How Rowena Lubowa & Dushiime Kaguliro are connecting Ugandan women through ‘pearls for her’

You can have it all; just not on the same day, at the same time - Pearls for her Click To Tweet

With just a few minutes for the event to begin, I barely managed to get a seat at the packed venue for the “Pearls for her” event. The garden was abuzz with the vibrant voices of Uganda’s future- young, hungry and fierce female entrepreneurs.

Some still at the idea phase of their dream businesses, looking to network and learn some valuable nuggets of wisdom from their peers. Others, already seasoned entrepreneurs hoping to learn something new.


The group of panelists took their seats on the stage, all of them highly respected young female entrepreneurs ready to share their stories- the good, the bad and the ugly with an eagerly waiting crowd.

This scene has been repeated many times at different events organized by Pearls for her- an organization that supports, educates and encourages female entrepreneurs in Uganda through their seminars, panel discussions, and networking events.  

Rowena Lubowa and Dushiime Kaguliro – the founders of ‘Pearls for her’– share their fascinating story and insights on how they came to build such an amazing brand.

 On how their entrepreneurial journey began…

We felt like there was a gap in the market for women empowerment platforms and there was a need for more events that focused on developing women.

We wanted to create networking spaces so we could help and learn from each other.

The most valuable business lesson learned so far…

The importance of planning ahead, a lot of our business is event-based and this has taught us that you can never foresee all the things that can go wrong.

Starting small and letting the business grow– you learn as you grow which has the added advantage of allowing you to manage all the work as the business grows.

Their motivation to support female entrepreneurs…

‘Pearls for her’ supports all women, not just entrepreneurs.  We live in a world where women are constantly pitted against each other. Where women feel like there aren’t enough safe spaces for them.

‘Pearls for her’ wants to change all that and ensure women can learn, grow and support each other. Its a space where our voices can be heard and valued.

The biggest challenge faced while growing the brand…

Balance. Learning to balance our careers, private businesses and ‘Pearls for her. We’ve also learned to balance what we want for the brand and what the market wants.

One advice for female entrepreneurs in Africa and abroad…


You can have it all, just not on the same day, at the same time.

That, however, should not stop you from being everything and doing everything you want to do.



If you could be mentored by any woman in the world, who would it be and why?

Ava DuVernay– She decided to be a director in her 30’s and is redefining storytelling in Hollywood.

She is unapologetically herself and has chosen to tell black stories at a higher standard. There is so much to learn from her and her story.

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Cashless Banking in Africa: How we’re creating payment solutions with technology and innovation

African economies are well positioned to benefit from rapidly accelerating technological change if they can harness the current open landscape for innovation.

East Africa is already a global leader in mobile payments, while mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa are on an upward charge.

Apart from being able to leapfrog the limitations and costs of physical infrastructure, the continent stands to benefit from having the youngest, tech-savvy workforce in the world in the next decade.

Africa’s working age population is expected to grow by 450 million people by 2035. According to the World Bank and the continent is projected to have the largest working population of 1.1 billion by 2034, notes the World Economic Forum on Africa.

Recent GSMA data shows that mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa are up 18.4% between 2016-17 to 33.8m registered accounts.

Banking in a cashless society will require African solutions for African problems - @nnamdi_oranye Click To Tweet

However, we cannot wait 12-15 years before adequate job creating initiatives and policies are unlocked. The answer lies in harnessing the power of the digital economy today to create African solutions for African problems. An important part of this will require promoting and partnering with African innovators to unlock sustainable growth.

We are already witnessing the significant potential of digital innovation in the remittance and mobile wallet space. Penetration of smartphones is expected to hit at least the 50% mark in 2020 from only 2% in 2010, according to the World Economic Forum, offering the continent a clean canvas for tech-based innovation.

It is an opportunity we must not miss. These are exciting times and are forcing us to think differently to come up with true Pan African innovation and development.

MFS Africa is a good example of how carefully harnessed and supported technological innovation can have ripple effects through the continent. It now operates the largest digital payments network in Africa and connects over 170m mobile wallets through 100+ partners, including Airtel, Ecobank, MTN, Orange and Vodafone across 55 markets.

It has about 15% of the African population connected to a platform.

M-Pesa, launched in Kenya in 2007, is an often-touted example of African technology making waves even outside its own borders. After capturing the local market for cash transfers it has spread to three continents and 10 countries.

Residents transfer money using the M-Pesa banking service at a store in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday, April 14, 2013. In the six years since Kenya’s M-Pesa brought banking-by-phone to Africa, the service has grown from a novelty to a bona fide payment network. Photographer: Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg via Getty Images

MicroEnsure, meanwhile continues on the path of developing pioneering insurance solutions for low-income people like micro-health, crop, and mobile insurance. These are solutions directly aimed at emerging customers and it is little surprise the company continues new customers by cleverly partnering with telcos. is another major success story, testing and growing its health innovation offerings for seven years in East Africa. The company works with health systems to hone their communications with patients in lower-income but also in growing areas and it hopped the pond in the opposite direction from most smaller startups and landed one of its first American clients.

