Sela Kasepa attended her first semester at Harvard University in August last year. Just months prior, the 21-year-old was mulling over her education, uncertain of her future plans. That changed after watching a CNN insert featuring the first Pan African Robotics competition founded by Dr. Sidy Ndao. Sela was captivated.
That same evening she took a chance and sent a cold email to Dr. Ndao inquiring about robotics, and he responded two days later, encouraging her to pursue robotics. Sela found inspiration from the Pan African robotics founder and her interaction with him made her believe that she too could create with her hands. This encounter set a trail for her journey as a robotics mentor.
Sela never imagined that one day she would take a mechanics class, let alone at the prestigious Harvard University. She completed her schooling with funding from the Zambia Institute of Sustainable Development (ZISD), acing her GCSEs with 10 distinctions in 10 subjects. She had excellent grades and big dreams, but two years after graduating grade twelve she had little else to show for it.
Her passion for astrophysics fueled her ambition to study at a university that encouraged holistic learning – she took her first SAT tests on her own and thereafter sent applications to Ivy League Universities in the United States. Her first attempts were futile, with no scholarship offers.
During those difficult years of uncertainty, Peter Lungu, executive director of ZISD, reached out to Sela because of her interest in the SAT programme the non-profit institution offers. That small action pivoted into a mentorship relationship, with Lungu urging Sela to continue applying to her desired universities. After redoing her SATs with her mentor’s guidance, she got a perfect score in Physics (800) and a 790 in Maths Level II.
On the final day of call for applications, Sela submitted her applications to Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Michigan State University, and the University of California Berkeley. She was successful with each admission offering scholarships.
Two semesters in, Sela signed up for an engineering robotics class. The joy of creating something that works rekindled her love for the functionality of machines.
A lunch chat with a Rwandese friend turned to development talk. She was fascinated by how Rwanda, a country with few natural resources, was making groundbreaking progress far ahead of her own country. Her friend’s comment that a country’s’ top resource is its people, struck a chord. “If we the people don’t take the reins to develop our country, no matter our resources, we cannot develop,” she says.
In the coming days, Sela spent hours online looking for a competition her country could participate in until she eventually came across FIRST Global Robotics competition. Another cold email later, the organizers advised her to enlist Zambia. Even though she was above the age restriction to participate in the competition, she had the opportunity to mentor a Zambian team – if she could build one last minute. She picked up her phone to call Lungu to ask him to help prep a team to participate in the FIRST competition.
Lungu never expected to co-mentor a robotics team. He had never been versed in engineering or robotics. His role at ZISD was a vocational call after a long lucrative career as an auditor. When he was awakened in the middle of the night by Sela with the news that Zambia could participate in the FIRST Global Robotics if they got a team together, he did not hesitate.
While he already had access to the country’s most brilliant students, none of them had any knowledge of robotics before. The 2017 robotics challenge was about water and required tools, equipment, preparation, and travel for the competition. This meant that funding was needed for the team.
Miyoba is a designer, entrepreneur and environmental advocate with two years work experience with the nonprofit sector. She owns a Zambian design brand called Mwabonwa which makes African print beddings, Jewry, adult and children’s wear. Miyoba is also a youth leader of Echo Change Zambia which conducts environmental awareness activities in schools and communities and has spearheaded the planting of 33,571 trees in Monze District of Zambia from January to March 2017. She holds a Bachelor of Education with environmental education form the University of Zambia. Her main skills include capacity building, community mobilisation, advocacy and enterprenuaship. Miyoba plans to expand her brand and open a design school where she will teach young girls and boys entrepreneurship skills.
What’s your strategy of being in the forefront as a young African entrepreneur?
My strategy is venture into areas that have not yet been explored and capitalise on them. Unlike most fashion entrepreneurs who run either a small tailoring shop or a sales outlet, I plan to set up a clothes production factory and sales outlet that will have various sections which go above and beyond customer’s expectations.
How long do you think it will take to kill the second hand clothing business?
If more textiles industries are established, more designers begin to use local raw materials and local consumers see the value and begin to support locally made products, it will take 20 years or less.
The second hand clothing business is so popular because it’s cheap. Do you think it will be cheaper when we produce ourselves?
Absolutes yes. The reason why brand new clothes are expensive is because they are produced internationally and involve a lot costs from production to consumption. If we produce our own clothes using our local raw materials, we will not only making brand new clothes affordable but also creating employment from textile manufacturing, clothe production and later on sales and marketing.
How are you planning on bridging the gap for those that are struggling to also sell better quality clothing?
Miyoba can you share with us your environmental concerns?
