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July Issue 2014

Celebrating Women of African Heritage

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AFROELLE MAGAZINE | Encourage. Empower. Entertain. Elevate

ON THE COVER: Kuoth Wiel & Amina Abdullah PHOTOGRAPHER: Amina Touray WARDROBE STYLIST/DESIGNER: Kimberly Sheree Mason MAKE UP ARTIST: Irma Vasquez

Many thanks to our contributors who helped made this issue possible!












If you have a story idea or would like to share your wisdom or insights with women globally email AfroElle@gmail.com with ‘Submission’ on the subject line.

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Celebrating 4 years - Its Takes a Village!


have to admit that I struggled writing this month’s note, mainly because its been hard putting into words what these past 4 years have been. Like a new mother, I’ve been learning on the job because sometimes no matter how many books you read, experience is the best teacher. Much of this journey has been exciting but there’s been some hard days too, to the point where I wanted to fold the magazine and in those days, its only the passion from our team that kept everything going.

Editors Note

And so here we are, 4 years and 15 issues later. I’m amazed at how far we’ve come. We’ve grown immensely as a global community of close to 10,000 readers and we’ve featured 250 plus women making meaningful contributions in their fields. It easy to be constantly on the move, issue after issue and not take a moment to just celebrate the little milestones. With this milestone, we would like to take the magazine to the next step and expand our brand and incorporate new features like a YouTube and podcast channel with interviews and behind the scenes videos, and to incorporate more interaction into our conversations. We’d also like to be able to commission for more content, pay our writers, fund things like our own photo shoots, get a more interactive website etc. So far we’ve managed the magazine with a small team of volunteers but going forward, we cannot do this without you. I was reminded recently by one of our writers, that it takes a village to raise a child. This magazine is our baby and to help her grow , we need you, our community. We are calling upon you to consider being a monthly member of the AfroElle tribe by being a patron. As a patron of AfroElle you will be contributing to helping us grow in different areas of the magazine. And as a patron you won’t leave empty handed, depending on your pledge level, there are various perks, this includes digital downloads of every issue, access to exclusive web content, interviews and behind the scenes happenings and supporter only updates, merchandise, giveaways and you’ll be able to give suggestions on upcoming issues. So whether you pledge $1 or $25, you’ll be an integral part of our growth. There are other ways you can help and that’s by sharing our monthly issues on your social media networks or volunteering your talents by joining our team. Its been a great four years, thank you for your support. We continue to cling to our vision of bringing you content that encourages, equips and empowers you to live a life of purpose and we are devoted to telling the stories of extraordinary women throughout Africa and in the Diaspora. So here’s to 4 more years. Until next time, I leave you with this African saying, “ If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Patricia Miswa Editor-in-Chief editor@afroellemagazine.com








52 Special Feature: Women Making Moves

INSIDE 10 In Her Good Books: Penelope 12 Jennifer Makumbi 16 Artist You Should Know 20 Catherine Mahugu– Tech Fashion

Saran Kaba Jones Kakenya Ntaiya Beulah Osueke Archel Bernard Mariama Mounir Camara Bisila Bokoko Stephanie Mbida Roberts

28 Conversation with The Bag Ladies 40 Earthcandy Arts 46 In the Kitchen with Karelle Vignon

In Her Good Books Penelope is a part time marketer and a blogger living in Nairobi. She drinks plenty of coffee, loves to read, eats loads of chocolate and bases moments of her life on music. She blogs at creative-ambition.com

I’d like to say that I don’t have a preferred literary genre, but I’d be lying. I love snuggling up with hot cocoa or coffee and a biography, memoire, historical fiction, narratives, or a good coming of age story.

I am currently Concerns) by reading Mindy Precious by Kaling Precious because she Williams, it’s a is memoir about HILARIOUS growing up in a (2) There trans-racial Goes I don’t community- a Gravity: A know if it true story about Life in Rock was my fitting in and and Roll by Lisa Robinson first book the struggle to find yourself. I am because one day I just might be but The also trying to read Jab, Jab, Jab a rock star, and Secret Right Hook: How to Tell Your if I am not, at Garden by Story in a Noisy Social World by least I would Frances Gary Vaynerchuk. have lived Hodgson through Lisa’s Burnett was Favorite author? Oh My! I have account of the one read all of Khalid Hossein’s hanging out book that books. Would he count as my with them! (3) did it for me. favorite author (thinking... Buyology – It was as if I was looking through a thinking... thinking) Nope, I Truths and Lies peephole at the lives of Mary, Colin honestly don’t have a favorite About Why We Buy by Martin and Dickon! I was with Mary when author. I can read anything by Lindstrom – I need to she found the key to the garden, anyone, as long as it’s a good read understand my obsessive need with Colin when he went outside – well thought out plot and to shop and lastly (4) I suck at for the first time in years and characters will do it for me! Girls by Justin Halpern – forgot the pain his felt. The Secret because we all need at least one Because of the blog, my Garden made me fall in love with laugh out loud book in our reading list is currently three reading because it opened my mind collection. pages long and growing at a to the vast world and adventures hidden in books and waiting for me monstrous rate. But top on my list is (1) Is Everyone Hanging Out to devour! Without Me? (And Other

There are two books that really had a huge impact on me growing up. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith & Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmore by Richard Doddridge Black, which my mom recommended and happened to have read when she was around my age – the power of timeless literature!

There are plenty of books that are hyped and I just don’t get them. It’s not that they aren’t interesting, they just aren’t for me, and one such book is AmEricana by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I finished reading it a few weeks ago; it is a good read, I agree with everyone there. However, I feel there are elements of the characters and stories that are flawed.

At fifteen, brooding, confused, and angry all the time; I thought it was me against the world. I owned every theme in both books (in my own way) and seeing how Francie and Lorna dealt with their issues helped me get through my awkward-rebellious adolescent stage.

I prefer reading a book at a time, but I have started a new reading habit of balancing one light read with one heavy read. I wouldn’t mind rereading Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

I don’t have a preferred reading time. I read when I can, in between meetings, before bed, in transit. If I have a few minutes to spear I sneak in a read! A date with authors, dead or alive? This is a tough one! Can I pick three authors for the date – you know what they say, the more the merrier, Richard Branson, NoViolet Bulawayo and Hans Christian Anderson.

Online store where style, price and quality meet! wall clocks . duvets . carpets. Shop online

Conversation With

Jennifer Makumbi On Telling Stories Properly Words by Brendah Ibarah

Photo courtesy


Last year you won the Kwani? Manuscript Project and this year you were named the regional winner for Africa in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. How does it feel having these back to back achievements?

dust and read it again. If it still good enough, I throw it out there and see what happens! (laughs)

I feel quite out of this world. I took a long time working so hard and nothing was happening and then 13 years later I win two awards in 6 months! It just goes to show that I have been working really hard. And with this happening now, people may think that I have just started writing but I started a long time ago and kept getting better and better. Also I have a lot of material I have written in those thirteen years so when there’s a competition I just go back to my archives, pick a manuscript blow off the

It means that women are taking writing very seriously. You know the only person who has won the Commonwealth prize for about three times in a row is a woman, Hillary Montal. Women are taking the world by storm, especially African Women. Also the top African writer right now Chimamanda Ngozi, I’d like to think she is the top African writer, not so? And if you look at the debut of books that are causing a stir, most of them are written by women, young women. When I had just started out as writer, there were people asking questions like ‘where are the

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Only women were selected as regional winners for the Commonwealth Short Story prize. What does that mean to you as a female writer?