Standard Bank, as Africa’s largest bank by assets, hopes to support even more start-up and tech initiatives across the continent Click To Tweet

Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital, a Los Angeles facility that works largely with lower-income Hispanics, was looking for ways to use health data to achieve better outcomes within its population.

These are examples of the role models that will inspire our next generation of innovators. We need more and tech-savvy banks to need to continue supporting them as they grasp future opportunities.

Just consider that Findex data shows that sub-Saharan Africa is home to all eight economies where 20 percent or more of adults use only a mobile money account: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Opportunities, therefore, abound to increase account ownership up to 95 million unbanked adults in the region receive cash payments for agricultural products, and roughly 65 million save using semiformal methods.

Standard Bank, as Africa’s largest bank by assets, hopes to support even more start-up and tech initiatives across the continent to ensure these opportunities are not lost.

We are setting a new standard in digital payments with the launch of Africa’s first prepaid virtual cards ecosystem, among many other digital innovations - @nnamdi_oranye Click To Tweet

We are therefore innovating ourselves at a rapid pace to harness the benefits of the digital age to drive financial services inclusion. Mobile payment solutions like Snapscan is now available at over 25,000 merchants and a vast user network across South Africa. We are setting a new standard in digital payments with the launch of Africa’s first prepaid virtual cards ecosystem, among many other digital innovations.

The future will be about solving genuine customer problems rather than putting a band aid on them. One area in urgent need of change, for instance, is remittances, where Africa is still one of the costliest places in the world to remit payments – fees as high as 10% to 20% are still endured.

We need to harness technology to genuinely solve this problem.

Sometimes when we talk about banking in cashless society we look too far out – but we don’t have the luxury of time. Knowing your customer (KYC) is about understanding what they need today based on their culture and context and then unlocking the already available data to provide the solution.

Technology, for instance, can solve the unbanked problem on the continent. However, this does not mean you can “plug and play” by taking something that works in one country and expecting it to work in another. Success will increasingly be centered on having a Pan African view of the problem, but local implementation.

The future is certainly bright for Africa as exponential innovation continues to drive change across the continent we call home, disrupts industries and replace legacy technology.

It is now time to grasp this opportunity with both hands before the innovation wave passes us by.

Article By Nnamdi Oranye, Fintech Author and International Remittances Lead at Standard Bank Group. 

October 2018

Sponsored Post.

10 lessons I have learned since quitting my job to start a business

It’s been almost two years since I officially resigned from my job at a top consulting firm to start a business. For the last 20 months, I have been filled with either extreme anxiety or euphoria and sometimes, both feelings have coexisted from running my own business(es).

It has been an experience like none I had had before, extremely excruciating, but also immensely fulfilling.

Taking the leap to quit a comfortable job with potential for growth was not a difficult decision for me to make. I grew up believing I had the “Midas” touch — that everything I touched would turn to gold. I was optimistic.

The prospect of extreme success was very exciting. I wanted to build the next Bloomberg or the next Warby Parker, in fact, I was like a child on their first day to school.

And interestingly — my entrepreneurship journey has been more of a school than anything I had imagined.

Here are just a few of the lessons I have learned and feel anyone planning on quitting their job to start a business should know.

regina king black girl magic GIFAbout to quit your job to start a business? Here are 10 lessons you should learn from @Kazville Click To Tweet

1. Do not quit your job unless you have actually started your business

Yes. They say no one wants to work for a part-time CEO. But no one wants to work for a broke business either. If I could do it again, I would wait till my business has clear-cut cash flows before I take the leap. Sometimes strategy works easier and more efficiently than hustle.

2. Have enough savings to last you at least a year

Nothing sucks like having to invest in a business and worry about your house rent at the same time. Stowaway enough cash for yourself to survive for at least a year before taking the leap.

And by “survive” I mean your budget should also have an entertainment budget line — to fund those business coffee meetings and social gatherings.


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Do not start a business thinking your business will feed you from Day 1 because the reality is that it won’t. And yes, some people will argue that you can never save enough. I disagree!

3. Your 9–5 job is just as important to your dream as your dream itself

I have read a lot of social media articles bashing employed people for building other people’s dreams instead of their own and I feel that these “motivational” quotes and articles are in such bad taste.

A lot of my progress and support have come from connections I made while at my job. My job taught me so much about managing my business and through it, I interfaced with top CEOs and management people that have since become personal friends and supported my business.

My first client came from my former employer. I am mentored by my former boss. The beautiful people modeling Wazi glasses on our website are my former workmates. If I had not had that job, I would not have much mileage today.

Sometimes strategy works easier and more efficiently than hustle - @Kazville Click To Tweet

4. Start a business you understand

Nothing takes longer and costs more than a business you have no experience in or understand. I cannot begin to count how much money I wasted paying ‘experts’ to make me furnaces that did not even work or molds that were defective.

Image result for confused gif

Don’t even get me started on how much time I wasted back and forth with excuses from the said experts as to why work was not getting delivered on time.

Although I eventually pulled the business model off and actually started to make revenue, I think it gets any entrepreneur more mileage, success, and fun doing something they actually know and understand.

