate better to the problems for the host communities.
Have you faced any challenges in the humanitarian field?
Umulkhair: One challenge I’ve faced is the pastoralists lack of support and confidence for young women. However, though they often believe women should lead men when they see our achievements, they apologize for their judgment.
Gloria: I also encountered difficulties leading men as a young female engineer. Many times, it felt as though I was trying to prove myself. Luckily, I had support from Oxfam which places gender equality at the center.
Aimeline: Working in sensitive areas has been difficult. One of these difficulties I faced is the fear of the unpredictable. Recently, in my current zone of intervention, the Tanganyika region, there were ethnic conflicts leading to the displacement of nearly 600,000 people. Safety is always a concern.
What is it like spending significant time away from home?
Umulkhair: As a young, Somali woman, it was difficult to enter the humanitarian field because we often spend many days away from our families in remote areas. Though my father supported me, other family members were critical of this lifestyle.
Gloria: It has been tough to see all family members together and you are the only one away. But knowing that I need to support our communities with food insecurities and emergencies has helped me persevere.
How has this job shaped and inspired you?
Umulkhair: This job built my self-confidence and made me have a positive impact on people’s lives. Dealing with communities who don’t have confidence in young women has also made me more mature.
I also get very inspired by the people I meet on the field. Recently, I met two divorced women who had children but no source of income. After participating in an Oxfam training and receiving a start-up kit, they started their own shop. This helped them send their children to school.
Aimeline: A few victories here and there have truly inspired me to keep going. One of my first victories was when I mastered the operation of the gravity water supply and motor adduction. I had also learned how to build latrines that improved the protection of people against waterborne diseases such as Cholera or Typhoid fever.
Any advice for young women wanting to work with NGO’s?
Gloria: Working with these organizations starts with getting good grades. However, it’s important to work hard and deliver the best. You should also try and find support or guidance from women in the NGO-sector. Because of the gender imbalance in many African societies, it’s important that we support each other as women.
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Adedolapo Osuntuyi is the founder and president of Dolly Children Foundation, a non-governmental organization focused on improving the plight of indigent children in Nigeria through Education; emphasis on quality education for all.
She is a fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), West Africa Regional Centre, a US Government Initiative. The desire to start a foundation like this came in secondary school after reading her classmate’s story featured in a newspaper; during the anniversary of the NGO that took care of her from childhood.
This story, as well as other close experiences, motivated Adedolapo to start Dolly Children Foundation (DCF) on April 13, 2006, during her undergraduate years at the University.
Adedolapo graduated from the prestigious University of Central Lancashire, Preston UK, with a masters degree in Child Health & Social Care. She obtained an Africa – America Institute Scholarship to study Social Sector Management Course at the Enterprise Development Centre, Pan – Atlantic University.
She has gained experience in child protection, early childhood and community development programs and over 5000 children in 22 communities have benefitted through various interventions of the organization.
Tell us about Dolly Children Foundation
Dolly Children Foundation (DCF) is an organization with the mission of improving the plight of indigent children in Nigeria through Education.
Our main interventions are targeted towards eliminating child illiteracy in rural communities, reducing child labor, and abuse as well as absenteeism in public primary schools.
We do this by providing a conducive environment for learning, empowering educators, empowering less privileged children.
What has been achieved so far?
The foundation has reached out to over 6000 children through the following interventions:
Our weekly reading club meetings which hold in the public primary schools and the communities we serve. Children are encouraged to read at least a book per term. Also, they are expected to learn new words, act drama, compose and develop their own thoughts from every book read.
The reading materials and educational activities carried out in the clubs are initiatives that inspire excellence, leadership and increase their literacy abilities.
This initiative has resulted in a marked improvement in the interest of children towards reading and has improved their ability to express themselves.
The Sponsor A Child program has assisted children whose parents lack the financial backbone to support their schooling. I must say here that most of the children we sponsor have either lost a parent or both or are caregivers to their parents. Before our intervention, these children were unable to access desired and quality education which hindered their learning processes. Over the past year, DCF has provided sponsorship inform of educational aid and welfare to these children.
Back To School Initiative
Basic educational tools, school uniforms, shoes, bags etc have been provided to children with financial needs by the Foundation.