I have beliefs and values that guide me to protect the environment in my every day activities. The environment is our home where all life only thrives when it is safe. A defiled environment can not support life, businesses and economies. We have not done so much in protecting our environment in the past as the resulting impacts are threatening the very lives we are trying to improve and the very businesses or economies we are trying to build.
What are some ways l can help the environment that l might not be aware of?
One can help the environment by reducing the use of plastic bags when shopping, choosing to buy environmentally friendly products, use less water, recycling products, planting trees, growing organic products and generally speaking to friends about good environmental practices.
If you were to be reborn, would you rather live at the beginning of the world or at the end?
I would live at the beginning because I feel we have wronged the earth so much without realising and now that I know what damage we humans have done to the planet, I would love a second chance with mother earth, just to start all over again.
Mwiche Siame grew up in the small town of Kitwe, Zambia. As a Global Health Corps fellow, Mwiche worked at the Ministry of Health Zambia as a Senior Research Associate. She stayed at the Ministry of Health and is currently working as a Strategic Information Officer in the Ministry’s Department of Policy and Planning. Her work involves ensuring that health workers obtain training in data quality and use of data/health information for decision making.
Previously, Mwiche completed her Bachelor of Science degree in biology at the University of Zambia, becoming actively involved in the AB (abstain, be faithful) club, which focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention. In this club, she and other college students travelled to primary and secondary schools to give lectures and mentor students about the risks of HIV/AIDS.
She worked for the Macha Research Trust, which is a nonprofit organization with the mission of improving healthcare through research. In 2011, she continued her education at the graduate level, obtaining a degree in epidemiology with her thesis research focusing on prevention and treatment of risk factors of malaria in pregnant women.
Why did you decide to work in the health sector even though you didn’t study medicine or train to be a health professional?
I studied biological sciences and could have worked in another sector but I strongly felt that I could still make a difference in global health. Initially, I worked in a lab for infectious diseases, focusing on malaria. After about five years, I decided to go back to school and study public health.
When I went back to doing lab work I struggled to find my place. I decided to become a Global Health Corps fellow and then it became very clear that I needed to get back to my first love, which is working in HIV from a public health angle.
In college you worked on HIV prevention. How did you mobilise other students to get involved and take action?
I was a passionate student leader and an advocate of HIV prevention among my fellow college students and those in secondary. My drive to work in health came from a place of having lost close family and friends to HIV.
I was able to share personal experiences with others on how HIV impacts young people and also on reproductive health, specifically among young women.
And you were placed at the Ministry of Health in Lusaka as a Global Health Corps fellow. Did you expect to stay there beyond your fellowship year?
Absolutely not! I had no idea what my next career would be three months before the fellowship ended. The opportunity was unforeseen but I was in the right place at the right time and I took it.
What has surprised you about working for the Ministry of Health?
I initially did not have a clear understanding of why the system was so bureaucratic, and now that I have worked there I know better and appreciate the need to have such a structured system.
When people think of health, we often think of medicine and tools rather than data. Why does data collection and analysis matter for health outcomes?
I often have to explain my relevance at the Ministry of Health as I am neither a doctor nor a nurse, especially to my grandmother! I work in the Department of Policy and Planning and work primarily on quality improvement of health services through data use.
Data collection and analysis matters as it is the backbone for measuring performance and is the basis for decision making and policy formulation in health. Without data, there is no evidence! And without evidence, there is no strong justification to have interventions that improve health outcomes.
People often think that leaders are the ones who are out on the front lines protesting and leading rallies but we know that’s only one type of leadership. What’s your own personal leadership style?
My leadership approach is strategic and participative. It entails encouraging each member of the team to maximise their strengths and be active in making a change.
I feel that influence and leadership is much more than having a “position” – it’s more about deliberate efforts to pool the knowledge and experience of all players. A multi-sectoral approach is critical.
Can you tell us about a mentor who really impacted you?
My grandmother! She did not have a college education, was married at 15 years old, and has had many health challenges, but she still remains a leader in her own right against all odds. She has taught me a lot about life and given me career advice based on following my heart, being true to myself, and challenging myself to do and be better.
Her hard work and advocacy for women’s empowerment has been a great source of inspiration to me.
What’s your favourite way to relax and renew your energy when the fight for health equity gets tough?
