Celebrating Women of African Heritage
AFROELLE April Issue 2015
AfroElle Magazine is a monthly digital publication celebrating and empowering women of African heritage in Africa and the Diaspora.
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Find out about celebrity natural hairstylist, Felicia Leatherwood as she explains how loving your hair is an extension of loving yourself. Plus, our food contributor, Amanda Gicharu shares a simple Chicken Cashew Nut Curry recipe that you can try at home. Hope you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Until next time, I leave you with the words of Iyanla Vanzant "You are the priority in your life. How you love you, how you see you, how you treat you is going to set the stage and issue the invitation that will draw other people in to love you."
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e are excited to share with you our April Issue. In this issue, we spotlight soulful Botswana musician Mpho Sebina sharing about her career. Read about the Moremi Initiative, one of the leading organizations in Africa that is equipping the next generation of young African women leaders, we also profile two young female leaders from Benin and Malawi who have benefited from its MILEAD Fellows Program. Get inspired by the creator of of Go and Glow!, Natasha Cole as she talks about her motivational blog and podcast platform that highlights successful entrepreneurial women, philanthropists, creatives and thought leaders. Read our conversation with actress, writer, director and producer Yolonda Ross as she speaks on her previous, current and prospective projects and her role as Robyn Crawford on Angela Bassett’s Whitney. In an in-depth interview, AdvocAid founder Sabrina Mahtani and executive director Simitie Lavaly share about how their organization is supporting justice, education and reintegration for female detainees and their children in Sierra Leone. For our cover story we speak to Guinness World Record holder of the World's Largest Afro", Aevin Dugas. Aevin talks to us about how her title changed her life, the her natural hair routine and lessons she’s learnt on her natural hair journey and if you’re a naturalista, you will benefit from Aevin’s tips on how to have healthy natural hair.
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14 Music Profile: Mpho Sebina 16 Focus on Moremi Initiative 20 On Her Glow: Natasha Cole 24 Conversation with Yolonda Ross 26 AdvocAid 32 Spring Passion fashion editorial 28 Springing Forward editorial 38 Cover Story: Aevin Dugas 44 Q&A with Felicia Leatherwood 48 Cooking up a Storm with Amanda Gicharu COVER STORY “ I’m always honored to be a "hair crush" for so many women, but I also want little girls and teens to fall in love with their hair, no matter what the texture is, be it kinky, coily, curly or wavy.” - AEVIN DUGAS Pg. 38
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MPHO SEBINA www.afroellemgazine.com | 14
“Soulful-ethnic-love-music” is the melody Mpho Sebina serenades her audience with. With a soulful voice and resolute lyricism skills and with hands on approach to her art, she leaves no stone unturned when recording or performing. She is in the process of recording tracks for her upcoming untitled album, which will be released this year. Songs such as “Souls are searching” and “Loves light” are some to look out for. She is currently working with BFG ( Big Friendly Giants, Bnote, Favi and Grand Pa) on the upcoming album. Songs about “life and love”, singles produced by Favi, are what to expect. Although none of her material has been released yet she is performance driven. Her more prominent performances have been for the “Throwback Sessions”, a charitable and fundraising event. Along with her album, she is also working on the “Jazz Exchange” with RMC.
My first experience with music
would be hearing Buju Banton for the first time in Jwaneng, listening to my aunts Miriam Makeba Album in Gaborone and locking myself in the car to listen to my sister’s Mariah Carey Album in Sowa Town. Those moments stand out for me as “aha music is amazing” moments. Honestly I’ve been in love with music for as long as I can remember. From growing up on the sounds of UB40, ASWAD and Sade, I loved everything about it. It was only later on in life after I finished university and after working two jobs that I came to the realization that I would not feel truly fulfilled until I followed my passion which is music, singing and writing. This is where I am in that journey and it’s scary and exciting all at the same time.
