Caroline Numuhire: If you want to be a human rights advocate, just do it

Work on your gifts and then the universe will grant you wisdom to shine. Click To Tweet
Global health and creative writing go hand in hand for Caroline Numuhire. From Kigali, Rwanda, Caroline got her start in global health as an intern with Save the Children Rwanda. She went on to address childhood malnutrition as a Global Health Corps (GHC) fellow at Gardens for Health International (GHI) in 2014 before joining GHC staff as a Program Associate last year.

Caroline regularly contributes to ECOFORUM and Environmental Africa in addition to penning inspirational short stories. She is currently working on a novel and pursuing a Master’s degree in Global Health Delivery at the University of Global Health Equity in Kigali.

You are both a global health practitioner and a writer. How do you juggle your main hustle and your side hustle? Is there overlap in these seemingly disparate worlds?

My professional life in the global health domain matters a lot to me to feel fulfilled as a human being as this is my contribution to build a more just world. I enjoy sleeping at night knowing that I spent a day achieving a good goal. If I was ever asked to pick one job, it would be a hard decision because I am passionate about my work as well as my writing. I always feel lucky to live in a world that allows me to practice both.

When I believe in a cause or a profession, it becomes so easy to handle it because I understand why I invest every drop of energy and I ensure that I find time to juggle and work on my passions. The reason why I (agronomist and writer) smoothly fit in global health is because it is not and has never been an isolated technical field. Communication, writing, and public speaking are some of the key tools that allow me to be an effective advocate for global health issues. There’s still a huge need to write about these issues that are affecting humanity.

Caroline Numuhire 2

Agriculture, nutrition, and the environment are often overlooked aspects of health and wellbeing. Why are you passionate about these issues?

The simplest answer would be that I have an educational background in agriculture, rural development, and global health delivery. But the true answer is more complex.

Sometimes when we talk about good health, we think about the absence of diseases and when it comes to wellbeing, we picture cash in our minds! In Rwanda, communities of farmers are the first victims of climate change effects and of malnutrition. In the early days of my career, one of the startling realities I faced in the field was that farmer communities suffer from malnutrition while they produce all the beautiful and healthy food that we consume and consequently they face poor health outcomes. In my eyes, it was an obvious facet of social injustice that I had to dedicate my efforts to.

You work with Global Health Corps fellows in Rwanda, many of whom are new to the health sphere and even to living and working on the African continent. What’s been your most challenging experience in this role so far?

The biggest challenge of my work is to work with smart, energetic and result-driven young people who want to observe the impact of their fellowship right away. It requires a form of art to help them understand that once you sow a tree seed it takes days, weeks, and most of the time years to yield flowers and then fruits.

And your most rewarding?

The most rewarding part is to see fellows graduating from the fellowship as empowered, more resilient leaders who are ready to continuously change the face of poverty and inequity wherever they are heading. It is a true transformation!

Caroline Numuhire says 'Don’t fear that there are so many human rights advocates already – they are not YOU' Click To Tweet

Professional women are often stereotyped and coerced into looking, acting and being a certain way. How do you stay true to yourself in the face of societal pressure to conform?

Oh, that’s a poisonous disease! Yes, we live in a society with predetermined norms. Yes, we want to experience the feeling of belonging. Yes, we have so many excuses, right?

In the last 20+ years of my life, I have played the card of likability. You know what? I lost, miserably. Just because I failed to please the only person who matters to me: myself. It’s so easy to be a submissive, scared, shy, soft, incompetent, slow, lazy woman (beauty being tolerated!) and be accepted, included and appreciated. But if your inner voice tells you that you are something else, then be exactly that person. For yourself. Don’t fear making men feel insecure because of their own weaknesses. It’s not your role. If you want to look sexy, smart and happy, be sexy, smart and happy. The formula is simple.

I intimately know that I’m an energetic, hard-working, empathic and imperfect girl and I totally, shamelessly and unapologetically embrace myself. What other people think of me is their own right but not a business I manage. A woman has to value herself and if you don’t know how you can start reading or watching Louise Hay’s meditation videos as well as learning about other women who understand the secret of true self-love.