“The young generation is very much detached from the traditional culture and all I want to say to them is this is our culture, this is the way stories were told and I want them to look back into it.” women?’ ‘Where are the African women?’ and now African women are writing. So it is great.


Speaking of Chimamanda, she says that her writing was heavily influenced by Chinua Achebe and a few other writers. Which writers have influenced your own writing?

Why Oral tradition?

In the beginning, because I grew up reading Chinua Achebe and Ngugi Wa Thiongo, I was obviously influenced by them. However I have sort of evolved and my style has changed, though there are people who may say that there is an Achebe aspect to it but my writing has changed totally and is now influenced by Oral tradition. My novels sound oral, like I’m telling them orally, that’s where my ideas come from. So I can’t quite say who is influencing me now, perhaps you can ask me again after I’ve written two or three more books. Oh, I also once tried to write like Yvonne Vera but I couldn’t pull it off! (Laughs) As a writer what is your writing technique? Do you have a particular spot or environment you write from? I don’t really have a style or technique, I just write form anywhere at any time. On the buses, at the train station, anywhere. I also carry a chapter that needs editing in a book. I also use my phone to write down ideas whenever they pop up. I don’t have a very good memory so I’ always writing things down. You know that moment before you sleep when you’re half awake and half a sleep? That is my most creative moment, I don’t know why but that is when these ideas come through and my biggest fear is forgetting them and so I have to write it down immediately and get back to it first thing in the

Well you see, because I’m writing and I’m writing a novel, all these ideas of writing are not Ugandan, they are not Kiganda, they are not African, they are western. So what do I have that is mine? When white people write, they have Shakespeare, they have Dickens, that’s their history, that’s there reference but I have no reference there. My references are in oral tradition that’s why I have started with Kintu because where I come from everything started with Kintu. So it’s these stories that my grandfather told me they are my history. So when I’m writing that’s where I go to get ideas on how to write and how to tell my stories. I’m not necessarily preserving them but this is me and that’s what I know.

The younger generation for instance hardly know the traditional stories of their culture due to the heavy western influence. They are so detached from things like oral tradition, are you hoping to get them to pay attention to African traditional stories? Yes the young generation is very much detached from the traditional culture and all I want to say to them is this is our culture, this is the way stories were told and I want them to look back into it.

When we look at African countries, the world only looks at their history after European colonization but that is not where our history starts and I want to change that. But you know I’m not the only one who has done it, take a look at music for example, the young people used to be all about pop music but now they have gone back to their local African music and they are now incorporating traditional songs to make hits. So I don’t want people to say that ‘oh Jennifer is trying to be an intellectual with all that traditional stuff and that’s why she’s doing it’ but no, it’s not just me even the musicians and poets and other artists are doing it.

You have just launched your first novel ‘Kintu’ which is set way back in the 1700s. Why the 1700s? What are you trying to communicate in this book? I chose the 1700s because first of all they are unknown. When we start talking about Uganda, we start with Mutesa I, as if there was no Uganda or Buganda before that. When we look at African countries, the world only looks at their history after European colonization but that is not where our history starts and I want to change that. What I’m saying is, look here, we had a world before colonialism and we shall not be written off easily. We have taken on the western culture but while we do that let’s keep our own. How long did it take you to write ‘Kintu’? I started writing Kintu in 2003 and the point where I felt like the story was done was around 2011. That was nearly a decade but I did the

actual writing during the times I was not busy and that was for about one and half months every year until 2007. So when you add that up I actually wrote for about 6 months. Then in 2008 I won a competition and I was asked to send the book in installments. And in 2009 I went all out on it and finished it in 2011.

So what next after Kintu? I’m currently working on my second book ‘Nambi’ which I have been writing for a while. And unlike ‘Kintu’ this one is going to be feminist with a capital ‘F’! Look out for it.

You have a PhD in creative writing, something that is not the norm here in Africa. From a young age we are taught to pursue traditional disciplines like medicine or law and the likes. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer who is uncertain of success in such a field? I totally understand what you’re saying. When I left Uganda to go and pursue creative writing in Britain, I didn’t tell anyone, not even my family. I just told them that I was going to do my masters. If I had told them I was going to study writing they would have called me mad and say that I would die poor. Only a few of my sisters knew that I was writing but they didn’t know I was spending all my hard earned money on a PhD in creative writing. It was a tough decision to make but if I had told them they would have stopped me. So my advice is, go for it. Writing is like a calling, if you’re in, you’re in. You have no where to go so just do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make money as long as it makes you happy. Make money other ways just don’t stop writing, it will pay off. I mean, look at me! []

Amina Touray Photography | Model: Lillian Bruce Oliver

NOW BOOKING ADS FOR OUR SPECIAL FASHION ISSUE For advertising information email AfroElle@gmail.com

Artists You Should Know Compiled by Ashley Makue

Photo courtesy


Photo courtesy

Yvonne Cheryl Lewis Tanzanian actress, script writer, radio presenter, producer and director, Yvonne Cheryl Lewis, began her acting career when she was 16 years old. She has since grown into a household name as the acclaimed queen of Bongo films. She is the recipient of the Best Actor award at the 2010 International Film Festival in Zanzibar and the Best Actress award by Baabkwuba Magazine in 2012, among other awards. Her talent is celebrated throughout the African continent because of her commitment and passion for sharing authentic African stories, in the loudest and most honest voice. []

Photo courtesy

Amma Whatt


Amma Whatt describes herself as ‘Amma singer, Amma songwriter and Amma whole lot of things’ Her love and passion for the arts was sparked by her parent’s artistry. Among the many milestones of her music career, is her 2007 American Idol experience, where she became a finalist, an appearance in the movie August Rush, singing Academy Award nominated song Raise it Up which she performed at the 2008 Academy Awards. Amma’s superpower is an infallible vocal talent, the brilliance with which she communicates every note and every word in her songs. Her debut EP, Maybe, is poetry. []

A robustly Zimbabwean, queer writer- Dzivaramazwi is poetry, music, calligraphy, dance, pottery and every other art that belongs truly and wholly to Africa. She is the rubrics of every mouthful of an African Language. A Sunday of sunstrokes and hurricanes that burn the black girl to say something. She writes candidly and unequivocally on themes that are generally ignored and pushed under the rug. Her poetry, short stories and essays are expressed in a technical and artistic brilliance. An engaging writer, Dzivaramzwi’s every work is an invitation to talk, to learn and to teach. dzivaramazwi.wordpress.com

Cira Robinson Ballet dancer, Cira Robinson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She began dancing when she was 8 years old and went on to study at the Performing Arts School. Cira’s professional dancing career began with a move to New York City, where she danced full-time at the Harlem Dance Theatre. In 2008 Cira joined the Ballet Black Company which was created with the aim of creating a platform for black dancers to express their art. Among other precious experiences, Cira has had the honour of dancing at the white house, as well as at the Protégé Festival. She continues to grow and perfect her art. []


Summer in the Wild Connect with Mafcouture

Photographer: William Setiawan Model Adama Jobe Adu Jewelry: Evilance.nl

Founded in 2009 by Holland based fashion student, Mary Tawah Eyere, M.A.F Couture is an international lifestyle brand offering smart, affordable luxury fashion, bringing newness and style to life. The label is designed for stylish young women who appreciate trendy fashion and unique

Catherine MAHUGU Co-founder of Soko and frontrunner of the company’s innovation, Catherine Mahugu is an International Telecom Union (United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies) Young Innovators fellow, as well as a fellow for InfoDev’s mobile start-up camp (a global program in the World bank group). Among her passion projects are Stanford University and Nokia Africa Research Centre Design Projects that are focused on developing communities through ICT. She has been recognised as one of Kenya’s top five women entrepreneurs under forty and with influence that great, hers was the brain to pick and AfroElle did just that.


