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.
An English teacher based in Lusaka, Zambia, Bwalya Maketo is also the founder of the NGO, Zambian Women With Skills. ZWWS has a primary focus on equipping Zambian women with the necessary tools and resources needed to identify and harness practical skills and talents, thereby effectively translating them into sustainable streams of income.
Bwalya holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts with Education from the University of Zambia and is passionate about women empowerment and entrepreneurship at various levels. She hopes that her efforts can contribute to mitigating the effects of rising unemployment in Zambia.
SLA contributing writer Uloma Ogba caught up with Bwalya to learn more about her NGO and her plans for the future.
In August 2016, you launched your NGO Zambian Women With Skills. Can you share with the readers what your organization’s mission is all about?
When I initially set out to form this organisation, the underlying reason was the urgent need for the creation of a platform where local Zambian women could access the relevant resources needed to hone their God-given talents and practical skills. Through ZWWS, some of the skills women have chosen to harness include: baking, hairdressing, basket weaving, knitting, beading, public speaking, cosmetology, home management, home and event décor, flower arrangements, etc., which they can then use as vehicles of wealth creation.
We currently have 30 officially registered affiliate members, of which 9 are serving as board members and two as provincial coordinators for Lusaka and Copperbelt province respectively. Our main service is the provision of skills identification and training to 3 kinds of women:
(i) The educated/semi-educated woman who has a skill and is in formal employment but with no job fulfillment and would like a smooth transition into the business world by capitalising on her skill. She may also seek to create a balance between her formal job and a skills-based business on the side.
(ii)The uneducated/semi-educated woman that has a tangible skill but no proper knowledge (technical or other) of how to translate that skill into a sustainable stream of income.
(iii)The educated/ uneducated woman that has no idea what skill she has or which skill to harness.
I like the idea of a subscription-based organization. In this day and age, it’s sometimes difficult to convince people to realize the benefit of and pay for services they may feel they should be able to access for free.
How have you been able to hack this process and build a reliable membership base?
At ZWWS, my role has been to make them understand this entire concept; it’s not so much about me, but about how each individual woman that seeks to join the organisation can capitalise on what we are proposing. The idea has been to make each woman see the platform as a stepping stone to actualising her own individual dreams and goals.
We have two particular programs running which are specifically designed to benefit registered members. The first one is an in-house Legal Aid Clinic which gives members access to free legal advice except for court representation from our in-house lawyers as well as those that come through as volunteers. The second program is the Continuous Skills Development Program, which is specifically designed for affiliate members to stay abreast of changing trends in business (etiquette, advertising, customer care, personal/ business branding etc.). It also provides free knowledge intended for their benefit.
The second program is the Continuous Skills Development Program, which is specifically designed for affiliate members to stay abreast of changing trends in business (etiquette, advertising, customer care, personal/ business branding etc.). It also provides free knowledge intended for their benefit.
Basically, the idea has been to provide a range of enticing benefits that the women can only access by becoming registered members of ZWWS and so far that has worked in our favour.
Can you tell us a bit more about the specific programs that Zambian Women With Skills offers and what level of impact you have achieved with these programs so far?
In total, we have 8 active Programs running for the year 2017, namely: The Learn a Skill Program, The Learners Hub Program, The Mentorship Placement Program, Continuous Skills Development Program, Legal Aid Clinic, The Red Flame Initiative, The Fundraising Program as well as our Community Works Program.
One of our most popular programs is, of course, the Learn a Skill Program. This program was specifically designed to offer a 3-4 weeks course on learning a specific skill which is designed to lean more on the practical aspect of the skill in question. The course also includes some theoretic components of the following: basic financial literacy, marketing, social media/general business branding, compliance, sources of capital etc.
The practical information is usually concentrated within the last week of the training after the theoretic part of the course has been tackled. The overall objective is to accord an opportunity for learning to the vulnerable/poor woman who cannot afford to pay for a fully structured course.