The initiative has also helped in bringing out – of – school children back to school by covering tuition fees, and needs.
This has helped to motivate over 5000 children to go back to school, as well as boost their confidence, and participation in school activities.
Training and Workshops for Public Primary School Teachers
In the past year, over 70 teachers and still counting have been trained in DCF workshops. Workshops and training sessions are organized for teachers to bring them up to date on 21st-century teaching methods.
These workshops have focused on topics like Numeracy made easy, 21st-century teaching methods, phonics, understanding your learner, managing diversity in your classroom e.t.c
After School And Summer School Tutoring Programmes
Our extra tutoring programmes which are available after school and during the summer break is targeted to help children from low – income backgrounds that are lagging behind academically.
Our motive behind these interventions is to engage the children in academic exercises that would effectively improve their academic performance, reduce child labor, and child abuse. Child laborers, street children, and dropouts have especially benefitted from this program since inception.
School Building Projects
School rebuilding is a project we took on from 2015 where we refurbish public primary schools with dilapidated structures.
We move into these outdated facilities to upgrade and equip them with the necessary educational materials and infrastructures. Thus far, a block of four classes, a staff office, library, and store have been built from scratch.
The project estimates to provide a healthy learning environment for over 1000children by the end of 2018.
The bottom line here is that no child should be left behind. Our approach to these interventions is a holistic one whereby children lagging behind in school would catch in our reading clubs, if they are not catching up in the reading clubs, they would catch up in our after-school and summer programs, if they still need support, they would get it through our back to school initiatives.
What do you enjoy the most about running the foundation?
I enjoy seeing smiles on the faces of children who never thought their dreams of being supported through school would be a reality. These are one of the cores that motivate me to do more.
What relationships/partnerships have been instrumental in growing the foundation and what other partnerships do you hope to develop for more impact?
Relationships with friends, mentors, colleagues, and acquaintances have helped the foundation in growing thus far.
This has also linked the foundation with interesting and wonderful partnerships. I will always be grateful for platforms such as Enterprise Development Center (of the Pan – Atlantic University), Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) RLC West Africa for every value-added knowledge gained so far.
I aim to explore new funding, training and partnership opportunities in the social space that would enable the foundation to produce more impacting success stories. Connecting with other NGOs through mentorship is something that is dear to my heart.
What challenges do you face running the foundation?
A major challenge I face in running the foundation is the belief system of some community members. You can imagine how tasking it can be to convince a guardian to allow award continue schooling in respective of the challenges being faced on the home front.
So far, the foundation has handled a good number of cases like these with incredible success stories. A challenge I also face is the bureaucracy on the part of agencies and regulatory bodies. It’s not a walk in the park to get approval for the kind of work we do.
I have had moments when I felt like giving up but tenacity gave me the strength to move forward.
What’s next for Dolly Children foundation?
Dolly Children Foundation aims to scale up her educative support interventions to 20 new communities in the next 5 years. We intend to get more support from volunteers and partners to achieve this milestone.
Know of any Motherland Moguls breaking boundaries and touching lives in your community? Share their story with us here.
She is also an all-around superwoman fighting for local women from various counties in Kenya to have an equal opportunity to participate in governance and development.
The organization, run by an all-women team, mobilizes the participation of local women in peacebuilding, governance, and development.
Their main focus is women from the rural area because these are the women who are marginalized the most.
Tell us about Rural Women Peace Link. How did it come about?
Rural Women Peace Link (RWPL) was founded in the early 1990’s by a group of women peace builders.
The significance of its name was to capture the critical issues the Community Based Organization (CBO) was addressing, namely rural women who had a passion to promote peace.
Their vision then was to help rural women to network, gain self-esteem, be empowered and promote and maintain peace in their respective areas of origin.
Our main thematic areas are:
Women’s human rights pillar: This pillar seeks to advance recognition and appreciation of women’s human rights in their communities against socio-cultural restrictions and negative perceptions. RWPL achieves this through training rural based women and girls on their rights through community education on legal education, human rights reproductive health and issues of bodily integrity and increasing access to justice.