I love music – singing and listening to music relaxes me. I am fortunate to have a strong support system of friends and family to talk to and hang out with, and this helps a lot. Also, I do take some time to meditate and pray too, and that keeps me grounded and present.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
If passion had an alternative spelling, it would be spelt Mweshi. As a Global Shaper (a World Economic Forum initiative) and alumna of the Young African Leaders Initiative Regional Leadership Center for Southern Africa and the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS), Mweshi Ng’andu has done a lot of work focused on engaging youth to uplift underprivileged and at risk children within her community. She has used her skills to mentor, give leadership talks, and mobilize resources to assist various shelters for children, orphanages, and schools.
Recently, she started Bloom, her own company working in the space of events management and marketing consultancy. Bloom focuses primarily on corporate and educational events and digital marketing. In this interview, this passion driven #MotherlandMogul takes us on a walk through her amazing journey so far.
Take us on a tour of what Bloom Events Management stands for.
Bloom is a young and innovative events management and marketing consultancy company. Our focus areas are corporate events management (everything from providing ushers, to catering, to sourcing speakers/industry experts, to venue scouting, to sponsorship engagement) and educational events. We create events for young professionals and students to learn how to advance their careers and to link them to the right people to help them create opportunities. We also develop innovative marketing techniques for companies through social media management and product promotions to name a few.
The events and festival industry has grown significantly and Bloom recognises this. What we offer is fresh and exciting as we aim to create distinctive and memorable events. Bloom is an expression of growth, a way to look back at where you’ve come from with a sincere admiration for the person that you have become today. Bloom will be an example of what you can expect to happen when young people come together to showcase their talents and ability.
What were the greatest challenges in building your business?
We are still in the first year of our business and as such, we are working on finding our ‘groove’. However, immediate challenges that come to mind are gaining the confidence of corporates. When two unknown young women walk into an office to pitch their services to a well-established bank or firm, you can always sense that the person you are pitching to has a little bit of doubt in your ability to actually deliver. Then there’s the competition. Bidding for tenders is tough!
Finding our unique selling point was extremely difficult, particularly in an industry where there is only so much you can offer. We realized that it is not so much about the services, but more about the way you deliver. And there’s finances; the first event we had, boy were we broke! So even completing it was a HUGE victory for us. Although it’s great to invest money into your business, you need to set boundaries as to how much of your personal resources you are putting in.
You are very passionate about young people, what are you doing to be better and get more young people involved.
Bloom offers opportunities for university students to learn a thing or two about what it means to manage tasks and to work with corporates. We specifically target enthusiastic young people who are looking to gain work experience and ask them to join our team on specific projects; this worked very well when we organized a TED event. One of the best things you can do for young people is to support their businesses!
Whenever we are working with a client and there is need to outsource, we try as much as possible to look for companies that are run by young people to offer services like photography or sound equipment. For educational events, whether it is a breakfast meet up or a seminar, we try as much as possible to cover topics that are relevant to the reality of being a young, Zambian professional. We make our events interactive and encourage lots of networking.
As an avid traveller, global shaper, and emerging young leader, how has your experience reflected on your business style?
I joined the Global Shapers Community at a time in my life when I was looking for a way to do more and be more. The Community changed my life in ways I cannot even express. I became connected to a group of ambitious, hardworking and innovative young people. What I noticed about myself almost immediately is that my mindset dramatically changed. It was because of this community I quickly realize how as a proudly Zambian woman, I can have dreams to take on the world but still be so deeply rooted in where I am coming from and what I can do to add value.
Attending the World Economic Forum on Africa in 2015 and rubbing shoulders with some of the continent’s biggest power players made me think, how dare I not dream BIG? As a Shaper, I contributed to a book project featuring 80 incredible young Africans, offering their perspectives on entrepreneurship, leadership, culture, and ways in which we can transform the continent. It is because of experiences like this, that I am bold in my approach and I have a tendency to continuously ask myself how I can improve my business model and make it more relevant.
What has been the most difficult phase in your career and how did you scale through?
The most difficult phase was pinpointing exactly what I wanted to do and being confident in my capabilities. I could easily tell you that in ten years I wanted to be successful and financially stable. But I had a harder time telling you how. I overcame this in two ways.
Firstly, by establishing what it is I am passionate about. My answer is simple: it is people. In everything that I have done so far, the major thing has been connecting with people and sharing ideas in order to grow. Secondly, Wendy Lucas-Bull Chairperson of ABSA Bank once told me that with every little bit that you try, you gain more wisdom. You decipher the things that you don’t like and realize what you do. In a nutshell what I got out of this is that there will never be the right time to start your journey, you just have to summon the courage to do it and keep going
Bloom will consist of a bright, innovative team that have led to it quickly positioning itself as a market lead. Hopefully, we will have a client base outside of Zambia as well. We also have dreams of building a big convention centre –so look out for that!