Facilitators are volunteers and “friends of the organisation” who work on a pro bono basis. So far we have had 20 women in Lusaka, that have successfully gone through this training with specific focus on cosmetology.
You mentioned a mentorship program. Now, I personally think that mentorship should be a core part of every young woman’s life. There is so much we can gain from being mentors and from being mentored.
Could you share with us how your mentorship program is organized, what types of issues you address and what the reception has been like among the target audience?
Ok, so we have two mentorship programs that we are currently running. One is called the Mentorship Placement Program which has been designed in such a way that affiliate members, can access either short or long term mentorship to help them harness their specific skills.
Our second mentorship program is our recently launched Red Flame Initiative which has been designed specially to help mentor, inspire and motivate young secondary school girls within the 13 to 18 years age bracket. Our goal is to effect positive change among these young girls through mentorship, networking and skills training.
Given my teaching background, I realised that of the many young girls that passed through my hands as pupils, not so many were privileged to have positive role models within their various communities. The platform was thus created to help them find their true purpose in life and help them ably understand the immense role they have to play in shaping a better Zambia and the world at large.
Still on the subject of mentoring, who are your role models and the biggest influencers in your life that you look to for guidance and direction, especially when it comes to running an NGO successfully?
I am a very spiritual person and have a deep rooted belief in the Christian faith and particularly the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I would have to say, He is definitely at the top of my list of those from whom I draw strength and guidance when it comes to running the organisation.
I also draw lots of inspiration and counsel from my mentor, Charity Limula. As one of the local life coaches here in Zambia, Charity is the one person I know I can also run to for sound advice and direction. And then, of course, there is my mum, who happens to be my biggest cheerleader. My mother is a source of upliftment and counsel during those times that I get too overwhelmed and feel like giving up.
Sometimes, it’s easy to fall into the trap of glamorizing social entrepreneurship, but the truth is for most people who choose this path, it’s a bumpy ride.
What sort of challenges have you encountered while trying to establish and grow your organization? And what have you done to address these challenges?
Indeed, if I was to sit here and paint an amazing tapestry of silver plate achievements and hustle free chains of accolades as they relate to my organisation, I will be lying. It has not been an easy ride. It does get overwhelmingly lonely at times, and the only thing that sometimes keeps me afloat is my unwavering passion for women empowerment and entrepreneurship at various levels.
One of the major hurdles we have had to work our way through is resource availability. I started off this social enterprise without the slightest idea of where I would draw my monetary resources from. And because currently, we are not receiving any funding from donors, the little resources we have are mostly sourced from affiliate member subscriptions, fundraising ventures, as well as my own personal salary from my formal job. Because of this lack of resources, we are unable to reach out to as many women as we wish to.
I started off with very little knowledge and information of what it takes to run a successful NGO. I have had to learn and unlearn so many things along the way and had to humble myself so many time to get the relevant information needed to stay afloat. I am very thankful for my exposure to the YALI network through its online resources, which has helped to give my ideas some solid grounding. The amount of knowledge I have been able to acquire just through this network alone is something that I am eternally grateful for.
You were recently nominated as a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow and will be traveling to the United States in June to participate in the 6-week program. This must be so exciting for you.
Can you share with us what this program is all about and what you hope to gain from this experience, personally and professionally?
It is an exciting feeling given the competitive nature of the application and selection process. I consider it a privilege to have been selected as one of the 1000 fellows that will be part of the program this year. More so, this year alone saw an estimated 64,000 applications sent through for consideration. So briefly, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for young African Leaders, which began in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). It empowers aspiring young African leaders with academic coursework, leadership training, and networking opportunities in civic leadership, public management and business and entrepreneurship.
I intend to make good on this generous investment in me, by fully acquiring the relevant and academic practical experience needed to help grow my organisation, and in turn, reach out to more women. Personally, I hope to meet new people and possibly make new friends from other parts of the continent, learning about different cultures and new ways of life in the process.
