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.


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.


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”

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Gbemisola Isimi: Our mission is to preserve and promote African languages

Gbemisola Isimi
Gbemisola Isimi hopes to make learning African languages a fun & interactive experience. Click To Tweet

Gbemisola Isimi is the CEO & Founder of CultureTree and she wants children to learn African languages. We can’t ignore the importance of speaking your mother tongue(s) but in a globalised world, many children are losing touch with their languages. CultureTree provides a solution to this problem.

At present, CultureTree teaches children the Yoruba language through popular nursery rhymes, folk songs, stories, games and other educational resources. They plan to expand and introduce other African languages in the near future.

What would you say is the innovative idea behind CultureTree?

The idea for CultureTree was birthed when I had my first daughter who is now 3 years old. I wanted to teach her Yoruba but I couldn’t find anything online. I noticed she loved watching nursery rhymes on Youtube and could sit for hours watching it, even the ones in foreign languages.

So I searched for Yoruba nursery rhymes but there was only one at that time and it wasn’t an animated cartoon but someone singing. That was when I thought of creating them myself.

Kids love our nursery rhymes because they are already familiar with most of the songs. Baba MacDonald for example is particularly popular because kids love the Old MacDonald had a farm nursery rhyme. They are simply learning the Yoruba version of it.

We hope to make learning African languages a fun, interactive and natural experience. Children are more likely to be curious when presented with songs, rhymes, stories and games and therefore are more likely to learn and retain knowledge.

I searched for Yoruba nursery rhymes but there was only one at that time - Gbemisola Isimi Click To Tweet

Can you tell us more about your business as a social venture?

As Africans, our language is a very important part of our identity. Yet I noticed that a lot of us (Nigerians especially) living outside of Africa no longer speak to our children in our mother tongue. Even those of us who do speak our language to our children don’t get a response from them in our language but rather in English.

This is because English is what we are surrounded with and unless parents have the tools and resources to help with teaching our languages, it will be a continued struggle (especially for those in inter-marriages, non-speakers etc.)

Our mission is to preserve and promote African languages and also reignite the love and passion for our languages. As I mentioned earlier, we hope to provide as much educational resources as possible to teach children African languages. We believe it is very important to catch them young because children are so intelligent and can learn multiple languages very easily.

As parents it is our duty to educate our children on our culture and language. If we don’t pass our language on to the next generation it will surely die.

culturetreeWhat four skills have you found yourself using/learning frequently since starting Culture Tree?

There are so many but the four that stand out for me are:


I’ve had to be very disciplined with my time, money, efforts, everything! Usually when working 9-5, you really don’t think about this because everything is so much more scheduled. As an employee you start work at 9, have your lunch around maybe 1pm then finish at 5/6-ish.

When I first started working for myself, I used to think, “Yes I’m my own boss now, I can do whatever I want, even sleep till 10am”. I’d start working around 1pm but before I could even type one full sentence, the day would be gone and I’d have achieved nothing!

Same with money, I can’t walk into Reiss and buy that expensive top any more without thinking about my bank balance because there’s no regular salary at the end of the month (at least till I hit the big-time).

To cut a long story short, I’ve had to apply self-control in everything and work out a routine that allows me to be productive.

Gbemisola Isimi: I’ve had to apply self-control in everything and be productive. Click To Tweet
Time-management and planning skills

This follows on from being disciplined. You know that saying, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’? Well, I’ve learnt that time also flies when you’re not planning your time! I’ve learnt to prioritise my time and also plan ahead.

I now set time aside each week to plan for the entire week and also make daily adjustments. I know when my peak energy times are so I work during those times and also keep a to-do-list.


I can get in about 20 words in one sentence because I talk very fast! And yes that is a skill! But that is not the kind of communication skill that has come in handy strangely.

We are surrounded by noise everywhere, in person, online, on TV, etc. People can easily switch off if the information you’re giving them is too much or too long. I’ve had to work on being able to express the idea of CultureTree in a clear and concise manner.

It is very important to learn to pick out the most important concepts of ones’ ideas and speak about them with clarity. I am also very enthusiastic about the business and I think this shows when I talk about it. If you are not enthusiastic about your idea, it is hard to persuade others to believe it is good one.

Learning skills:

Learning is a skill and one should never stop learning! I’ve always been a quick learner but there are so many technical skills I lack that I want to learn. It is very important to be willing to learn new skills constantly.

For example, I’m learning how to create children’s games. I can easily hire someone to do this but it’s also useful for me to know how to do it myself, not to mention the fact that it’ll save me major mulla!

Also, being willing to learn from others and having the courage to ask for help when needed is vital.

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

The main challenge would be finances. Anyone who knows anything about animation can tell you how expensive and time-consuming it is. I’m not an animator so I’ve had to hire skilled animators to do the work for me and chale it is very expensive! This is why I’m looking for investors. I’m really not about that ‘loan’ life.

The idea has been well-received by our target audience so this has not been a problem. We still get the odd comment of ‘learning an African language is of no use’ but these are few and far between and we don’t let the naysayers rain on our parade.

You plan to expand to include other languages, how are you preparing for this?

Yes we plan to include other languages but we are keeping these plans under wraps for now. Sometimes it’s best not to reveal all your cards at once.

In what ways have you diversified your product to suit your market?

When we started the YouTube channel, we had a lot of parents asking if we run any language classes for kids. This was definitely in our future plans but due to such high interest, we’re starting this sooner than we thought we would.

We’re currently putting things in place and will be starting our Yoruba Rhyme Time classes for kids in London early next year.

You don’t need to memorise flashcards to learn a new language - Gbemisola Isimi Click To Tweet

Some people are looking to learn their mother tongues as adults, what advice would you give them?

I would say the best thing is to become immersed in the language. Create an environment around you where you’re constantly hearing the language. Watch films in that language, go to the country, make friends with people who speak the language, talk to native speakers through Skype, listen to music in that language, do everything you can to be surrounded by it.

That’s how kids learn, through repetition and immersion. You don’t need to memorise flashcards or complete homework every week (I’m not saying those aren’t helpful) but the best way to learn a new language is to just listen, absorb and speak! Don’t worry about having a funny accent or saying words wrong, just speak it!

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