Peace building and conflict mitigation pillar: We strengthen the role of rural women and youth groups in mitigating violence in the community, monitoring conflict through early warning indicators and mediating conflicts.
Women’s economic empowerment pillar: the focus is on grassroots women and women survivors of conflict and gender-based violence to promote sustainable livelihood management through offering life skills and entrepreneurship trainings. We also provide seed grant to facilitate start-up activities as well as linkages to financial institutions, partners and donors.
Education support and mentorship pillar: RWPL supports and encourages beneficiaries, mostly bright promising girls from vulnerable backgrounds, to take up opportunities offered through formal education in schools and colleges.
Leadership and governance pillar: RWPL mentors women leaders through capacity building training and exposure enabling them to participate in leadership effectively in different areas and also to vie for electable positions.
What led you to join this organization?
RWPL resonates with my passion for women and girls. I joined RWPL in January 2015 as a program coordinator for the leadership and governance program and became the executive director in January 2016.
RWPL provides a platform for me to reach women and girls at the grassroots level. I have had an opportunity to meet amazing women doing remarkable things in their communities.
RWPL works with 11 women network leaders whose stories shook me to the core. They have grown from ordinary rural women to women leaders. One of the women was nominated to the County Assembly of West Pokot after the just concluded 2017 elections.
Through teamwork, I have seen RWPL staff grow and together we are actualizing the vision of the organization through the support of our board members and technical advisor.
Empowering women and girls is important to me because it enables them to become aware of who they are and what makes them authentic.
They become aware of their capabilities, their likes and dislikes, their boundaries, their options and opportunities and all these enable them to develop into authentic human beings.
It is important that the girls and women I empower live a healthy life. We need to allow girls to be children first before they become wives or parents.
I empower girls so as to give them the opportunity to get an education and pursue their dreams. This way, they too get to help in breaking the cycle of poverty and strengthening our economy.
I am a mentor first and foremost because my experiences and knowledge positively influence the development of women and girls in their limiting environment. They do not always have to learn from mistakes because they get guidance.
Do you feel like this revolutionary work you’re doing for women is your life’s purpose?
Yes! In 2012 I attended a leadership training and I remember doing the passion test. We were required to complete this statement: When I am living my ideal life, I am…
We had to write 10 things we would be doing if we were living our ideal lives, then prioritize them. Mentorship was number 1 on my list.
Then it hit me that I actually talked to women and girls every chance I got. Totally unstructured mentorship!
My mum is my most real role model! She perfectly demonstrates work-life balance – she worked full time and raised five children.
Her passion for women inspired me and I have watched her support women and encourage them wherever she is and whenever she has an opportunity.
Selline Korir. Founder of RWPL, Selline has worked in several international organizations where she has touched the lives of women and youth. I met her in 2014 when I was looking for Women Human Rights Defenders to profile.
As I was interviewing her I knew this is one woman I would love to learn and develop under. I approached her for mentorship and I have been growing under her wing since then. She gives selflessly to causes she believes in.
Leymah Gbowee – The first time I watched ‘Pray The Devil Back To Hell’ I was amazed, impressed and awakened. Leymah demonstrated movement building in Liberia.
She, together with other Liberian women, mobilized women for a cause (Peace) – religion and social standing notwithstanding. The results speak for themselves.
“God has not postponed your elevation you have just paused your prayers”- Bulelwa Mpinda
Bulelwa Mpinda is the Chief Executive Officer of Young and Spiritually Inspired. As a young woman from South Africa who is in love with God, she aims to lead through her experiences and testimonies. A woman who is completely invested in the lane created for her, Bulelwa loves nature, traveling, art galleries, poetry and writing. “I am a friend, a daughter, a sister, mentor and God’s Reflection” she says.
Bulelwa, can you briefly take us through your journey from past to present?
I am Bulelwa Mpinda a young woman aged 26, who is a daughter of the Most High God and the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Young and Spiritually Inspired.
At the age of 3, I was adopted into the Mpinda family- the most loving, God fearing family. Prior to that I had stayed with different foster parents and at an orphanage. Growing up I found my self in love with writing, reading and loved watching Oprah! Little did I know that was preparing me for my destiny.