5. Get a mentor or two

I have been lucky to have mentors throughout my entrepreneurship journey. They have not only offered me invaluable entrepreneurship advice but have also opened up their networks and shared their skills. They keep me accountable and on my toes every time I slack.

6. Keep your business simple

Always keep your core business simple. Simple to implement. Simple to understand. Simple to pitch. Simple to share. Simple to scale.

Innovation does not always equate complexity and just because your concept is complex does not mean it will be profitable.

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7. Do not stop learning

The best investment you can make is an investment in yourself as an individual. Of course, we have heard success stories of people who have made lots of money with no education.

But education and business success are not mutually exclusive. As long as you have the opportunity, learn as much as you can. Do that online course. Take part in that workshop. Do that masters. Do that professional course.

Granted, you may not need the degrees and certifications in the short run, but they will come in handy later and add to your credibility.

Just because your business concept is complex does not mean it will be profitable - @Kazville Click To Tweet

8. Beware of the busy bee syndrome

Many times entrepreneurs get busy with everything. Busy driving to meetings to discuss new ideas or running up and down to make meetings that add no value to their business. They are always busy trying one idea after another day after day and applying to every startup competition.

Busy busy busy busy.

Busy does not always equal efficiency and entrepreneurs need to treat their time like they treat their money.

9. Grow some thick skin

If anyone had told me entrepreneurship would make me lose sleep in the middle of every night for a week straight, I would probably not have started.

I have wanted to give up an average of twice a day over the last one year alone. As an entrepreneur, something will hit you so hard you will want to close shop and with your tail between your legs, go ask for your job back.

You will hear terrible things about yourself and about your product and get aggressive competition. Your workers will go on strike, and your most trusted ones will leave. Trust me, you will want to give up.

But every day you don’t, your skin grows thicker and you go harder. Eventually, it gets easier.

10. Do not be a parasite

Over time, I have learned that as an entrepreneur, you are as good as your network. But sometimes we forget and become the parasitic types of entrepreneurs.

Always calling people only when we need favors. Keeping people’s phone numbers only to tap into who they can introduce us to. If you want to build a strong network, add value to it. Call your advisor just to take them to lunch to talk about anything but your business. Buy a present for your neighbor’s dog.

Offer to connect other people in your network to each other. Encourage someone to apply for that opportunity. Buy another entrepreneur’s product.

Whatever you do, always add value to the people in your network instead of only being on the receiving end.

This article was written by Brenda Katwesigye

Brenda Katwesigye is the founder and CEO of Wazi Vision Limited a company incorporated in Uganda that builds eyewear and construction material from recycled plastic.

She is passionate about creating sustainable and affordable solutions for critical health care and housing challenges.

Brenda is an Alumni of Vodafone’s FLANE program, a 2018 Westerwelle Foundation fellow, a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow and has served on the Regional Advisory Board of the Young African Leader’s Initiative (YALI) and the Board of the STARTS Prize of the Ars Electronica.

Pamela Enyonu: Art Rights My World

Pamela Enyonu is a copywriter at ‘Aggrey and Clifford’ and an artist. She’s the kind of woman you want around when things get a little crazy. Something in her air, her manner of speaking, the bold look on her face, her stride…it all tells you that this is a woman who knows how to get things done.

In her art, she bares her soul and isn’t shy about it.  You may choose to blush, look away or judge, it doesn’t matter. She’ll be too busy making important statements through her art to fit into those tiny boxes women are often placed into.

What drives your passion for art? 

Art is my center, my clarity, and my god. When I do art, the world rights itself. I am driven by stories. My art is a re-imagination of my and the stories of those around me. I am inspired by stories of triumph and self – empowerment.

Where did your artistic journey begin and how has it evolved since?

My artistic journey began when I was about 8 or 9 years when I made the decision to do art in primary 4. I vividly remember drawing a yam and finding it so easy and from then onwards, I never looked back. 

I went to art school at Kyambogo University, majoring in printmaking and multi-media crafts elements. This has somehow found its way into my crafts. During my journey, there are times when I have deviated from my path, however, I have always found my way to the things I love.

Could you describe your artistic process?

For a long time, my process was pretty organic. However, these days I have deliberate plans, reading, collecting and educating myself on the stories I want to tell. I use words and photography a lot in my work.

My process begins with composing the narrative before I begin making the art. I then keep adding layers as my point of view gets clearer. For me, it’s important that my message is clear despite all the multi-layered looks.

I am currently acquainting myself with the more abstract thought processes and I have to admit, this is alien territory for me. I am hoping to produce more abstract work in the future. 

How can African artists protect their art?

Africa is a vast continent that has inspired a lot of ideas at home and beyond. As African artists, you always run the risk of your work being misinterpreted. I don’t think it’s something we can control.  

However, we can perhaps get ideas from other industries that successfully manage to protect their work. For example, coders sign their work through embedding unique codes that only them can interpret. Perhaps, as artists, we can begin using tech to protect our work.

Other than that, I think documenting your work and having a good lawyer’s number on speed dial should help.