One advice for struggling start-up entrepreneurs in your field of business
Figure out what makes you unique, structure your business well, ask a lot of questions, and keep going!
Our tagline at Bloom is #BeAlwaysBlooming –so do just that!
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.
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.
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”
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
African Women Redefined is an excellent example of women pulling other women along to walk in the light. Started by Salome Phiri, African Woman Redefined (AWR) is a women’s empowerment platform which creates a unique space for women to develop themselves both personally and professionally.
The idea is to create a network of support that will help women embrace their uniqueness and live their lives as phenomenal women. Still less than a year old, AWR has many more exciting things in store and Salome Phiri is working hard to make the organization a success in Zambia and throughout Africa.
What is African Women Redefined all about? How is the organization structured, what type of activities do you organize?
At African Woman Redefined, we believe that all women are phenomenal and by embracing their uniqueness and tapping into their full potential, they can define themselves by their own standards and ultimately live purposeful lives.
Our mission is to promote positive narratives about African women by celebrating, inspiring and empowering them through digital content and events that are aimed at addressing various themes which are central to the modern African woman. Our focus is to help the millennial African woman develop a strong sense of self and grow into a well-rounded and balanced individual who thrives in various areas of her life through her own efforts and with the support of other women.
The AWR team comprises of myself and two other phenomenal women from different backgrounds, who share my passion and drive to contribute to the upliftment and betterment of women in our society. Together we dedicate our time, resources and expertise to achieving our common mission of changing the world one woman at a time.
What was your motivation for starting this social enterprise?
Growing up I was a very timid and quiet child who lacked the confidence to speak up and stand out. This behaviour spilled over into my adult life and for many years I struggled with insecurity and low self-esteem. My turning point came at a time when I had experienced setbacks in my personal and professional life that left me so emotionally drained that I could no longer recognize myself.
As a way to transcend the pain from these experiences, I resolved to search deep within myself and find out who I was at the core of my being and what I really wanted out of life. It was like I had finally woken up to myself. I became more confident and self-aware, and suddenly my life became more colourful, hopeful and meaningful.
As I began to walk in my light, however, I noticed that many of my peers were still in the shadows –lacking a sense of identity and living unfulfilled lives. We live in a society that is predominately patriarchal and deems a woman successful if she has an education, a job, a husband, and children.
This mindset has resulted in many young women making decisions that conform to societal expectations, some of which are to the detriment of their psychological and emotional wellbeing. I found this disheartening, and so my personal mission became not only to change the way society viewed its women but also to change the way women viewed themselves –as extraordinary beings that have great potential and purpose, hence the birth of African Woman Redefined.
What is your vision for African Woman Redefined? How do you hope to achieve that?
AWR aims to position itself in Zambia and throughout Africa as a reliable and trusted source of information where young African women can learn to embrace their unique identities; learn to harness their potential, discover their purpose, and foster relationships with other women.
We aim to achieve our mission by targeting millennial women between the ages of 25 and 40. These women are likely to be professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, influencers and change agents who continually seek personal growth and wish to inspire positive change in their communities.
Your organization has been around for about half a year now. What is your biggest accomplishment so far?
Our biggest accomplishment so far would be successfully organising our first major event under the theme “Be bold. Be beautiful. Be You”. The aim of the event was to bring together a group of women to connect with one another and to be inspired to live authentically and be bold in pursuit of their dreams.
Despite it being our first time hosting such an event, we received great reviews from the attendees, most of whom highlighted that the event was well organized and that it had effectively achieved its objectives.
Looking ahead to 2017, what can we expect to see and hear about AWR?
We have loads of exciting things in store! We are currently planning our next major event that will take place in March in celebration of International Women’s day.
In the long-term, we aim to expand our target market to include young women between the ages of 18 and 25 who are in college or university, and offer them mentorship programs designed to guide them through their academic careers. We also intend to grow our network by collaborating on special projects with other women empowerment platforms both locally and internationally.
From your personal experiences and through the work that you are doing, if you could use this platform to share one message with young, African women scattered all over the continent what would that message?
Embrace your uniqueness and live your truth.
Don’t ever be afraid to shine because greatness is your birthright. The world is in need of your light; shine brightly.
Your three words for 2017
Intentional. Strategic. Bold.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
Samba Yonga is a Media Communications specialist running her own firm Ku-atenga Media. A trained journalist, Samba initially worked with one of the daily papers but found the job extremely boring. She then joined a media company that worked in development communications, this opened up more opportunities in development communication role.