“With my love for technology, for development, design and fashion I had no doubt that Soko was the best avenue to achieve what I love and fuse my interests harmoniously.�

When was your first encounter with Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and did you know immediately that you would have a career in ICT? I first encountered ICT right after high school, from a young age, I was always fascinated by electronic gadgets and the computer was one of the things on my list.I would tinker with gadgets occasionally by trying to fix them or reading user manuals to know how things work. I decided to take an IT course after high school to hone my skills as I waited to enroll to the University. From the course, I knew I wanted to study Computer Science for my university degree

modules required to achieve the vision 2013 for the country . Furthermore, I wanted to test my management and leadership skills by being a deputy presiding officer during the referendum period in Kenya. Through such experiences I was more positive and confident than ever that I wanted to venture into the startup scene and start my own business. My initial working experience was a foundation that became instrumental when founding the business and company structure.

Through our Soko collections our jewellery pieces reflect authentic African styles as well as global urban aesthetics. What made you buy into the Soko idea?

Did co-founding Soko in your third year of studying Computer Science disallow you the experience of ICT in a wellestablished corporation? No, it did not inhibit me from experiencing ICT in a well-established corporation. My plan before graduation was to ensure I had a taste of working in different sectors in the ICT realm whether it would be private or government sector. My first job was in the banking industry that I did for a year that gave me the exposure on how to work in a corporation, work in teams, and understand the business processes and procedures involved to keep the company operational. Thereafter, worked with an IT networking company as I was fascinated with wireless technology .Working there helped me to know whether I wanted to work in the computer networking sector. I also worked with the government in the ICT sector through implementation of one of the

Soko was founded in 2012.The company was born out of a love of design, a combination of global perspectives, the desire to connect and empower entrepreneurs via the use of the technology around us, and a belief that women can change the world. The founders met in Nairobi, Kenya, where we were inspired to create technology solutions to change the lives of those around us. We recognized a global need, as well as global opportunity, to disrupt the systemic patterns of poverty found across Africa’s creative economy. With Soko, we did just that. With my love for technology for development, design and fashion I had no doubt that Soko was the best avenue to achieve what I love and fuse my interests harmoniously. Tell us about your interest in fashion prior to Soko. Over the past few years there has been a renaissance of African fashion leading to international fashion houses including African design, artwork and style to achieve a stylish modern look to their designs.

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The evolution of global fashion and design, the vibrant colours, geometric shapes and clean lines of African fabrics and accessories have been embraced from the runway to the sidewalk .I have been impressed with the quality of workmanship by great veteran and emerging African designers. Through our Soko collections our jewellery pieces reflect authentic African styles as well as global urban aesthetics.

Soko, which means marketplace in Swahili, offers style-conscious consumers a direct line to responsibly sourced African designs.

Does your work with Soko expose you to the full experience of ICT?

Soko’s designs are inspired by the cultural, urban, and rural creative contexts our artisans are coming from, the rich material ecosystem of Kenya, and popular international trends. Being able to fuse these in a social responsible, artisan entrepreneur driven model is something that Soko is very proud of.

At Soko, our software development team use their educational knowledge that they learnt in school and even go further to expanding their technical skills. For potential recruits, what we look for as key qualities is willingness to learn. This is because at Soko we are always using up- to- date mobile and web technologies so that we keep up with global tech trends. As a result we iterate our technology solutions very often as we prefer using the agile approach versus the waterfall model thus keeping the tech team excited by working on new appropriate technologies.

Soko Collections highlight the best in design coming out of Soko’s open online marketplace. For shoppers who prefer a curated shopping experience, our collections are the ideal choice for finding stunning and exclusive jewellery designs that are ethically sourced.

We provide Value added services for the artisans by communicating to them the latest trend briefs; ensuring that the raw materials that they use are upcycled, recycled and ethically sourced, ensuring they meet the international quality standards in order to compete globally and helping them meet consumer demand through capacity training. Please walk us through your typical workday.

What is the signature look of Soko and how does the company make sure that all the artisans understand and support the brand? Soko is an innovation in global fashion and technology: a brand that connects online consumers to global makers and handcrafted jewellery from the developing world. With Soko, you can discover incredible design and creative ingenuity made in communities that lay outside of the digital economy.

My typical day involves waking up around 4.30am5a.m in the morning to go through my emails, read the latest news on current affairs and global trends especially in ICT and fashion .Also prioritize my day on some of the important things that need to get done on that day. Thereafter, head to work. At Soko, we have a very strong collaborative team where we assist each other wherever possible. I will


be working with the office management team, tech team, logistics team and entrepreneurship team during the day and slot time for partnership meetings occasionally. At around 6pm to 9pm, I tend to work on things that I personally need to follow up on and have conference calls with the U.S team as we are a global team. I am quite passionate about what I do so finding myself working in the office pretty late is my typical workday. Working with an international team, one has to get rid of the 8a.m-5p.m work time mentality especially if you work at a startup. Time is a very valuable resource. Has Soko been successful in fashioning a better world? Yes we have. Soko uses technology to empower and provide equal access to opportunity for the artisans. With Soko's mobile tools, they have access to a whole world of consumers, expanding their business horizons and entrepreneurial prospects. Over time the artisans economic status has improved which has had a trickle down effect to their communities where they invest their profits in health, education and building their micro-enterprises. Soko and Soko artisans follow the principles of fair trade. Our artisans get the price they ask for the goods they produce and, through our artisan selection process; we work to ensure our artisan partners are providing safe working conditions and fair wages to any employees they may work with. Our artisans design their own products and we encourage them to use natural, locally-sourced recycled and upcycled materials. Not only are the creations unique and exquisite, they demonstrate the resourcefulness of our artisans and encourage a sustainable future. Soko is proud to be able to empower artisans to sell trend relevant product made from ethically sourced and upcycled materials to international consumers at affordable prices.