What do you think will take for African art to gain as much appreciation as say European art?

We need to educate people on how to appreciate art. Unlike music where the beat just takes you, art is deliberate. You must immerse yourself in the art and the artists, learning their motivations, their ethos etc. That way you will gain a unique appreciation.

I think schools should be involved in the arts, arranging tours to galleries and meeting the artists etc. There should a deliberate effort to groom a culture of going to art places. Everyone should visit a gallery at least once a month.

If you could creatively collaborate with any artist in the world, who would it be and why?

Liberian-American artist Lina Viktor Iris and Lady Skollie from South African. Lina inspires my desire to ascend as a mixed media photographic artist. Her work evokes a sense of reverence and worship.

Lady Skollie, on the other hand, appeals to the rebel in me. Her work is thought-provoking in completely unexpected ways. I also like that she draws her inspiration and style from her Khoisan heritage. It’s empowering to embrace our narratives with no apologies.

What does the future look like for Pamela Enyonu?

All I want to do is make good art, turn into a competent carpenter and teach for rest of my life. Everything else will be a bonus.

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Nnedi Okorafor: All hail Black Panther

All hail Black Panther!

For weeks on end, Africa has been celebrated across continents. There has been a glorious showcase of its beauty, wealth, culture, resilience and diversity, on screen. 

From both young people and the people, many around the world have come out to embrace the African heritage. The Wakanda fever has seen people dressing in African fabric, rocking natural and bald hairstyles, and chanting Xhosa battle cries. 

But, beyond the outstanding representation of African culture, the Black Panther production also featured award-winning actors of African descent such as Kenya’s Lupita Nyong’o, Zimbabwe’s Danai Gurira, and Uganda’s Daniel Kaluuya. 

Currently, Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor is writing the ‘Black Panther: Long Live the King’ comic book. Using her unique brand of storytelling, Nnedi hopes to inspire others to re-create the African narrative. 

With a worldwide box office record or $897 million according to Forbes Magazine, Black Panther has had a phenomenal influence on the world. Originally a comic book, this story has changed the narrative of black characters in comic books and in the media. And instead of the typical American superman, we are now seeing an African, black, superhero!

But this is not it! Other than T’Challa’s superhero skills, we see women who do more justice to #girlpower than Wonder Woman or Cat Woman ever would. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Ramonda (Angela Basset) and Shuri (Letitia Wright), showcase the strength and power of women who slay!

Writing about women who slay is something that Nnedi is familiar with. Her award-winning Afrofuturistic novels combine culture and science to break the limits and the usual narrative of girls can do.

This passion is what led her to bring her unique brand of storytelling to Wakanda land. As the latest writer for this Marvel comic series, Nnedi seeks to remind us that our stories as Africans, as women and as superheroes, need to be heard.

Nnedi Okorafor


In changing the African narrative, we help the world recognize that Africa can create solutions towards the world’s development. But more importantly, we showcase the depth and diversity of the African people and their heritage.

Finally, through her contribution to Black Panther, Nnedi hopes to challenge people to rearrange their thinking. It is possible to create a new Africa. By telling these stories of Africa’s great future and her present achievements, we will create this new world that others have no option but to believe in!

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

Mona Faces: Taking over makeup artistry in Uganda one face at a time

“The future is female and African”- is a phrase I’ve heard many times but it was only after my conversation with Mona that I had the feeling of having met a true embodiment of this phrase.

Mona is the young entrepreneur behind the brand “Mona faces” which has taken the Ugandan makeup artist scene by storm and is certain to leave an everlasting mark on the entire African continent.

I had the opportunity to conversate with Mona about her business, her life, and her future.

Who is Mona?

Umutoni Monalisa, also known simply as Mona, is a self-taught makeup artist, a self-proclaimed perfectionist and a connoisseur of beauty.

Mona is a 25-year-old entrepreneur whose passion has led her to the path to mastery of makeup artistry and who is set to take Uganda and indeed Africa by storm, one master class at a time.

Mona holds a degree in Office and information management which she obtained from Makerere Business School.

I taught myself how to do makeup through YouTube - @monafaces Click To Tweet

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?

Shortly after Senior 6, unfortunately, my father passed on leaving me with the formidable responsibility of taking care of myself and my siblings in whatever I could.

I remember thinking to myself that it was now my responsibility to take care of my family. In my senior six vacations, I started working for Bold in Africa- an upscale fashion boutique in Kampala- have I had the opportunity to meet and be mentored by the founders of the brand, Nunu Mugyenyi, and Angel Kalisa, who taught me how to run and manage a business.

Having learned the fundamentals of business from these two ladies, I partnered with some friends in my first year at university and opened a retail outlet- buying clothes from downtown and reselling them to clients in the urban areas.  

With all this taking place, I still nursed a deep passion for beauty and makeup. I started reading lots of magazines, watching tons of YouTube videos, following makeup artists on Instagram and learning from them with the dream that I would be able to someday turn this passion into profits.

With the help of a friend who worked at blush media, I organized my first ever photoshoot showcasing my talent, to my surprise and delight, my work went viral within a short amount of time and as they say, ‘the rest is history.’