Samba also recently co-founded the Museum of Women’s History in Zambia with Cultural Specialist Mulenga Kapwepwe and eight other women in Zambia. The Museum of Women’s History in Zambia aims to highlight women’s role in the history of the country.
SLA contributor Kudakwashe Mulenga sat down with Samba Yonga to find out how she navigated her career to end up running her own businesses.
You took on several roles at a fairly young age, did you face any challenges?
I know the narrative of the ‘struggle of women’ is real —most people ask me how being a woman has impacted my work. I am aware that there are inequalities everywhere and work towards addressing them. In my case, I think I am very fortunate that women are encouraged to take on the work that I do. I have also been very lucky to be surrounded by people that encourage me and recognise my ability.
We also live in an environment that is malleable, meaning you have to work around your situation. You have to create life hacks and develop market-creating skills for your business. On my end, we largely had to develop the market and I think it is the same with a lot of people in the creative/communications sector here in Zambia.
You are co-founder of the Museum of Women’s History in Zambia, tell us about that.
I co-founded the museum with a group of women who want to highlight the importance of women’s narrative in history. In the work I do I network with a lot of people and I took an interest in Zambian history. My work involved research to a great extent. And I would find intriguing stories about the past that I had never learnt in school even at college level.
I then found a lot of things that were not in the mainstream narrative and that I felt should be known by all. As I researched more I found more and more interesting information. I met and listened to experienced cultural actors such as Mulenga Kapwepwe. I followed her work and also collaborated with historians such as Marja Hinfelaar, she was responsible for digitizing the National Archives of Zambia.
Last year, I undertook a research in collaboration with a Swedish organization on these buried narratives. We met with communities who confirmed narratives of women having an active role in Zambia’s history but not being documented.
One of my favourite ones is of the Mukuni Kingdom in which there is actually a dual leadership. Bedyango, as confirmed by Chief Mukuni was the Matriarch of the kingdom. Mukuni was a wandering ruler of the north who was strong and mighty. Bedyango realized that this was a threat to her kingdom and she offered a dual leadership instead.
However, when the colonial authorities arrived they refused to recognize the woman as a leader and that is how Chief Mukuni became the more prominent leader. This information was never documented and many people don’t know about it though the dual leadership is still practiced today. This showed me how we are not using our own information to strengthen our communities. This is the concept for the museum.
The reception has been really good and we didn’t expect it. We just opened our virtual space and so many people have reached out with resources including stories and collections.
A lot of history in Zambia is oral and the establishment of the museum has encouraged people to contribute. Our main goal is to get this information into the curriculum and make it part of mainstream knowledge.
Who in your museum do you think every African should know?
Immediately it is Bedyango the custodian and Matriarch of the Gundu kingdom, which is now Mukuni Village. She is a modern day example of a feminist. Bedyango is an example of someone who was able to stand for justice and used proven methods of leadership that progressed her kingdom. There is no other person who is a great example.
Another notable one is Mumbi of the Shila people and she was responsible for the protection of the now Bemba people. Mumbi played the role of what could now be referred to as a modern-day diplomat.
There are many examples and these show a very different perspective of women. Our history has obscured such figures and has limited the positions and roles that women played. We would like women and girls today to realize their own capabilities to achieve their dreams from the women of the past.
Let us talk about your other baby Ku-atenga media, what does it do?
Ku-atenga is primarily a communications consultancy. I have a background in communications both corporate and development. These unique skills allowed me to have a good understanding of what communication entails and what responses work for Africa. We combine these skills to create communications packages for Africans. Now there is huge interest from outside Zambia and Africa for African content.
We design communication tools and content for different organizations at Ku-atenga. We have done work with varied local and international organizations. And more recently we are getting involved in doing more transformative communications that would effect change. I am now more interested in communicating real impact rather than organizational messaging. The idea is to create or design communication as a direct response to these facts and numbers.
Ku-atenga and the museum are seemingly different in purpose, how do you constantly draw inspiration for both of these projects?
They might seem different but they actually intertwine a lot. For example, the problem of girls not staying in school is a structural problem but it is also largely societal. It can be traced back to the norms of a society.
If we research a bit on a culture we will note that some of these norms didn’t previously exist and there can be ways to unlearn certain things. So this feeds back into the museum’s objectives of understanding new ways of cultural communication. Now you see, the two projects are related.
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions you’d like to share?
In 2017, the main focus is the museum. We would like to have the physical museum later in the year and have a physical space for people to go to. But there are a lot of other fun communications and content production projects in the pipeline too.