What advice would you share with other young leaders who want to use their gifts to make a difference in the world?

First of all, work hard on your gift. The world will respect you if you respect your gift. We are all talented. God created us with tremendous reserves of amazing aptitudes and gifts. Just find your own, refine it and it will blossom to heaven.

Epictetus said, “If you want to be a writer, write”, so if you want to be a human rights advocate and you believe that this is your call, your life purpose, just do it. Just do it and dare to believe that only the sky can be a limit. We are all wonderful, we just have to see the wonder in us. Don’t fear that there are so many human rights advocates already –they are not YOU. They don’t hold your values. You are another highly valuable advocate among them. Our biggest enemy is that inner voice that criticizes us, or when we chose to trust other people’s negative criticisms. You have to intentionally shut their volume down, work on your gifts, and then the universe will grant you wisdom to shine.

Caroline Numuhire 1

From one Beyhive member to another, what’s your favorite Beyoncé song? What do you find empowering about her music?

Oh wow. I love all of Beyoncé’s music and certain songs become my favorite depending on my life weather. Currently, I am in love with “Grown Woman”. Because I also “remember being young, tough, brave, I knew what I needed, and… I can do whatever I want.”

I love Beyoncé because she is not only a performer, she is an empowered lady who empowers other women around the world. I play her music on YouTube, and think what a great beat for relaxation! When I am singing and dancing to her songs, I have the feeling that she understands me as a woman and she gets the personal and professional struggles I go through. Then, I smile because I know we could be friends and talk about women’s rights until 3 AM. I also watch her interviews. She empowers me and taught me the importance of beauty in a woman’s life. But most of all, I respect her because she works hard, gets up when she’s down, keeps progressing, is creative and competitive with herself, and she is so gracious!

What is one leadership mantra that you live by?

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” – Zig Ziglar

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

Salha Kaitesi: Many of our traditions and stories have been lost

ElleAfrique Salha Kaitesi
Salha Kaitesi of @ElleAfrique shares her advice on starting a blogzine. It's not so hard! Click To Tweet

Salha Kaitesi is a social entrepreneur currently managing two projects: Beauty of Rwanda, a not-for-profit organisation that economically empowers women and girls in Rwanda; and ElleAfrique, a blogzine dedicated to challenging the perceptions of African girls and women in the world today. 

The blogzine features writers and wide-ranging topics from across Africa, providing a space for African women to empower and celebrate one another and unite through their stories.

How does ElleAfrique stand out in comparison to other lifestyle magazines that target African women?

ElleAfrique stands out for several reasons but what truly makes it special is that it’s a platform dedicated to the everyday African woman. Most of our contributors are not “professional” bloggers/writers, they’re just everyday women with a story to tell and wisdom to share. ElleAfrique bloggers are university students, stay at home mums, professionals and everything in between.

Our blogzine also covers a range of topics, from the negative effects of the war in Burundi to the latest fashion trends in Cameroon, and span the entire continent because we have gathered women from many different parts of Africa and given them a voice through our platform.  The special ingredient to our success is our contributors.

What’s the most difficult aspect of running an online website in an age where advertising money is hard to come by and entry barriers are low?

Starting a blog has never been easier. What’s important is uniqueness because there are thousands of blogs out there. Attracting new readers with fresh content while maintaining our current readership has been vital to the success of ElleAfrique. It’s a constant balancing act. Constantly monitoring the performance of the blog has been key to keeping on top of things.

I have an amazing management group of women that work with me. The blog would not be what it is today without them (and those who share their stories, of course). ElleAfrique is successful because of the entire group.

@ElleAfrique is a platform dedicated to telling the stories of the everyday African woman Click To Tweet

Are there stories about African women begging to be told that no one is telling but should?

I believe the stories of our mothers and grandmothers are absent in magazines and media in general.  However, they are important because these matriarchs, through their life experiences, have shaped today’s African woman.

Through modernization, civilisation and the mass exodus of many towards the “Western world”, many of our traditions and stories have been lost. Writing and reading about them will strengthen our connection to our past and bring greater perspective to our present.