Due to lack of funds, after I matriculated I went straight into the work space. During that time I developed a keen interest in writing about issues relating to the youth, and so I decided to start a Facebook page and God lead it into a NGO which I called: Young and Spiritually Inspired.
Young and Spiritually inspired is a youth empowerment organisation which uses the digital space to help bring the lives of young people into alignment with God. What unites us best is the Love of God.
Christianity as a weapon to change the world. How have you been received so far by your target audience?
The key is to love people and to remain humble before you add titles to who you are. People relate to real people, the organization is the vessel through which we speak the truth of Gods love.
For instance, by reading about or attending our events many young people discover a new perspective to solving their issues. People have received us very well. We don’t impose change, we inspire and live the change that we want to see. The trick is to love God, be humble and let actions speak louder than words. 1 Timothy 4:12
Okay, before we go any further, how does an introvert manage to lay a foundation for a youth forum? How do you reach out to the youth?
I remember the days where I would battle with God about placing me on this path of leadership. It seemed insane that an introverted woman would be seen as fit enough to lead something of this nature.
But, God knew that He needed to work with my self -esteem, so He placed me in a position where I would need to confidently embrace the leadership role. When I was adopted by the most loving family who taught me about Him, God knew “Jeremiah 29:11” would be the signature of my life’s testimony.
God called me into Leadership in 2011 after I had just finished my Matric. At the time I loved poetry and writing,which I think was God’s way of helping me sharpen my craft for what was to come.
I never expected to create Young and Spiritually Inspired. In the early stages I battled with the concept of owning it. I’d literally shy away from this enormous task at hand because my comfort zone felt safe; this was a place where no one knew anything about me.
One thing our youth needs to learn is that owning any brand or business does not disqualify humility. This awareness has kept me sane throughout the 6 years of running this movement. People need to resonate with you as a human before you add titles, therefore, be authentic, be you.
I never tried to out run God by trying to fit in with what is called the “You can’t sit with us class”. I believe that one can’t inspire change when you isolate others, you need to mingle with those who strive to attain your goal.
People gravitate towards genuine souls, who they can talk to and confide in.
When you ask young people to speak out about their struggles you are essentially asking them to be vulnerable. How does Young and Spiritually Inspired emotionally protect these young people?
Young and Spiritually Inspired has created a forum of very real people. We don’t judge your experiences, we direct you to the Author and the Finisher of our faith only through love.
We had a collaborative event with a lady from Kenya. The event was primarily for women, and during that event we heard testimonies of women who had been to prison, women being abused and going into depression etc.
Essentially, Young and Spiritually Inspired has created a community of genuineness. At the end of the day people will never speak up if the feel uncomfortable. Vulnerability in Christ is the best way to go. The more we share our stories, we realize we are healing someone else through our testimony.
Bulelwa Mpinda, what will the world look like when you realize your YSI vision?
Our ultimate purpose is to lead a higher standard of life. The world will meet a Redeeming Saviour. Our light will expose people to Jesus and they will realise that they don’t need to settle in abusive relationships or situations that cause suffering. They need only to be guided by the standards of the Bible.
We want to eradicate the misconceptions around Christianity and being in Christ. We aim to travel throughout Africa and the globe to share our message with people. To help them realize that God is not allergic to their mess, but He can transform them, Revelations 12:11.
The world through the eyes of Young and Spiritually Inspired is healed from the pains and baggage we carry. People will love themselves more and know that they are worthy of being better versions of themselves. We envision a youth that won’t settle for safe in anything they do because God will be their first priority.
What’s one thing your brain tries to make you do and you have to will yourself not to do it?
I am a deep thinker therefore my brain tells me a lot of things. Therefore, i have learnt to react prayerfully in all situations. I am a leader and the influence I impart to the world is massive. The way I speak and what or how I chose to answer are vital.
The enemy will want you to vent out or bring out your inhuman nature, yet God says, I’ve come to give you life abundantly. So when the brain and heart tells me to react impulsively, God always reminds me of the calling and the ministry.
I’ve also become very discerning about my friendships and I put my life under the microscope of heaven so Jesus may be glorified.
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How spirituality played a positive role in your business?