By the way, I do not do resolutions simply because I am not a planner in that sense. I just simply get on with it. I act on prompting and that’s how I have always operated.
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Tafadzwa Bete Sasa is an admirable achiever who has navigated the professional world mostly as a learning and development professional. She has several accolades under her name and has also been name a Global Shaper by the Lusaka Hub —an initiative of the World Economic Forum.
Tafadzwa also recently started her own line of planners called GoalGetter Planners which are customized organizers to help individuals set and track goals. SLA contributor Kudakwashe Mulenga sat down with Tafadzwa to get insight into her start-up. She discovered how Tafadzwa Bete Sasa has navigated her career to get where she is.
Where did you get the inspiration to start the GoalGetter planners?
The GoalGetter planner was born out of frustrations with my year, in year out recycling of New Years resolutions and being at the same place come year end. This frustration grew as I began meeting other young people who were my age. We all had the same 24 hour days but were just not getting more things done and being GoalGetters.
You know the people who just hit the ground running and are already ticking off milestones and kicking butt whilst the rest of us are reeling in January blues. I got tired of being in the latter group and decided I wanted in on the Goal Getter life.
As part of that process I started asking questions, observing, studying and listening to the Goal Getters to understand what helped them get things done. I noticed a common thread of behaviours and patterns. This was further confirmed by the insights some GoalGetters shared in a series of interviews I ran for my blog called The Process.
It is these mindsets and habits that became what I call The GoalGetters seven winning ways to getting things done. I combined those with my favourite goal setting and goal tracking tools to create the GoalGetter Planner.
What difficulties did you face producing your own planner, how did you find a client base?
I first thought of designing a planner several years ago but sat on it for the longest time because I just was not sure how to go about it. I was confused about the design, content, production, branding, marketing, distribution, financing. In addition, I was convinced it would just not work out until I had a certain level of expertise, money and influence.
However, I mentioned the idea to some friends and my coach who have always encouraged and nagged me to get it done already. I decided I would produce the first samples of the planner for two friends, have them use it for a year give me feedback before rolling it out to everyone else.
I had my friends Moreblessing, Glen and Epi review the raw versions of the planner then paid for a professional designer and editor. By the time I submitted the final content to the printers I was a bit more confident to sell to more people. Now, when I decided to sell the planner, I dared to set a Big Hairy Ambitious Goal of selling 20 planners within the first year.
On the 14th of November, I shared the planner on my Facebook page. You can only imagine my shock when within the first two weeks more than 75 people had placed orders. As the early adopter friends started sharing pictures of their purchased planners, their friends also wanted in. This way the GoalGetter planner customer base continues to grow.
I get a bit overwhelmed keeping up with orders as I am running the project as a lean start-up. I produce the planners to order, receive feedback from one batch and try to improve within the next.
It has been an awesome start but we are definitely still learning. I am grateful for my friends and their friends who are willing to navigate the learning curve with me.
What advice would you give to young professional women across Africa?
The African society has many expectations and limitations on the young woman that contradict the reality of the global village the world has become. This places young professional African women in a great predicament; trying to balance these expectation with their own growing ambitions. We are becoming more and more exposed to what other Motherland Moguls are up to.
As such, the professional African young woman has to decide what races to run and which medals they are chasing. We can’t have it all and to be honest I do not think we want it all. Sometimes, ‘all’ involves things we don’t really aspire towards but that have been prescribed by society.
The disappointment of not getting what we may have wanted is compounded by the fear of society’s disapproval of us for not having it all. African young professional women must decide what they want for themselves. They must then pursue that whilst gracefully accepting whatever life may bring them; without the extra burden of fearing to disappoint.
You have taken on many responsibilities career wise in recent years including becoming a Global Shaper and serving as JCI president. How did you realize your ability for greatness and what was your journey like?
When I started off I would never have imagined I would be here today. But as a principle when I commit to something, I fully plug in to ensure I learn as much as I can. I always step up to a challenge or opportunity. As such in the several organizations I have been over the years, I have refined various skills which are all coming together to create different opportunities.
If I were to give examples, I would start at BancABC Zimbabwe where I had my first job as an HR intern. I arrived raw as they come and left with a good understanding of professionalism and corporate etiquette. My next job at Kutting Edge as a team building facilitator taught me to incorporate fun and adventure into creating effective teams and in leadership.
My boss’ encouragement to network and grow led me to Junior Chamber International and Toastmasters —both organizations which are great learning ground. At Alchemy Women in Leadership, I grew from a volunteer intern to Training and Resource Centre manager in months. There I practised team leadership as well as personal efficiency to manage changing situations.