What’s your advice to anyone starting an online African magazine?

Having a unique niche is great, but even if that niche is already being covered elsewhere you can always turn your model into something that is still appealing to future readers.

Starting an online magazine isn’t as hard as you might think, but you must be prepared to work really hard. Your small idea can become a household name!

When I started ElleAfrique, it was being managed by someone else because I knew nothing about blogging. But I took the time to learn about web design and building a blog. Knowledge of online marketing was also an advantage and an important area to be familiar with.

Salha Kaitesi - What's important is uniqueness because there are thousands of blogs out there Click To Tweet

What does the future hold for ElleAfrique?

The African woman is multifaceted, multitalented and multicultural and it is because of this that we want all of her represented. I think the best way to achieve this is to have at least one contributor from each country in Africa.

We want to attract brands that cater to African women and to be a bridge for businesses to reach their target market. Ultimately, our mission is to change the narrative about the African woman, and who better to do this than the everyday African women, living on the continent or in the diaspora.

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

Faith Uwantege: I had a burning desire to help street children

Faith Uwantege: If I didn't have a big heart, I would probably have given up Click To Tweet

Faith Uwantege set up Faith Foundation to answer the issue of Rwandan children and women living below the poverty line. To realise her dream, she saved up while working her 9-5, all while knowing that when she quit, it’ll be to work in something she was truly passionate about.

Through her foundation, Faith encourages vulnerable women to sell handicrafts they make themselves. Faith Uwantege is working towards breaking the poverty cycle in Rwanda by encouraging people to be self-reliant.

What do you think of the industry you work in?

Well, that’s quite a handful of a question but I’ll try my best to answer it. On a personal level, what I dedicated my life to do is not something that’s being done by everybody else. So I cannot say I am competing or comparing myself with anybody in the industry.

All I can say is that it takes a lot of passion, dedication and selflessness to be in this kind of industry. So what do I think of this industry? I think the answer to that question is quite relative depending on who you ask!

Tell us about saving your salary to see your dream come true. How long did you have to save? Did you have any other plans outside just saving?

I really can’t specify how long it took me to save in order to start my dream. All I remember is that I had this burning desire to help helpless children and get them off the street.

It is not actually monetary saving alone, I sacrificed my time to be with these children and to try to pinpoint the most vulnerable ones.

In what ways do you restore hope to vulnerable children and women?

I restore hope in vulnerable children and women first of all by convincing them that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Before giving them any other form of help, I give them a vocal assurance. I teach women how to be self sustainable by creating and selling hand crafts and helping their children live a better life. I teach women how weave baskets (commonly known as ‘agaseke’) and I also teach them how to use sewing

How do you think the poverty cycle can be broken in Rwanda?

The poverty cycle in Rwanda can only be broken by teaching people to be self-reliant, by changing their mindsets.

Most poor people in Rwanda think that since they are poor, they are only meant to survive on government hand outs and foreign aid. This is a wrong perception because nobody was created to be poor. Once you convince them that they can actually be self-reliant, that’s the beginning of poverty eradication.

Faith Uwantege: What I dedicated my life to do isn't being done by everybody else Click To Tweet

What is exciting to you about being a young Rwandan woman today?

What’s exciting to me about being a young Rwandan woman today, is that I have a say in the society. Thanks to our president, who actually embarked on a war to ensure that there is gender balance in the country.

He also ensured that all children have equal opportunity in education and jobs in order for them to contribute to the development of the country.

Do you engage in any other projects outside Faith Foundation?

I dedicate myself fully to this foundation and that’s all that I do.

I might consider doing other things in the future but at the moment, I think my effort and focus is still vital in the

Who is your mentor and how important has she/he been in the growth of your project?

My mentor is Nick Hills, he is one of a kind! He has played an important role and is still there for the Faith Foundation in so many immeasurable ways as a donor and as my advisor. I look up to him!

I met my mentor Nick Hills first during his visit to Rwanda. Like most other tourists who had travelled here, Nick came with his family to see Rwanda’s famous mountain gorillas.