I officially started Mona faces in October 2014, which is when the pictures from my first professional shoot went viral.

Women have often been told to choose between work and family, what are your thoughts on this? Can a woman have it all?

Women can have it all- but not all at the same time. I think a woman can have a wonderful career as well as a great family, what matters is the timing.

A woman might decide to first focus on her career or her business until it grows to the point where she can step back from it a little and give her attention to her family and vice versa. But then again, I’m single so I wouldn’t know.

All I’ve known for a long time has been work, work, and more work, but I do believe that it’s all about timing.

Women can have it all- but not all at the same time - @monafaces Click To Tweet

If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be and why?

Invisibility. I’d like to be invisible because I love working behind the scenes.

What would you say African entrepreneurs should keep in mind to grow their brands?

African entrepreneurs must stay hungry, that’s the most important thing they should keep in mind.

I think a lot of female entrepreneurs get comfortable very easily- if she can pay her rent, and look good in the process, maybe buy a car- then she is satisfied.

I think the goal is to achieve as much as possible and never let yourself get comfortable. At the time that I started Mona faces, there were no recognizable makeup studios in Kampala, I had to learn and build my brand and in the process sort of paved the way for other makeup artists to be able to join the industry as well.

If you could have anyone in the world as your mentor, who would it be and why?

I have been blessed with so many people in my life that I count as mentors already, right from my very first bosses, Nunu Mugyenyi and Angel Kalisa, who still mentor me to this day, all the way to friends and family.

Ann Kansiime also plays a huge mentoring role in my life, I admire her success and ambition. Internationally, though, I’d say powerful women like Oprah Winfrey are a great inspiration.

Honestly, If I could have every successful businesswoman mentor me, I would. I admire powerful business women across the world.

You can never fail, you can never fall, you simply learn - @monafaces Click To Tweet

What is your greatest business lesson?

Like a lot of people, change terrifies me and it wasn’t until I realized- you can never fail, you can never fall, you simply learn- that I finally started getting comfortable with change.

My greatest business lesson so far has been the fact that you never know whether what you are doing is going to succeed or not, but you should keep in mind that at the end of the day, you cannot fail and you cannot fall, you can only learn.  

Tell us about your toughest day in business, what challenges did you face and how did you solve it?

First, there have been so many tough days, I almost fail to pick one. My business is extremely people-centric, which basically means, people’s opinions matter a lot.

On my toughest day, I’d done the makeup on a bride and she was very happy with my work. However, during her function, someone took a few unflattering pictures of my bride- it was a case of a bad camera, poor angles, and very bad lighting- and posted those pictures on social media.

Social media can be great for business but in some instances, it can also be the cause of great anxiety, especially if you are being bullied. I got a lot of negative feedback and my brand was vilified, it was very heartbreaking because I knew that my bride had been very pleased with the work I’d done for her.

Eventually, though, some beautiful pictures were posted and my brand was exonerated which proved to me that when you do good work, that will always stand as a witness.

What’s the next step for Mona Faces?

Mona is going to be doing many more master classes. At the start of this journey, I didn’t know that my brand would grow to this level, and right now, I feel that there are many more young people that are now where I was two years ago and I would love to be able to teach them how to get to the next level.

I also see myself producing my very own makeup line in the future.

As a bonus question, Mona was asked what advice she would give to all those hoping to follow in her footsteps and start their own makeup artistry brand; here was her inspirational advice…

“Start where you are with what you have. When I started, I literally had a little bag with one tube of lipstick, one eyeliner stick and one small box of powder, and with that, I was able to book my first bride and slowly add to my inventory.

I taught myself how to do makeup through YouTube and by following international makeup artists on social media. You can never know until you start, so you need to just start.

Do not fall into the trap of waiting for the perfect time, the right amount of startup capital, the right client etc., just start and slowly you will see yourself move from one level to the next”.

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

Dinnah Nabwire & Mary Ajwang: Raising awareness for reproductive health with Voices for Health Uganda

I was drawn by the role women had in giving life but distressed by the hurdles they experienced Click To Tweet

Dinnah Nabwire and Mary Ajwang are transforming their society by focusing on sexual and reproductive health. They are both behind the Voices for Health Uganda, a platform that harnesses young voices on the needs of reproductive health.

Drawing from their diverse experiences and being from different parts of Uganda brings much-needed balance to their work as co-founders.

You’ve both chosen to build careers in global health, and particularly in reproductive health, despite having very different backgrounds. What was the moment you each knew that this was the field for you?

Dinnah: Working with Marie Stopes International through Global Health Corps gave me an opportunity to refine my career path with a focus on sexual and reproductive health. Through supporting programs related to advocacy and research on access and utilization of services, I have come to appreciate that sexual and reproductive health is central to all development interventions.

Through supporting programs related to advocacy and research on access and utilization of services, I have come to appreciate that sexual and reproductive health is central to all development interventions.

Mary: My initial exposure to reproductive health was during my clinical training and working as a frontline health care provider in health facilities in rural Uganda. I was drawn by the role women had in giving life but also distressed by the enormous hurdles they experienced.