Our unique supply chain couples us so tightly to production and artisans so tightly to the design feedback and development process that we have been able to innovate the field of “fast ethical fashion� for the first time ever. What have been some of the milestones of your career and of Soko? Soko has been developing our technology platform for almost two years. We spent the first year iterating our mobile artisan technology and services in collaboration with artisan constituents in and around the Nairobi area. We launched the first public iteration of the e-commerce site mid last year. Our learning from that launch informed a competitive consumer facing redesign that was launched in October in tandem with a coordinated marketing campaign targeting lead consumers via social media, press, partner organizations, and sales channels. Since October, Soko has connected thousands of consumers to hundreds of artisans. Our site can receive tens of thousands of hits per month and has empowered artisans to sell thousands of products to consumers from the US, CA, EU, and Australia. Through Soko, I have achieved my personal milestones which include recognition of one of the top women in ICT, acknowledgement globally as one of the young innovators changing the world through their business which has led to numerous invitations as a guest speaker around the world. Furthermore bodies like the World Bank, UN and mainstream media like CNN validating my efforts as a young entrepreneur woman in ICT. This acts a stamp of proof that my efforts are not in vain. Is the field of ICT in Africa growing at a healthy rate as compared to the rest of the world? The ICT growth in Africa has had an exponential growth over the past few years due to favourable factors such as government policies that encourage the use and penetration of internet usage, improved infrastructure

and people who are more than ever adopting mobile technology to help them facilitate their basic needs. The integration of technology in daily activities is critical for easy adoption of technology within Africa as most technological solutions are aimed at improving the lives of the people.7 out of 10 fastest growing economies in the world are based in Africa giving rise to the middle class who have the purchasing power to cater above and beyond the basic amenities. What was the experience working on Stanford University’s Nokia Africa Research Centre Design Project?

Entrepreneurship involves dedication, sacrifice, commitment and having a great support system in terms of family, friends and co-workers. When starting a company, one needs to have a strong foundation for the business in order for it to grow sustainably. As a result founders may go an extra mile to ensure that this is achieved with limited resources. Support from mentors, family and coworkers is essential when facing failure and one needs a good support system to encourage you not to give up during tough times as the road to success can occasionally get bumpy.

One quote that I like that is beneficial to people who want to start their own company would be“Get started on your dream “Get started on your dream when the pain of inaction when the pain of inaction exceeds the fear of action.”

This was an eye opener for exceeds the fear of action.” me into technology innovation and What is in store for the Soko entrepreneurship .I got an consumer? opportunity to see entrepreneurship as a viable career that was more fulfilling than being employed. During the projects, we were taught the value of In October 2013 Soko released its first curated working in teams, prototyping various solutions and accessories collection known as the Kenya how to turn an idea into a business case/venture. collection. The collection features necklaces, What has been at the core of the various ICT4Development workshops that you have facilitated in Kenya? Through the design thinking course I received at Stanford’s University Design school in California, I have facilitated a number of trainings targeting an audience interested in providing mobile based solutions to the informal communities. Through design thinking methodologies, this ensures that solutions targeting a certain problem faced in a community are human centric and incorporates the needs and the feedback of the users of the system or application. What is the greatest lesson in entrepreneurship?

bracelets and earrings designed and handcrafted by skilled Kenyan artisans, made available to customers in the US, Kenya, Europe, Canada and Australia at www.shopsoko.com .The Kenya Collection is beautifully handcrafted from sustainable elements, designed to be everyday yet one-of-a-kind classics. Soko has recently launched its Fall/Winter 2014 collection which features ethically-sourced horn and bone, statement necklaces, architectural brass and intricate beadwork, which carefully designed and curated to reflect authentic African styles as well as global urban aesthetics. The pieces consist entirely of upcycled metal, glass, bone, and horn, locally sourced by Soko’s artisans. []



HOW HAS ELOLI GROWN SINCE ITS LAUNCH IN 2013? Our customer base has grown and we have had an amazing response from people who have seen and used our accessories. Our manufacturing operations have also expanded and we are really proud of the creativeness and workmanship that has gone into our pieces. DIBO


“ The image of Eloli is about freedom and authenticity. A love for colours and prints, a piece of our Cameroonian heritage that we can take along with us on a day-today basis .”

The image of Eloli is about freedom and authenticity. A love for colours and prints, a piece of our Cameroonian heritage that we can take along with us on a day-to-day basis, infusing the joyous spirit of Africa into the lives of everyone who is willing to come along for the ride. It's ultimately about being comfortable in your own skin.


AND A COORDINATOR AT THE CENTRE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, HOW HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED THE TRANSITION INTO FASHION? SUME: In all my previous work I have spent time with networks, people from different disciplines and with different interests. This has been invaluable in terms of being able to navigate a variety of spaces. They have taught me the art and science of wearing multiple hats. Project management has also been a major part of my roles. These are skills and experiences which have been very useful in the fashion world. I now find myself in both worlds which is a fun place to be.


SUME We are committed to the basic idea that we should all be able to live dignified lives and work is a part of that. As we develop Eloli Orange Satchel Eloli we are making sure that we are being attentive to healthy work environments, paying fair wages and prices. Equity and fairness are important to us on a very personal level. I think we can be a responsible and ethical brand from the start.

ARE THERE ANY TIPS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US ON MAINTAINING GOOD RELATIONSHIPS IN A FAMILY BUSINESS? Working with my sisters is such a privilege. In many ways it has increased how often we communicate and strengthened our relationship. We are all pretty decisive and thankfully like many families out there even when we don’t agree what keeps us going is we know it’s all love and we ultimately want the best for each other and for Eloli. 29 | www.afroellemagazine.com


Eloli Yellow jigsaw print envelope clutch front

The business of Eloli is everything from thinking about what pieces we want to design, what concepts we would like to introduce, balancing our capacity with our desire to take on new challenges and experiences. It involves being acutely aware of the men and women we design for while staying true to our vision. It is deciding on colour stories, fabrics and leather to figuring out getting the pieces to our amazing customers. Never a dull moment.

PLEASE SHARE WITH US ABOUT THE NOMINATIONS FOR AND THE ATTENDANCE OF THE BLACK CANADIAN AWARDS. We have been nominated for two awards, Best Fashion Designer at the Black Canadian Awards and Best Accessories Designer at the African Fashion Awards (Toronto). The nominations have been so unexpected and such a thrill. Attending the Black Canadian Awards was such a great experience, especially being part of a group of amazing and diverse talent was a great honour and I love getting glammed up so it was the perfect excuse for that. The African Fashion Awards will be held in August in Toronto as part of African Fashion Week Toronto and we are looking forward to that.

AFROELLE: WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR WORK WITH ELOLI? FESE: It has been exciting working with my sisters especially as we have not lived in the same country for close to 15 years. I manage our branch in Cameroon including design, production and marketing. Seeing people actually use our pieces is an incredible part of Eloli and the excitement does not go away.



Our goal is for our clients to benefit from our different senses of style. Each of us has a lot of freedom during the design process and we come together to discuss the overall aesthetic and coherence. More often than not we agree on what the final product should look and feel like.

After the design is sketched or envisioned we work on samples often tweaking until we are happy with the final product. We often test new products to see how they wear before they go on the market. That gives us the opportunity for any final changes. In the beginning we produced ourselves. As we have grown we now manage a skilled team to meet the increase in demand.

IS IT SAFE TO ASSUME THAT BAGS ARE ELOLI’S SUPERPOWER? Eloli bags are indeed a major part of our brand and we continue to introduce new designs. Our bags were our first product line and we have grown from there. We have designed a shirt collection which has been extremely popular with both men and women.