You have a lot going on for you professionally, how are you able to stay grounded and remain focused? What do you do when you just need to take a break and rebalance?
Well, I cannot say it’s been a walk in the park. I do have days when I feel utterly worn out and almost off balance. But like I said earlier, my passion for women empowerment tends to override all the hurdles that spring up along the way. I strongly believe in the emancipating power of discovered and harnessed potential. Personal fulfillment often springs from one pursuing that which they are passionate about.
I believe my platform has the potential to help women harness skills that they can not only draw an income from but also find immense fulfillment from. Also, when I do feel the need to recalibrate, I turn to the Bible for some alone time with God. This is just so I can refuel and gain fresh insight on what direction to take.
My husband is also a great source of strength as he fully supports my work. He not only gives me time to fully focus on this venture by getting our three children off my shoulders sometimes but also helps provide material and emotional support whenever I need it.
If there is one key message you could use the She Leads Africa platform to share with millions of readers, what would that message be?
As a woman, you are capable of achieving all your dreams no matter what hurdles you may face along the way. You have the innate ability to actualize all that you can envision for yourself. The key is to fix your eyes on the goal, then begin to slowly work your way through the process of getting to where you want to be.
And to re-echo the sentiments of Zambia’s former First Lady, Dr. Maureen Mwanawasa, who said, “Let us sing from the song sheet of our own resources. Our ability to multi-task as women should always be considered as a strength that should be utilized at any given opportunity.
As women, we have the ability to grow any skill we get exposed to, simply because we are “nurturers’ and are able to grow any skill to commercial levels. A woman can turn any idea or skill into a sustainable income generating tool, the most important thing is to allow yourself to take on any opportunity of learning presented to you.”
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!
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.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
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.
Unless you have made a vow to stay off of social media and the news, you’ve surely come across of the hashtag #LintonLies. #LintonLies trended for a few days last month after actress and producer Louise Linton wrote her “How My Dream Gap Year in Africa Turned Into a Nightmare” piece. It was a recent addition to the White Savior trope and was filled with so much inaccuracies about Zambia that African twitter had to say something. The hashtag #LintonLies was created in response and forced Linton to remove her book from Amazon.
While Louise was clawing her way through the jungle and chasing off humongous spiders in her mind, she could have simply picked up her cell phone and asked Zambian women to help her tell the real story. Write it, film it, market it. The reality though is that Zambian women aren’t waiting for their stories to be told for them to be deemed worthy. They have charge and are doing a darn good job of it. Even though more can be done to improve the lives of women in Zambia ( that’s another discussion for another day) those who stand up and make a change should be applauded.
Here is a list of Zambian women that are engaging in entrepreneurial bombassery that likes of Linton could learn from. Zambian women aren’t known to simply sit and let things happen, they are the women that are running businesses and changing the entrepreneurial landscape of the country.
Kuatenga’s latest work is The Tikambe Natulande TV show , a youth-led program focusing on issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Zambia. The Tikambe Natulande show focuses on educating young Zambians without losing them, showcasing stories they can relate to and answering even the most embarrassing questions. Questions like:
“What would you do if your religious leader asked you to sleep with him to solve a problem?”
Known for her great style and her deep laugh, Samba is passionate about unearthing authentic Zambian stories. She does not shy away from stories no matter how uncomfortable. Samba also challenges challenging harmful beliefs and narratives respectfully while delving into preserving our languages and cultures. Quite a feat!
If you are ever in Lusaka and hear of a cool cultural event, Samba has probably worked tirelessly behind the scenes. Yet she may also just be the lady at the market next to you buying finkubala.
Queen of entrepreneurship bombassery. This woman is revolutionizing the way young Zambians eat (cue the satisfied rumble of the stomachs of university students). She is the founder of Java foods whose main goal is to provide convenient, affordable and nutritious foods made from local products. This successful commercial lawyer set up the food processing company in Zambia in 2012. Since then, Monica has been pretty transparent about what it takes to be an entrepreneur on the Zambian scene. She is also open about leadership issues and often hands out solid advice.