I, therefore, decided that I was going to take on career opportunities that refine my ability to prevent maternal death through amplifying the safe motherhood message.

Did you both have a specific career strategy around addressing family planning?

Yes, we wanted to close the gap in access and utilization of family planning services. So we conceptualized the Voices for Health Uganda as a platform to harness young and often marginalized voices on needs and aspirations of productive health.

What are your predictions for your industry considering the recent moves by the US presidential administration to cut funding to global reproductive and sexual health initiatives?

Knowing that the US government is the largest bilateral funder for sexual and reproductive health globally, we are aware of the negative implication this has on financing for services in countries such as Uganda that are among the 24 family planning priority countries.

Globally, 225 million women have an unmet need for family planning whereas in Uganda the unmet need stands at 62%. This means that funding cuts towards family planning can impede the progress that has been previously made on access and utilization –this is unfortunate.

We, through Voices for Health Uganda, are working to close this gap by raising awareness on the need to connect global and in-country challenges to funding for reproductive health.

Globally, 225 million women need family planning in Uganda the unmet need stands at 62% Click To Tweet

You two are quite the dynamic duo in advocacy and in life! What’s been your favorite part of leading alongside each other? What’s been the most challenging?

Favorite part: We enjoy debating concepts and taking the time to draw real life experiences to our work. Mary and I come from different parts of Uganda and thus each share different realities sometimes informed by our communities. Struggling to strike a balance in such cases has been the most intriguing.

Most challenging: Integrating our expectations in the voices for health Uganda within our daily activities and commitments remains a work in progress for us –we just know it has to work.

Sometimes as young women carving out our professional paths, we fear that asking for help, not knowing all the answers, and making mistakes are signs of weakness. What has your partnership taught you about this?

We were drawn to working together based on our different expertise, knowledge, and experiences. These have taught us to continuously appreciate each other’s competencies and encourage us to keep focused on our goal.

In the midst of your hustle, how do you each like to unwind and take care of yourselves?

We make time to hang out over caramel milkshakes at our fave place, #CafeJavas.

Mary, what’s one thing that inspires you about Dinnah?

Dinnah is intelligent, hardworking and has had exposure working with non-profits –things I wanted to learn and grow in.

Dinnah, what’s one thing that inspires you about Mary?

Working with Mary has continued to shape me into a positive-oriented and goal-focused person. There are times I would have preferred to step out, and all I needed is a positive guide.

What’s one thing you’ve each learned lately that you want to share with other young advocates interested in pursuing a career in social good?

Invest in growing networks through offering a clear value addition and seeking the opportunity to leverage skills, information, and engagement with others in the space.

For instance, we offer to take up high-level networking opportunities during partner-led events such as meetings and conferences.

What three words come to mind for each of you when you think of a true leader?

This was hard for us to choose! But, we think courage, resilience, and empathy are foundational for a true leader.

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

Best Ayiorwoth: Most communities have remained ignorant of women’s potential

I just focus on my goal and that really encourages me to continue with my work - Best Ayiorwoth Click To Tweet

Best Ayiorwoth is the founder of Girls Power Micro-Lending Organisation (GIPOMO), an establishment that supports girl child education in Uganda, by giving microloans to women who make a commitment to grow businesses while keeping their girl children in school.

Founded in 2011 when Best was only 19 years old, today GIPOMO has helped put more than 170 girl children in school and counting. We recently did an interview with Best to find out more about her story and the future of her remarkable organisation, GIPOMO.

Tell us about yourself and your story that led to the creation of GIPOMO

My names are Ayiorwoth Best, I am from the Northern part of Uganda (West Nile) Nebbi District. I come from a family of seven (four sisters and two brothers) but lost both my parents when I was between the ages of 8-13 years. That incident pushed me hard to become a social entrepreneur promoting girl child education by financially empowering mothers of girl children. With the purpose of starting or expanding existing businesses so as to provide a girl child’s educational needs efficiently.

Hence I am the founder and CEO of Girl Power Micro-Lending Organization (GIPOMO). After the death of my dad, my mother had all the seven of us going to school. But as a single mother, she wasn’t able to pay for all of us and provide all the necessary needs for us at the same time. Unfortunately, she passed on when I was still in primary school and that decreased my chances of getting a higher education. Even though my elder sisters and brother tried hard to support me in reaching a certain level of education, they could only do so much despite their best efforts.

I then joined a vocational institution and did a certificate in catering and started working in a restaurant. With the in-held pain I had about my education, I used my first salary to start up the above organization.

Why do you value education and what does it mean to you?

I value girl-child education especially because most communities have remained ignorant of women’s potential and women are often not given a chance to prove their capabilities.

Granting girls a chance to receive adequate education gives them an opportunity to realize their potential to develop the country or transform the world. If a girl is taken to school, she will also take her daughter to school and together they will be able to contribute to the transformation of the nation. This way, the world will end up knowing the great potential in a woman.

Have you been able to replicate the GIPOMO model in other regions?

I would have really loved to do that but unfortunately that requires additional finance and currently, GIPOMO doesn’t receive any external funding.