WHAT CAN YOU SHARE WITH US ABOUT ELOLI’S CURRENT AND FUTURE PROJECTS? We collaborated with Cameroonian artist Numerica on his latest video, Wallaye Billaye and loved it. This was no surprise as we worked with him before on Il faut t’enjailler. We are continuing to build our brand and will be developing other categories for Eloli. There’s so much we are interested in doing and are staying focused while leaving enough space for experimentation and spontaneity.[]

shopeloli.com Facebook.com/elolidesign 31 | www.afroellemagazine.com


By Photographer Amina Touray

Model: Kuoth Wiel Dress: Emily Dacarett; Accessories and shoes: vintage

Pants & Vest: Pheenix, Bustier: H&M, Accessories: Troy's Jewelry, shoes: CL

Dress: Mike Vensel, Blouse: Pheenix, Accessories: Troy's, Shoes: Vintage

Dress: Pheenix, Cropped Jacket: Camelia Skikos, Accessories: Vintage, Shoes: Sugar

Model: Kuoth: Bustier & Skirt: Pheenix, Jewelry: Troy's, Shoes: Vintage

Model: Amina: Top: Forever 21, Skirt: Pheenix, Duster: Emily Dacarett, Shoes: CL; Accessories: Vintage

Earthcandy Arts not a trend but a lifestyle


JAMILA CRAWFORD IS NOT ONLY A FULL TIME MOTHER BUT A FULL TIME ARTIST, CREATOR, CHEF, AND DESIGNER. MORE LIKE A FRUIT SALAD THAN A MELTING POT, ALL OF HER PASSIONS HAVE BLENDED BEAUTIFULLY INTO WHAT IS KNOWN AS EARTHCANDY ARTS. WHAT DO YOU FEEL, TASTE AND SEE WHEN YOU HEAR EARTHCANDY ARTS? QUITE SIMPLY IT IS A CREATIVE EXPLOSION! A SUPERNOVA OF FASHION, FOOD, AND FLYNESS DEDICATED TO ENHANCING OUR NATURAL BEAUTY AND EXPOSING US TO THE SWEETER SIDE OF LIFE. AFROELLE: HOW DID THE EARTHCANDY ARTS REVOLUTION BEGIN? DOES YOUR PASSION FOR FOOD OUTWEIGH YOUR PASSION FOR INTERIOR OR FASHION DESIGN? JAMILA CRAWFORD: It started with food but that could apply to everything; that's why I chose the name Earthcandy to encompass all of my passions. One does not outweigh the other. Yes I do food mainly because it's more popular. I mean everyone has to eat right? But I dabble in all of them. They're all special to me. AFROELLE: HOW DID YOUR WORK AS A CELEBRITY CHEF BEGIN? JC: To date my clients include Gabrielle Union, Jermaine Dupri, Alicia Silverstone, Dave Chappelle, Andre 3000, and Erykah Badu to name a few. Initially it started because Erykah Badu is a friend of mine and she knew I cooked. So we were hanging together and chatting about how her son was turning seven years old at the time and they were vegan and I asked "well who was cooking your food?", and she said "I guess you are!" Since then I've been cooking for her at her shows or whenever she needed it. From there it spread

through word of mouth. One of signature dishes is the Kale salad. It doesn't require any cooking, it's ready in a matter of minutes, and it's so healthy for you. The Vitamin K, the iron, and all the featured chlorophyll that Kale beholds make it a favorite. Another of my famous recipes is my vegan empanadas. They're a hit with any and everybody who encounters it, even meat eaters. You're liable to eat ten at a time. I always feature these two items on my menus, they're a staple. AFROELLE: AS FAR VEGANISM IS CONCERNED, IT IS BECOMING A WAVE. IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL OPINION WHY DO YOU THINK IT'S IMPERATIVE THAT WOMEN ADOPT A MORE VEGAN LIFESTYLE? JC: I guess in a nutshell it would be the hormones that are injected into the meat. And that takes a serious toll on our bodies and aside from women this applies to everybody, men and children included.

Why feed your temple a dead carcass, how does that benefit it? Now some people get into the debate will where do you get your protein from. The truth is meat is not the best source of protein. In most cases there's an overabundance of protein or dead meat. You cannot plant and animal bone in the ground and think something is going to bloom from it as oppose to a seed from any fruit or vegetable. It’s simple logic to me. AFROELLE: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN VEGAN AND WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED? JC: I've been vegan for 21 years starting when I was 19. It started because back then my boyfriend, who would then become my husband, was a vegan. He introduced me to a lot of restaurants and I was like, "Yeah this tastes is good I think I can do this!" At that point of my life I was tired of meats and stuff like that. I was fresh in college and I was all like "NO PORK! Pork is Whack!" I was slowly but surely cutting out meat products but not really dairy. When I met him that really pushed me along that text out the meat and the dairy. For the past four years though, I've been a raw vegan only consuming fresh fruits and veggies. And since being vegan and raw vegan I've noticed changes in my digestive system and my elimination process. I hope that's not too gross. My skin has improved and also my weight has balanced out. Most people believe that your body is going to become a toothpick if you go vegan, but if you're already slim, and in an unhealthy way, it can help balance your weight. It also helps to strengthen your brain because a lot of these hormones that are injected into these meat products take a toll on your body including your brain. I've certainly feel the changes it's had on my mental functions. And though I had no intention of going this long as a raw vegan, it's like a rollercoaster and I can't get off of it.

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AFROELLE: TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SHOW AND YOUR GOALS AND INSPIRATION FOR IT. JC: The name of my show is Earthcandy: Food, Fashion, and Flyness. Before I started the show I had a blog with the same name so really the show is like my blog in motion. It's basically everything I do, I enjoy, or care to spotlight. It could be anything from cooking to interviewing an artist. My latest episode is on exercise & fitness and I have one coming up on natural hair care. It's simply a platform to share all things dealing with food, fashion, and flyness and I hope it will be picked up by a network soon. AFROELLE: AS YOU'VE BEEN BUILDING YOUR BRAND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE? JC: Personally, I would say just staying on top of everything. Though I work, I have a life outside of that as well. I have children to attend to and a home to maintain. So I would say just giving it (EarthCandy Arts) the time it needs. It's like my other baby so I have to focus on that. AFROELLE: WHAT'S NEXT FOR EARTHCANDY ARTS? JC: Fairly recently I finished wrapping up a shoot I had for my cookbook. I have a cookbook coming out soon and I think it has been one of the greatest career challenges I've had. Working on it and finally having a physical product means the world. I anticipate the book to be released at the end of this year or early next year. I'm still in the stage of wondering if I should self publish or go through a publishing company. Until then you can go to my site because I release recipes from time to time and I offer cooking classes.

46 | www.afroellemagazine.com

I can teach you whatever you want to learn. There will also be more webisodes and more

content in general on the site. I like to think of myself as the Urban Martha Stewart. I may be remodeling a furniture piece then making lunch. There's just not one thing. Expect more fashion items in addition to my current line of Fruits, Veggies, and Seeds tees. It's just a cornucopia of things.

AFROELLE: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR EARTHCANDY APPROVED TOP PICKS THAT EVERY WOMEN SHOULD HAVE IN THEIR DIET? JC: I would say something high in omega 3's. Something like evening primrose oil or flax oil. It's not the most delightful taste but it's something that can be easily disguised in other dishes like smoothies. And what that does is help with hair, nails, and skin. We as women care very much about our skin, that's why there are so many skin products on the market. They know how we feel about appearance.