Faith Uwantege: As a young Rwandan woman today, I have a say in the society Click To Tweet

What five skills do young women need to successfully run a foundation like yours?

The five skills I think women or any other person for that matter needs to be successful in running this kind of foundation are;

  • Dedication: A woman needs to be dedicated even if the journey seems rough. It’s actually the challenges that make us more stronger in this kind of field.
  • Determination: A woman that wants to be successful in this industry, must be  determined. Without determination, you’ll easily give up.
  • Passion for what she does. I always tell people that it’s very important to do something that they are passionate about. Be it in a business or in a non- profit organization, it just makes it so much easier. If there’s no passion, then don’t even bother.
  • Hard work: Work harder even without expecting something in return. It’s worth it.
  • Simply having a big and helpful heart. If I didn’t have a big heart, I would probably have given up. There are many challenges in this industry, especially that it does not pay. It’s the big and helpful heart that drives us.

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Teta Isibo: There is so much potential for African artisans to increase the value of their products

Teta Isibo: The whole essence of @InzukiDesigns is the fusion of traditional & contemporary Click To Tweet

Teta Isibo is a Rwandan fashion entrepreneur and the founder of Inzuki Designs, a Rwandan brand specialising in jewellery, home décor and accessories that fuses Rwandan traditional craftsmanship and global contemporary design.

Teta founded Inzuki Designs out of a combined passion for design, style and everything Rwandan. Her brand seeks to transcend traditional Rwandan design and customise it to suit a modern and international market. What started a few years ago as a hobby designing jewellery for herself, has since grown into a dynamic brand selling beyond Rwanda’s borders. 

You quit your job as a land planner to start a jewellery business, which you had no background in. How difficult was it to take that leap?

It was not easy at all in the beginning, but I was really excited about finally taking the leap to be fazed by the hurdles I faced.

I learned by doing, made a lot of mistakes and learned from those mistakes as well.

Teta Isibo started out designing jewellery for herself, now @InzukiDesigns is dynamic brand Click To Tweet

Do you think there’s an interest by African artists to break away from the touristy art and crafts?

Presentation is really important in retail, it can make a whole lot of difference in what people perceive the value of a product to be and in how much they are willing to pay for it.

As much as there will always be a need and a love for the conventional arts and crafts market, there is so much potential for African artisans to increase the value of their products through better presentation and I think there is certainly a growing interest in that.

Inzuki Designs Jerwellery. Photo: Gael R. Vande Weghe
Inzuki Designs Jewellery. Photo: Gael R. Vande Weghe

Inzuki Designs works with roughly 10 local cooperatives. Why was it important for you to partner with these cooperatives?

The whole essence of our business is the fusion of Rwandan traditional and global contemporary, and the traditional comes from the skills of local artisans.

They are therefore an intrinsic component of our business. Their craftsmanship is a unique skill that we as a business greatly value. I wouldn’t be able to be in this business without them.

Teta founded @InzukiDesigns out of a combined passion for design, style and everything Rwandan Click To Tweet

What was the biggest mistake you made starting out, and what lessons did you learn?

Trying to do everything by myself, the designing and creating, the marketing and branding, the admin., the day to day running of the business. My logic was that I didn’t have money to hire staff so I had to do it by myself.

But that sort of thinking can be a costly mistake and stunt your growth. I learnt that you grow so much faster if you have the right people on your team.

Inzuki Designs Jewellery. Photo:
Inzuki Designs Jewellery. Photo:

If you were to choose one colour that represented Inzuki Design’s ethos, which would it be and why?

I’ll go with yellow. Inzuki means bees and yellow is our brand colour. It’s a bright, happy, bold colour. It’s the colour of sunshine and it symbolises joy and energy among other things. It also happens to be one of my favourite colours.

Teta Isibo: I learned by doing, made a lot of mistakes and learned from those mistakes as well Click To Tweet

What does the future hold for Inzuki Designs?

We are working on expanding our home décor line, getting into apparel, starting a line for men and for kids as well and finally getting our online store up and running. Our vision for the future is to become a contemporary African lifestyle brand with a global reach.

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