I have also had the opportunity to attend several leadership programs and I am alumnus of Leadership programs from SAFAIDS, Kairos, and African Leadership Centre to mention a few.
Every role I have taken on has been a stepping stone for the next. Whether it was a junior position or one with status I recognized their value in shaping my entire career.
What are your New Year resolutions? What will be your specific goals for the New Year?
I want to be more present and mindful to maximize on the various roles in my life. That is to be fully present as a mum and wife at home and a full blown Motherland Mogul at GoalGetter.
I am also looking to transform the GoalGetters seven winning ways into a training that I will facilitate to 360 high school and university students as well as young professionals in 2017. I want to also acquire my coaching license to offer specialized personal support for the tribe.
How do you stick to your goals and make them a reality?
My top GoalGetters winning way to getting things done is the tribe aspect. I firmly believe that we all need to create or identify tribes of people who can support us in our quest to achieve more.
My greatest supporter who would be the chief in my tribe is my husband. He is also my best friend and gets to see the most beautiful and the ugliest of my leadership journey. I also have peers, mentors, coaches and colleagues who all balance out the tribe.
The two most critical benefits of having tribes are the accountability and encouragement. Accountability breeds discipline and the encouragement shrinks obstacles and challenges.
With big smiles and charming personalities to match, Sekayi and Tukiya Fundafunda have a star-like quality about them. Popularly known as Kahyi & Kii, the powerhouse sister-duo are behind Zambia’s hottest fashion blog, MaFashio.
According to the sisters, “MaFashio” is a slang that describes someone who either looks really good —or really strange. In other words, fashion that makes a statement. That is essentially what MaFashio aims to deliver —content that celebrates the uniqueness and strangeness of Zambian fashion and culture, packaged in a way that is fun, inspiring, and accessible. Since bursting onto the scene in 2012, MaFashio has positioned itself as the premier “style house” in Zambia with its one-stop shop approach to fashion solutions, including blogging and styling and creative direction.
Kahyi & Kii have carved out a permanent place for themselves on the fashion and lifestyle scene in Zambia and are well on their way to becoming a successful and well-recognized international fashion brand. The sisters recently opened up to SLA contributor Uloma about their blog, fashion, and some of their favourite things from 2016.
How did MaFashio begin? Where did you find the inspiration to start a fashion blog?
Kahyi: We had a lot of artistic influences growing up —mom made wedding dresses and dad was an artist. As teenagers we dressed very differently from our peers, which wasn’t something that was popular in Zambia at the time. One summer towards the end of our high school years, Kii and I happened to spend a lot of time together, and we discovered just how cool the other [person] was.
As we spent time getting to know each other and observing the people around us, we both simultaneously had this realization that we were encountering a lot of people dressed in really interesting and diverse ways. That was how the idea for MaFashio came about. One day we just decided that we were going to start telling people they looked nice, take their pictures, and create a place where we could post and share these pictures.
At the time we started, we didn’t even know that “fashion blogs” existed. All we knew was that we had found this project that we were really passionate about and we were determined to pursue it as far as we could. We built a simple blog on Blogger put up pictures, then spammed everyone we could think of to direct them to our blog.
One day we got a call from Gareth Bentley, who had somehow caught wind of our site and was impressed by what we were doing. He showed us how other bloggers were doing it and gave us tips on how to make the site appear more professional. From there things sort of took off.
When did you realize that MaFashio had finally broken onto the Zambian fashion scene in a big way?
It was definitely when we got invited to attend and blog at Fashion Week in 2013. It was such a surreal experience, getting the VIP treatment and being introduced to some major players in the Zambian fashion industry.
Being at that event and getting to blog about it definitely put us on the map and opened doors for us. After that, we knew it was time to take MaFashio to the next level and that was when we decided to register the brand as an official entity.
Your story sounds almost like a fairytale. Coming from an artistic background, having a flair for fashion and design, and then starting what was probably the first fashion blog in Zambia at a time when there was no one else in the space.
Were there any parts of this whole process that did not come easy to you?
You’re right, we do have a natural affinity for styling and writing, but the photography and other technical aspects didn’t come easy and took a lot of effort. In fact, we are still learning, but that’s what I love about us.
We never back down from a challenge and the more MaFashio grows, the more motivated we are to continue improving our skills, acquiring new ones, and also asking for help when there is something we can’t do ourselves.
How does the division of labour within MaFashio work?
Kahyi: I have a background in Economics and Finance, so I would say I am the more business-savvy one of the team. I love structure and I enjoy creating systems so I am always looking for avenues to incorporate that into our business.