Monica and Java foods are all about churning out nutritional foods that tackle the problem of malnutrition in countries like Zambia (by producing a nutritious porridge consisting of sorghum, millet and soya, for example). Java foods engages with small-scale farmers to provide them with grains through a self-sustainable system.
Sekayi and Tukiya are two stylish entrepreneurs from Zambia, styling and profiling with their blog MaFashio. The sisters are very popular and are good at putting together great outfits, interestingly enough via thrifting. Instead of making style out of reach by only wearing designer things that a young Zambian girl may likely not be able to afford, MaFashio show that thrifting is a great source of pieces waiting to be handpicked.
They began with simple street style, but these two have fast become the go to for styling, makeup artistry and photography. They have also being a part of great social initiatives and looked good while doing it.
From styling the techie guys at Tech Hub Bongo Hive, to sitting in at Zambia Fashion week, the MaFashio brand is growing. MaFashio showcases great Zambian talent but staying true to the reality of living in Lusaka. Now, Sekayi and Tukiya are not fashion airheads who only live and breath fashion. They are young women who are working on various projects behind the scenes (like finishing uni amongst other things. Congratulations!)
If you scrambled to get the newest issue of Trendsetters when you were in high school in Zambia, then you probably know who Cathy Phiri is (especially if you also wore that sky blue and navy blue skirt daily to school, you know which one, Roma stand up!). Cathy Phiri has been in the Zambian media game for a long time, starting in 1995 when she and her sisters started up a non-governmental organization in Zambia called Youth Media which led to to the development of the award-winning newspaper (later magazine), Trendsetters.
After years in the business, winning awards and working as Media 365 (the company at which she is managing director) Cathy has a new show called HerStory. HerStory helps Zambians look at various issues from different angles. Media 365 is a dynamic creative and communications agency that focuses on communication strategies, audio-visual campaigns, marketing, and research services for social change and development.
Cathy has focused on educating the masses on HIV/AIDS but with HerStory she is diversifying. Now she’s diving into discussing the political situation in Zambia, the Blesser/Blessee phenomenon amongst other stories. The premise is that Zambian women can and will weigh in on what is happening in their society fearlessly.
Having been a part of popular shows like the MTV show Shuga (remember when Lupita was on Shuga?) where she was executive producer, Cathy’s evolution can be traced from each project she has worked on. She just keeps getting better! Cathy has long had a passion for this kind of work and gone at it silently. She usually pleasantly surprises us with her highly enjoyable work, which is always above par in Africa.
Now, Chisenga is not playing around with IT. Mmhhmm, no sir she is not. Founder of Asikana Network (cue song, sisters doing it for themselves), Chisenga works hard on to teach young women the power of technology. Asikana Network also aims to increase interest in and to enhance the active participation of women in the ICT sector. They want to change mindsets and eliminate negative stereotypes attached to girls and women in ICT. Imagine a virtual reality game made by an African girl with an amazing story? I can!
Amongst other important things, like being a global shaper and consulting at the leading Zambian tech hub called Bongo Hive, Chisenga is on the ground teaching and equipping young entrepreneurs on the ins and outs of technology. By doing so, she ensures that young Zambians aren’t left behind.
Chisenga just keeps on learning and growing. She is open about her education, courses she is taking and workshops she has facilitated. She inspires young Zambian women to enter and be a part of the technological changes happening the world over.
Now, these women I have mentioned are only a sprinkling of the women entrepreneurs making waves in Zambia. From Towani Clarke, Chizo, Zed Girl, NouKoncept, Cathy Funda Funda, Joanna Hickey, Mukuka Mayuka, Lulu Wood…the list goes on.
Its unfortunate about #LintonLies, but lets not dwell on the web of lies that she weaved (hope you do better Louise!). Instead, lets celebrate the work Zambian women are doing, the work many before them have done, and those yet to join the race.