We haven’t been able to replicate it in other regions yet, but it is in our five-year plan. In the meantime, I have tried to sell this idea to people in other regions hoping they can implement it for broader results.

gipomo logo

What challenges have you faced as a young female social entrepreneur?

Well, at first people in my community didn’t take me seriously, they looked down at me because of my age, young as I was.
I’ve also struggled to secure funding for the organization being a sole founder with very limited funds.

My determination and sincerity strengthened me during those difficult times otherwise I would’ve tumbled under the pressure of having to work doubly hard, taking a stand to convince men, local government and others about my ability as a young woman to start an organization like GIPOMO.

At first people in my community didn't take me seriously because of my age Click To Tweet

What gives you strength to do the work that you do every day?

I just focus on my goal and that really encourages me to continue with my work even when things aren’t going so well.


What do you enjoy most about your work?

Conversing with my clients (community) and having sessions with the girls where we discuss their challenges and achievements among other issues.

Tell us about the Girl on Skills program and how it’s going so far.

The Girl on Skills program is an additional project specifically rendered for the girl-child drop outs. We came to learn that we have many girls who would have loved to study but because of certain conditions are not in school. We register those girls, take them to vocational training schools and pay their full tuition. Their parents get to pay us back by installments with zero interest.

This can enable a girl to be self-reliant or even take herself back to school with the money she is earning if she is still willing. This program is really going well, however, we do not have enough funds for it so we are just limited to a small number of girls every year. Right now, that number is 10 per year.

What are your future plans for GIPOMO?

We are planning to open up a vocational training institute so as to support the girls on skills program.

Also, we plan to open a Sacco so that we can lend funds to parents who need to urgently clear their child’s school fees and this would then be paid back at a later. We have learnt that it is difficult sometimes for mothers to get immediate cash from their businesses to pay for their child’s schools fees, so this is a way to make that available to them in times of need.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time to unwind?

Write story books.
Sit and share with friends
I love swimming
Singing and playing Keyboard

Wow, what a touching story. You are a remarkably strong woman Best. And we’re truly honoured here to be able to share your story with the world. You are amazing.

Thank you.

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

Webinar with Jacqueline Nassimbwa: Becoming a leader in the health sector (May 25)

Jacqueline Nassimbwa is a public health specialist and project manager who is extremely passionate about advancing sexual and reproductive health rights in Uganda. Join us for a webinar with her on May 25th as she shares with us how she’s moved up the ladder to a leadership position in the health sector.

When you think of a career in health, what comes to mind? If it’s an image of doctors, nurses, or community health workers, you’re not alone!

But it turns out we need more than medical professionals to improve and save lives. There is a need for finance experts, design gurus, communications bosses, IT whizzes, and more.

Join this webinar with @ghcorps alumni on Thur. May 25 and learn to become a leader Click To Tweet

Before you count yourself out of the running for a job in the health sector, join us for a webinar on Thursday May 25th with Jacqueline Nassimbwa. She is an alumni of Global Health Corps and is #SLAYing without white coats or stethoscopes. Learn how Jacqueline built her career around her passion and get inspiration and advice for your own journey!

Register below to get the exclusive link to the webinar.

Some of the topics we’ll cover

  • Building a career in the health sector
  • Developing your unique leadership style
  • Integrating leadership with professional development

 Webinar Details:

  • Date: Thursday May 25th 2017
  • Time: 8am NYC // 1pm Lagos // 3pm Kampala

Watch here:

About Jacqueline

Jacqueline Nassimbwa  is skilled in scientific writing, research, project management, and quality improvement. She currently leads research efforts for advocacy teams focused on sexual and reproductive health issues at the Center for Health, Human Rights, and Development in Kampala.

As a 2011-2012, Global Health Corps fellow at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, she assessed government structures in the delivery of maternal and child health (MCH) services and designed interventions to integrate HIV and MCH services.

Combining her expertise in technology with her passion for improving maternal and child health (MCH), Jacqueline designed a cloud system to improve data quality and service delivery in clinics.

Jacqueline holds an BSc in Food Science and Technology from Makerere University, and an MSc in International Health from Charite Institute of Tropical Medicine, Berlin; University College, London; and Karolinska Institute, Stockholm.

Maxima Nsimenta: How to build a successful cosmetic brand

maxima nsimenta
Maxima Nsimenta is proving to herself & the world that quality can be made in Uganda Click To Tweet

Ironically, some young people are spending countless hours drafting and sending job application letters in search of white color jobs, while those employed, are quitting pursuing their passions in businesses. What’s more, the latter are not only becoming regional brands but also going ahead to create employment.

With the ever eluding job opportunities and increasing cost of living, it is time young Africans started thinking of what “they can do to their countries” instead of the other way round. That said SLA contributor Maureen Murori caught up with a young entrepreneurial Ugandan lady, whose life’s motto is: “Why not?”

Maxima Nsimenta is the CEO and managing partner at Livara, a cosmetics company dealing with natural skin and beauty products. The Steve Jobs inspirational quote: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me,” is what keeps Maxima awake striving to do something different but wonderful!