Kii: I have a background in Law, which has come in quite useful in interpreting the contracts we are presented with. When it comes to MaFashio, while Kahyi focuses more on the planning and organization, I would say I contribute more to creating the content and aesthetics for the site.
In the best of ways, Kahyi is the yin to my yang and we complement each other in a way that is good for the business.
As frontrunners in the fashion blogging industry in Zambia, how have you embraced this role as leaders and mentors? Also, as others come onto the scene, what has it been like dealing with the competition?
Kahyi: Last year we organized an event called Fashion for Brunch and honestly it was a struggle to scrape together 16 bloggers at the time. This year, we hosted the same event again and we had 35 bloggers. We even had trouble picking the 20 we needed for the event!
It has been a pleasure for us to watch this new generation of bloggers come onto the scene, and we don’t necessarily view them as competition because we understand our role. The only yardstick by which we measure our growth and success is ourselves.
Kahyi: I attended a lecture earlier this year where the topic was about learning to “transcend” and I think that has been my mantra this year, professionally and otherwise.
As MaFashio, I see us knowing what our strengths and talents are, and keeping in our own lane but also giving ourselves permission to spill over into other lanes as things change and we find new ways to adapt. I believe there is more than enough space for everyone in this industry to grow.
There can never be enough events management companies as we Africans love our events. Motherland Moguls in events management have added little bits to differentiate their brand. Take incorporating floristry and gardening into events, for example. Rutendo Chilenge is the founder of Majestic Gardens, a registered events company in Zambia. She is also the woman behind Chitenge and Wine, a chill picnic and live performance that has become a platform for indie artists and musicians. Rutendo shares with SLA contributor Itumeleng, her other ventures and how she got her start as a florist.
Tell us, what business ventures have you gone into?
For the past 6 years I have been running an events company which is legally registered in Zambia called Majestic Gardens. Majestic Gardens is an outdoor event venue hosting weddings, bridal parties, wedding photography, music video shoots and any events that require an outdoor venue.
What was the attraction for you? Why go into events management?
For a long time in Zambia, halls -a more expensive option- were the only outdoor events venues available. At first, the attraction to entering events management for me was the love of gardening. I inherited this gift from my mother. Majestic Gardens has only grown and grown since I started it. Now, our venues have the capacity for between 250 to 400 people.
What is the one thing that makes your events special?
We get to know who the clients are, get one-on-one interactions which the clients and give a personal touch to the events. We build relationships based on trust and understanding with clients. This goes beyond the economical aspect of the business.
Beyond the service, Majestic Gardens is also a memory. I try to give my clients the best regardless of who much they can afford.
What is the most memorable event you have hosted?
A bridesmaid was proposed to at a pre-wedding photo-shoot held in our gardens. She was not expecting her fiancé to sneak up on her from behind flowers.
I love that I was a part of their happiness!
Tell us about Chitenge and Wine. How did it come about?
Chitenge and Wine is an Afrocentric picnic idea that my late brother and I adopted from Nairobi’s Blanket and Wine event. It was a novel idea in Zambia and so we grabbed it.
It is centered around the Chitenge cloth and for every ticket, our guests get a bottle of wine and a chitenge. The concept is to encourage the combination of passion and the African spirit in young people.
Our focus is to help young people, especially artists understand that they can reach any height even as Africans. Interestingly, most of our guests are budding artists and we provide a platform for their talent and passion.
What’s the long term goals for your businesses?
For Chitenge and Wine, I would like to see it go to different towns in Zambia. This is so that we can learn about different cultures in the country. I would like it to be a major tourist event, so that tourists coming to Zambia do not only visit Livingston. I see Chitenge and Wine as one of the events listed on tourist brochures in Zambia.
I would like to see Majestic Gardens grow so big that it is moved to a larger venue that is able to host multiple events at the same time. I would also like to see Majestic Gardens grow into a floral culture resource centre that trains people on gardening. Gardening goes beyond sweeping.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned from being an entrepreneur?
I have learned hard work and discipline. There are times that money does not come in and the only thing that propels you to continue is your passion.
You currently live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, what is the one thing you appreciate about this country?
It rains a lot in Addis. I love the potential that the country has to expand its floral culture. Ethiopia can grow and export so many exotic flowers that cannot be grown in other regions of Africa due to the climate. It is flora that we can only imagine in my home country.
If you were to be given super powers, which powers would you want and why?
I have lost loved ones to sickness and conflicts. So it’s definitely going to be healing powers. Also, If I could, I would help people through the pain and devastation of conflicts.
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