Aside from that just keep it green. Try to eat all colors of the rainbow. Make sure your plate looks vibrant; the more vibrant it is the better it is for you. Acidophilus is also another supplement that helps feed the friendly bacteria in our body. The female system is sensitive and we have a delicate balance and acidophilus helps maintain this balance. Explore the World of Earthcandy arts and shop, learn, and be entertained! There's always something new.[]

For more information or to directly contact Jamila for cooking classes visit earthcandyarts.com or email info@earthcandyarts.com Instagram and Twitter @earthcandyarts 47 | www.afroellemagazine.com

In the Kitchen With

Karelle Vignon


arelle Vignon considers herself a simple woman who loves to share her knowledge and experiences. And its exactly what she does through her food blog, Les Gourmandises De Karelle, which loosely translates to Delicacies from Karelle.

Born and bred in Paris, France but currently living in Dakar, Senegal for the past Two years, Karelle, a Beninese, discovered her love for cooking while in Canada where she was living. “I always loved to eat. Cooking was really something else! I learned over time, thanks to books, my surroundings, my experiences but also the Internet. What mostly inspired me to make efforts in the kitchen was meeting my husband. It is said that to keep a man, especially in African communities, women must know how to cook.” Karelle notes that all the women in her family know how to cook good food. “ Today, the new generation is not as traditional, but there are some values that can’t be lost. Cooking is one of these values.” When Karelle started cooking, the feedback was good, but she does not consider herself a chef, “ I cook ordinary food, for ordinary people. My cooking is simple, but mostly accessible.”

Can you share how your diverse background from Benin, Canada and Senegal influences your love for food? How is food appreciation in the different places? I am someone who loves to travel and to discover and I admit that travel influences my work. Some foods are found in Benin and do not exist in Canada or in France. Similarly with Senegal. It is precisely these differences that make cooking more beautiful. Having these different culinary influences allows me to have a unique outlook to the cooking expérience. My advantage is being able to use the techniques of each country to prepare the same dish. In the above cultures, which food culture do you love the most and why? I am a follower of all cuisines but I have to admit that the French food culture is one I prefer most. I don’t say that because I grew up there but French food is excellent! The meats, cold cuts, bread (very cliché) but especially baking. In the African culture it’s rare to make desserts. The main dishes are so rich that it is often not necessary to eat something after, if it’s not a fruit. I can spend my day eating sugary foods What is your definition of a great meal?

like the return to our old grandmothers recipes. This For me, a good meal is a complete meal. A starter, an is our heritage, our memory. entry and a dessert. Meals in which several ingredients and several flavors in the mouth come What do you love most about food? together. A little crunchy, fudge, soft, sauce etc. Food is sharing. This is a moment of meeting between people who appreciate each other. Discussions What kinds of food do you like preparing? around a dish are often more pertinent than meeting in an office. There are smiles, interesting Pastry. I love baking. What I like about baking is the ability to create with basic ingredients: butter, sugar, conversations and discoveries flour, eggs. After of course, there are additions such as chocolate, fruit, almonds etc. but the base remains unchanged. What I also like about baking is the Karelle shares more recipies on her blog precision, the order and the infinite possibilités.


What food trends are you currently excited about? The homecoming. We are in an era and not only in the food industry, which is a ‘back to the roots’ trend. In life in general, in music etc.. In the cooking, I

Zebra Cake INSTRUCTIONS 1. Butter and flour a round mold 2. In a large bowl , mix oil, sugar, milk and eggs until you obtain a homogeneous mixture (do not use an electric blender to avoid bubbles in the mixture). 3. Divide the mixture into two equal parts .

INGREDIENTS 250ml sunflower oïl 250g of sugar 100ml of milk 4 eggs at room temperature 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or a packet of vanilla sugar) 300g of flour 1 teaspoon of baking powder 25g of unsweetened cocoa powder

4. In one, add 175g flour, ½ teaspoon of baking powder and one teaspoon of vanilla extract (or vanilla sugar). Mix well to obtain a homogeneous preparation. 5. In the other , add the remaining flour (125 g), the remaining baking powder, then add the cocoa powder. Mix to obtain a homogeneous preparation. 6. Preheat oven to 180° C. 7. In the center of the mold alternately pour two tablespoons of dough each (one on the other) and then repeat the process until all the dough end. the dough will spread itself gradually. 8. Bake for about 40 minutes (watch carefully , without opening the oven), then check the cooking with the help of the blade of a knife : it should come out dry. 9. Remove from oven and let cool before removing from the mold. 10. Cut and appreciate your "stripes" !

Women Making Moves

They are world changers, top influencers, innovators, rising stars, making a difference in their industries and communities.


“ I don't believe it is Africans' obligation to ensure that we are viewed in a more positive light, however, I believe it is our responsibility to share our experiences and in doing so, help diversify the African narrative.� Beulah Osueke serves as the founding director of Rise Africa, an online multimedia platform that connects Africans across the globe through virtual community development. Beulah is of Nigerian decent and lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States of America. She is currently a Master's student pursuing a degree in clinical psychology.

What was the inspiration behind Rise Africa?


I started Rise Africa because as a diasporan living in the United States, I noticed the absence of a concentrated location for Africans in the diaspora to gather and share their individual experiences. We are a people scattered across the globe, so a physical location is impractical, but in building a website and hosting video conferences and online discussion boards, Rise Africa has been able to develop a virtual community in which a scattered people receive the opportunity to unite and connect with one another.

I don't believe it is Africans' obligation to ensure that we are viewed in a more positive light, however, I believe it is our responsibility to share our experiences and in doing so, help diversify the African narrative.

As an advocate for changing the perception on Africa, what role can we as Africans play in ensuring that we are viewed in a more positive

The issue with Africa's current perception is that it is one-dimensional and therefore a reflection of part of Africa, but not all of Africa. If we want to bring light to what is currently overshadowed, then it is our duty to share our realities so that we can demonstrate the extensive diversity of the continent. []


may want to come back really need to know is Archel Bernard was raised in Atlanta, possible beyond their expectations. Georgia by Liberian parents and moved to Liberia in 2011 after her grandfather passed away in 2010. Having missed the funeral due Somebody had to share how great it is to be a young Liberian, as all of us here are working hard to final exams she went to Liberia as a way of at whatever our passions are, so my blog is a finding him and to continue his legacy as a snapshot of my contribution. The blog evolved into businessperson in his beloved a showcase of my work “ You cannot sit and wait for because I’m constantly trying Liberia. In 2012, Archel life to happen if you want to be to develop It’s Archel, as started her clothing label happy. If you wait to eat, you would any entrepreneur. and blog It's Archel. will only get the scraps. I’m Fashion and hard work are Your blog itsarchel.com has a more afraid of eating scraps probably the two things I see most in Liberia. Who doesn’t feel good tone to it than I am of not having power love that? showcasing lifestyle, fashion and cultural experiences. What inspired creation of the blog and what is the main message you intend to communicate through it?