Maxima and Maureen spoke extensively about founding Livara and Maxima’s personal growth since the venture. Here is what Maxima shared:

For some young people, starting and running a business is a challenging task that they would rather not take up. What was/is the inspiration behind your venture?

While I was still employed as a Field Engineer at one of the world’s largest oil and gas service companies, I had the opportunity to travel vastly. During my travels, I noticed that some of the high-end cosmetics products used oils and ingredients from Africa. It is these oils that especially made the products that much more valuable.

Whenever I’d return home, I’d notice that we weren’t adding value to these oils locally. This seriously perplexed me. In addition to this, after about one and a half years of employment, I stopped getting the fulfillment I initially had with the job. I felt empty and purposeless. It started becoming more of a mechanical aspect of my daily life.

Yet, when I indulged myself in beauty and cosmetics, I felt content. I then proposed to build a company that would manufacture top quality natural and organic cosmetics that would compete with the international brands. However, I’d do it from my country, Uganda. I planned to prove to myself and the world that quality can be made in Uganda. It took me about a year to prepare for Livara; mentally, financially, structurally. Then when I had my minimums in place, I took the leap.

When people are starting out a business, there are several things that they learn on the job. What are some of the things (positive or negative) that you learned about your business or self since starting your venture?


Before I started out in business, I was used to getting what I wanted when I wanted and how I wanted it. In business, especially the manufacturing business, everything is based on processes and systems. Given that I’m building my company based on systems, it always hits me at home where it hurts. Not everything is instantaneous; perfection takes time and is worth the wait.

I have learnt to respect people’s time and competencies a lot more. I have also come to understand and learn the value of teamwork from a front row seat, I cannot do everything alone. Business has taught me to learn to trust and rely on people to do their job, a lot more than I used to before.

I have become addicted to knowledge acquisition. Nowadays, I read a lot more to be on top of my game. However, because of this, I realize that I have less time to build my other personal relationships -many of which have been affected. I hope it pays off eventually.

Most importantly, I have become more spiritual than before. I have put my hope and trust in God, to guide and help me with the things that are beyond my control. There are several things that could have gone wrong but suddenly and unexplainably did not. For me, that is my God at work; leading me through this journey.

Not everything is instantaneous; perfection takes time and is worth the wait Click To Tweet

What skills did you acquire either through practice, work placement or learning institution to improve business?

I’m not certain if research is a skill or a culture! But it is the most important thing that I picked up from my previous jobs. I only executed plans after more than adequate research had been carried out.

Before my business, I had three jobs that were all scientific and research based. I’d literally spend nights up learning about different things related to one particular aspect of a bigger picture. It was my job to adequately understand the pros and cons and have a comprehensive yet conclusive position on any decision I made. This research-based decision making has been a fundamental skill for my business today.

Presentation skills: Many may overlook this, but this is crucial. Although acquired and built over time since my university days, presentation skills have become a great acquisition that has helped me to negotiate better deals for myself and my business.

Report writing: This includes writing project studies and reports. This is a skill that helped me write my business plan that won me incubation space at the Uganda Industrial Research Institute where we are based. Had I not known how to write a business plan and adequately present it, I do not know how far I would have come by now!

Communication and interpersonal skills are other skills that keep on resurfacing and pushing me forward. The two keep evolving and changing with different circumstances. So, the basics molded me. And they continue to do so, even today. In the end, I’ve learned that it is always the relationships we have that help to either build us or break us in life.


What is the greatest challenge you have experienced so far and how did you, or are you handling it?

Opening my first store has been my greatest challenge since I started Livara. To open up a store required me to have a substantial amount of money in place, a good variety of products; an effective low-cost marketing strategy and it would also mean an increase in the number of employees.

Opening the store was imperative for growth. However, it meant that my costs would increase drastically. I had to study the company’s growth since the release of our first products on June 25, 2015. Then weigh the pros and cons of opening a store. In the end, I had to risk it and take the leap. I opened my first store on December 2, 2016.

My dream is to have 6,000 Livara stores around Africa. I also realize that this dream started with the first store, and for me to achieve my dream, I needed to stop procrastinating and open shop!
I continue to review the company’s growth financially and market wisely as we look for ways to expand at the least possible cost.

What has been the most rewarding experience?

My most rewarding experience is when someone sends me a message telling me how my products have improved their life. I started Livara to make a difference in Africa and to impact people’s lives positively. So, when a mother writes to me mentioning how her daughter’s skin is much healthier since she used Baby Opal; or how her daughter’s hair has grown and is more manageable since she started using the Livara hair care line; or when a young gentleman calls me to tell me that his formally receding hairline is back and his hair is thicker; or when a young lady sends me a picture of her smile while wearing one of the Livara lipsticks and thanks me for it; it makes me get up every day and work even harder.

The joy that people get after using my products is the greatest reward for me. Luckily, I live this experience almost daily, and this has helped me go through the challenging moments with more ease.

Maxima Nsimenta started @livara_beauty to make a difference & to impact people’s lives positively Click To Tweet