I started the blog as a window to Liberia for a twenty-something year old returnee looking to build a full life here. There are so many people who think that we are still fighting a war in Liberia, even after we’ve had ten years of peace. This country is for me, and because of its past I haven’t had the opportunity to grow up here, but the journey to making Liberia exactly what I want is thrilling. I’ve been able to build toward dreams I didn’t even know were in me, all while having a great social life, something other Liberians who

As stated on your website “chasing your dreams led you away from 24-hour electricity and into a new, more fulfilling life” which is a very bold and inspiring move. What advice would you have for women who are afraid to take risks to chase their dreams due to fear of uncertainties that sometimes come with sacrificing your comfort zone to pursue your dreams? You cannot sit and wait for life to happen if you want to be happy. If you wait to eat, you will only get the scraps. I’m more afraid of eating scraps than I am of not having power all the time. []


Mariama Mounir CamaraPetrolawicz Founder of Mariama Fashion Production and Co-founder of There Is No Limit Foundation. mariamafashionproduction.com

Mariama Mounir Camara-Petrolawicz is the founder and creative director of Mariama Fashion Production and the Co-founder of There Is No Limit Foundation. She is an entrepreneur and humanitarian born in the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. Mariama is one of the most influential rising African women in philanthropy and fashion. Her inspiring presence reflects her power, optimism and energy. Her entrepreneurial spirit and humanitarian work has led her to interact with some of the most influential individuals in the business, entertainment, political, and nonprofit sectors. She lived in Senegal and has travelled to various countries in Africa, America and Europe. In 2001,she moved to New York City and started working in fashion. Mariama's focus is on sourcing and developing talents throughout Africa by building powerful collaborations with fashion and home designers. Her objective is to highlight the talents of local artisans, create jobs and provide them with opportunities to access international market. Cosmopolitan Magazine chose Mariama as a Fun and Fearless female and referred to her as a dream weaver. Your love for fashion is evident through your Mariama Fashion Production brand, what role; if any, do you think fashion plays in creating identities? Fashion is the barometer for our society. Each style represents the story of an individual and their hopes or dreams. Fashion helps people say who they are without even opening their mouth. It is the distinctive mark that separates and unites us. Fashion is everywhere and is everything; you don't have to be a millionaire to be fashionable. Fashion is also about finding the unique pieces that show who you are, that is why I am working to bring African prints in the market. Our prints allow individuals to express their uniqueness in a vibrant and classic way. Everyone can find themselves in African print and we can make sure it is here to stay by putting the right pieces together and that is what I am doing through my company Mariama Fashion Production, I am helping designers and people in general to do just that.

As the co-founder of There Is No Limit Foundation, what impact has your philanthropy work had on your life and that of others? I started There Is No Limit Foundation with my sister Aissata M.B. Camara. She is my partner, best friend and one of my inspirations. We started There Is No Limit Foundation in 2008 with a goal to give back to the less fortunate. We wanted to make sure

individuals are given the opportunity to change their lives and not just be provided with another handout. We believe entrepreneurship is one of the best ways out of poverty. We also believe that advancing education, agriculture, health and sanitation will lead to improving the well being of the poor. We have been working with girls at Tombo II Primary School since 2008 by providing them with school supplies. Here is the story of Fatoumata Bangoura, her story is just one example of how we are making a difference: We first met Fatoumata Bangoura in 2008 when she applied for a loan through our micro-finance “Soussi” program. A single mother and victim of domestic violence, she was struggling to keep her business afloat. We gave her an interest free loan of $200 in order to grow her business; she received subsequent loans based on her success and the needs of her business. She started selling her tie-dye in open markets and soon formed groups with other women in town. In order to harness the power and creativity of these women entrepreneurs, we formed the Association of Women Tie-Dyers. Fatoumata is the President of the association; she works diligently to help other women achieve their goal of operating their own business. She has remarried and has become more confident and outspoken. She said “I did not know the value of my work, There Is No Limit Foundation has helped me understand the value of my skills and now I want to work harder”[]

“ If you can lift other people's vision to higher sights and inspire them to challenge themselves and strive to be the very best, that makes you a leader.”

- Saran Kaba Jones Founder and Executive Director of FACE Africa


Saran Kaba Jones is the

Founder and Executive Director of FACE Africa, a US/Liberia based Non -profit organisation that funds and supports sustainable clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects in Liberia. Since launching FACE Africa in January 2009, the organization has raised over $300,000 for clean water projects in sub-Saharan. In recognition of her commitment to clean water initiatives that have benefited over 15,000 residents in Liberia to date, Saran was recently appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the county of River Cess, Liberia. In her new role, she will encourage and promote business and philanthropic investments throughout the county, beginning with FACE Africa's 'County by County’ Commitment, which will construct 250 clean water wells in River Cess County by 2017. The initiative, scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2012, will provide 100% water coverage to the county, benefiting over 60,000 residents, and will ensure that River Cess meets the Liberian Government’s 250 persons per safe waterpoint standard.

What was the inspiration behind starting an NGO to supply water to Liberia and how have you overcome any obstacles faced along the way, if any? In 2008, I returned to my home country of Liberia; a nation ravaged by a deadly civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives and millions displaced from their homes; infrastructure destroyed or abandoned; and the very fabric of society torn apart, a conflict that forced my own family to flee the devastation twenty years earlier. I, along with others, began the difficult process of trying to rebuild our society one piece at a time. FACE Africa was born from the ashes of this conflict, out of a need to help others reclaim the means to build a better life and prosper. It began with Fund a Child’s Education (FACE) because growing up, my parents always stressed the importance of investing in education. But I quickly realized that one of the major impediments to education was the lack of clean drinking water. Children were not showing up to school for extended periods of time, severely hampering their development. I discovered that, in a majority of these cases, a child had contracted one of the many illnesses caused by unsafe water or that the school’s facilities were inadequate to attend to a child’s sanitation needs. Through further research I began to understand that unsafe water effects more than just education. It impacts overall health and severely inhibits economic growth and productivity -- in Africa alone, people spend over 40 billion hours every year, walking for water. This inspired me to make access to clean water for all in Africa my mission.

You have been honoured by Forbes for your water legacy, what in your opinion makes a successful female leader? If you can lift other people's vision to higher sights and inspire them to challenge themselves and strive to be the very best, that makes you a leader. John Quincy Adams captured it best when he said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” This goes for anyone, male or female. [] 57 | www.afroellemagazine.com

Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya, Founder of Kakenya Center for Excellence

Kakenya Ntaiya is the founder of Kakenya Center for Excellence, a girls’ primary boarding school in Enoosaen, Kenya. Educating and empowering young girls is important to Kakenya as she believes this is a relevant base for them to become agents of change in their community and country. The Center opened its doors in May 2009 and currently has 155 students in grades four through eight. Kakenya’s journey to opening the center is inspirational; she negotiated with her father to allow her to become circumcised only if she could finish high school, He agreed. Then she negotiated with the village elders to do what no girl had ever done: leave her Maasai village of Enoosaen in south Kenya to go to college in the United States. In 2008, Kakenya was honored with a Vital Voices Global Leadership award and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2010. In 2013, she honored as a Top 10 CNN Hero.

At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to follow a different path and pursue education, going against a tradition that saw women raised primarily for motherhood?

Photo source: michaelomidi.com

Even as a young girl, I could see how difficult life was for women in my community. My mother worked very, very hard to support our family, grow our crops, and keep me and my 7 siblings fed. My father worked in the city, so he only came home once every year or two. When he did come home, he would sell all that my mother had worked so hard to grow and use the money to drink with his friends in the bar. Because she was a woman, my mother was not allowed to complain. This all seemed deeply wrong to me and made me angry. My mother encouraged me to stay in school so that I could have a life that was different from hers. I wanted to do just that. I daydreamed about becoming a teacher because teachers wore nice dresses and their job seemed so much easier than the daily chores I did on the farm – sweeping the house, cooking for the family, hauling water from the river, and collecting firewood. By the time I had completed primary school, I knew that I was to follow a different path. Please share a bit about the role Kakenya Center for Excellence has played in breaking boundaries and stereotypes placed on women? Last year, our first class graduated from our primary boarding school. Out of 33 schools in the Keyian Division, KCE’s girls performed best on their

national exams, and all 22 of our girls have enrolled in high quality secondary schools around the country. The girls’ success is the culmination of 5 years at our boarding school, in which the girls received one-onone attention, health and leadership training, and the nurturing support of an all-girls environment. Their achievements are showing the community that when girls are given the support they need, the can succeed academically and become leaders in their communities. This benefits everyone, and the benefits are greater than what a family can receive through a dowry by marrying their daughters off at a young age. This began with my own journey to the US to attend college. Initially, the elders in my village were reluctant to give their blessing for a girl to take this opportunity. They felt that it should be a boy instead. However, I used my education to better the community, and this left a lasting impression on those who doubted me. My KCE girls all dream of doing the same – using their education to improve the lives of their families, neighbors, and friends through bringing better healthcare, legal services, education, and more. []

kakenyasdream.org 59 | www.afroellemagazine.com

BISILA BOKOKO Founder & chairperson of The Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project bbalp.org

Bisila Bokoko is the founder and chairperson of The Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project (BBALP), a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote literacy among the African people. Ms. Bokoko has focused her efforts onorganizing people and resources to build modern libraries in Africa. The aim of BBALP is to bring together people from all over the world to share and embrace the motto: “with a book, you are never alone.� Bisila has a true passion for fashion and creatively harnessing the cooperation and power of the business community to support sustainable change. In addition to running a nonprofit organization, Bisila is a the CEO of BBES, a business development consultancy from the ground up that represents, promotes and markets brands internationally; leverages influence with key global business leaders and market influencers to create pathways intonew markets. Connects businesses with celebrity game changers to serve as spokespersons, industry experts, platform providers and partnership brokers .

As the founder of Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project, please tell us what the inspiration behind this project was. My first trip to Ghana was magical I ended up in Kokofu village near Kumasi where I met the Chief who gave me the honor to become the Queen Development Mother of the town. I always loved books and libraries were my sanctuary. Therefore my gift for the community was a library so I could share the love of ideas with other people. It turns out that when I came back to NY family and friends encouraged me to launch a foundation and that's how BBALP was born in 2010. Four (4) years later, we are happy to see our work spreading around the continent. I am happy to share the news that we have libraries operating in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda; and next to that, we cooperate with schools and libraries in Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Cameroon.

Please share a bit about your ambassadorial roles and what impact they have had on your life. My company BBES (Bisila Bokoko Embassy Services) is an experienced high end boutique consultancy firm that provides services to companies looking to enter both the African and US markets. Our solely focus is lifestyle companies: fashion, culture, food and arts. Connecting and promoting people, we glamorize companies that are looking for brand recognition and awareness. We are, basically, door openers. I am passionate about these particular sectors, because we like making people happy and giving back. That is why our projects always have a social perspective at the end of the day.

part of any company you engage yourself with; you automatically become their extension, and their family in some cases. And, it is very fascinating to be named the spoken person, door opener and promoter of such successful brands that openly share their philosophy with you! Finding new avenues and ways of cooperation is at our core business and we like to do it using our sense of creativity doing unusual things we like! The impact my work has had in my life has been tremendous! I get to know fabulous people all around the world, to learn about other cultures, and, to enjoy each moment because every day in our field is different! All in one, working, for me, is an ongoing learning experience and I am grateful for these blessings! â—˜

Being an Ambassador allows you to become 61 | www.afroellemagazine.com

Stephanie Mbida Roberts is a Canadian -Cameroonian serial entrepreneur and philanthropist. Often called tom-boy and stubborn, Stephanie wasn't the typical child growing up. Before the age of 18 she visited many African countries without her parents’ knowledge. Through her travels, Stephanie has seen the entrepreneurial spirit thrive in the best and worst places in Africa, from the rich landscapes of Nigeria to the war-torn cities in the Republic of Congo ravaged by child soldiers and international indifference.

In 2013, she merged her passion for business and her Stephanie Mbida passion for helping others and launched KickLoans, Roberts the first-ever video Microfinance platform. She leads the Organization to challenge the image people have Founder, KickLoans towards the poor through Financial Inclusion and Entrepreneurship. She also has under her belt different social businesses, is a member of the UN Association, the International Youth Council, and is a Youth Campaigner and a speaker. Your entrepreneurial journey started from a very young age around 9-10 years old, what an achievement! What inspired you to want to take on business at that age? My biggest inspiration was my aunt. She travelled from a small town to help my mother who was expecting. She arrived at our doorstep without a penny! But in her eyes, I saw something, which I later realized was “drive”. I followed her everywhere. On our way to the marketplace were vacant undeveloped lots. My aunt went in each and every single one of them and dragged out wood. She made several piles of it and then went to the local marketplace and bartered for some twine, a marker and papers to post bills. She, being unable to write French, asked me to write “Wood for Sale here”, which I frankly thought was an absurd idea. She hung the sign in front of our house. I couldn't just believe what happened the very day after. A young boy came to the house, and bought the wood. Pretty soon, many people also came to ask for the wood. After the first day, my aunt paid me. I

spent it all on candy, and it was the best candy I ever had because I earned it. This happened for a couple months. I would help my aunt and get paid. Then she decided to leave and return to the village. My father was about to give her money, but my aunt thanked him and politely declined. She then pulled out more money than my father would have given her. That’s when I made my first link: Entrepreneurship is independence. Pretty soon, I took over my aunt's business and became a serial entrepreneur. I used the proceeds to travel to African countries (unbeknownst to my parents) before the age of 18! And I became privileged to see entrepreneurs using their profits to establish themselves as leaders and providers. That’s when I also knew I found who I wanted to be: an independent entrepreneur, just like my aunt. Since launching KickLoans in 2013- an institution working to include those normally excluded from financial opportunities- what impact has including the marginalised populations in the financial mainstream had on changing the perception of the poor? We launched KickLoans in April 2013 in Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) where we ran a

pilot project. It was a very shocking and revealing moment. First because we thought that offering loans will be enough and secondly because most people who repaid didn’t pull themselves out of poverty! We then decided to start a chat on Twitter, called, #MicrofinanceChat. The purpose of the chat is to inform the global community, share what works and what doesn’t and talk about the real facts and stories. It started as a bunch of financial inclusion practitioners discussing microfinance challenges. Then, we got social entrepreneurs from known and lesser known but highly effective organizations such as Educate Lanka or YouthStart (UN program). Hearing their interactions with issues regarding microfinance changed perceptions of the issues in two ways. First, it transformed the concept of microfinance as a temporary solution, and made people realize that they are actually investing in people’s futures. Lastly, it humanized the third world poor by representing their issues as relatable. In less than 3 months the chat has reached over 1 million accounts on Twitter! []


Quotes of the Month MAYA ANGELOU “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. “While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else is also God’s creation.” “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” “Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.” “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you should be able to throw something back.”


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2014 Anniversary Issue  

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