My sound is influenced by my
upbringing ; the music my family played growing up, especially African music, had a lot of influence on the sound. My music is smooth soul, fused with other genres from R & B to afro soul to jazz and mainly about life and what we go through but I always try to speak something positive into the listener’s ear. Love being the main agenda. I want to make people awaken to an immense sense of inner peace, for people to love and care for one another and for people to be
more hopeful -for people to enjoy life, including myself.
I’ve had successes in my career,
like sharing a stage with Lady Smith Black Mambazo , Jimmy Dludlu, Shanti Lo, just to name a few, which was a super amazing experience. One of the challenges I have encountered in this journey was deciding whether I want to stay in my comfortable job, receiving my monthly paycheck or take a leap of faith and do music full time that was the biggest challenge , making that decision was a challenge. Overall, I’ve learned to focus on the dream and keep my eye on the bigger picture because life is short to be doing something you are not passionate about. For anyone who wants to pursue a music career, I’d say stay true to your aesthetic. Just do what feels right.- AE CLICK ON THE LINK TO LISTEN TO ‘Lerato’ by Mpho She says, “Lerato is a cover that I did of a Boom Shaka Song. Boom Shaka was a popular South African Group that had a huge influence in a lot of us here in the Southern Africa. It’s a song about Love, Lerato means Love and it speaks about loving yourself and loving other people which I feel is very important.” 15
MOREMI INITIATIVE Engaging , Inspiring and Equipping the Next Generation of African Women Leaders
The Empowerment of Young Women in Africa is not only critical but is a mandate, and young African women innovators must be celebrated . MOREMI is one of the leading organizations on the African continent that is creating the next generation of young African women leaders. Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa is a non-profit organization that operates throughout Africa. To achieve its mission, the Moremi Initiative pursues proactive strategies to develop and empower young women and girls to take on leadership roles in their communities. Milead Fellow 2012 M The MILEAD Fellows Program is a uniquely designed initiative committed to the long-term leadership development and promotion of Africa’s most promising young women leaders. Fellows go through a yearlong training and mentoring program, designed to build skills, strengthen networks, and support women’s leadership on critical issues. We interviewed two of the fellows and here is what they had to say about their experience with the MILEAD Fellows Program.
***** Interview by Moiyattu Banya, Founder Women Change Africa
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CHIKONDI CHABVUTA Chikondi Chabvuta is a Program Coordinator for the Womenâ€™s Rights Program for Actionaid International Malawi where she is involved in womenâ€™s rights work. Her work involves ensuring that women and girls in target areas are claiming their social and economic and political rights, have increased access to economic opportunities and have increased access to public services. She aspires to improve womenâ€™s participation in the agricultural sector.
Malawi Q: What made you to apply to be a part of Moremi? CHIKONDI: I was involved in community work and wanted to be part of the network that represents the boldness of young women and be able to influence more in not just my country, but the world. I wanted my research and scientific skills to have a human face. Moremi provided a platform to sharpen my advocacy skills, leadership in Africa generally and also gave me the platform to connect with other like minded young women across the continent who are making waves of change. Q: Tell us about your work now on the continent? What industry are you in? CHIKONDI: I am a trained Environmental Scientist, and I am currently working on women's rights. I am geared to improve the lives of women and girls and to improve the environment that people are living in. On the Continent and at country level, I am a strong advocate for women's access and utilization of resources. I believe the only way we can come out of the cycle of poverty is by ensuring that we are all having our rights respected and that women are taking centre stage in developing the agriculture and environmental sector as women are the change. >> 17
Q: How did Moremi impact you and what did you gain from this experience? CHIKONDI: Moremi changed my worldview in that I have been motivated and inspired to go for anything that I put my mind to. I gained an understanding of doing community projects with my all and that I should put my all in everything that I do. I am now more active in doing community projects than before all because of the skills gained during the Moremi fellowship. I do not work as an island as I have sisters all over Africa that I learn from and share information with.
MARLISE MONTCHO Benin Milead Fellow 2014
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Telecoms engineer, Marlise Montcho is an extraordinary young leader with three great passions: technology, social change and entrepreneurship. She works and encourages women through her NGO FemTICDev, of which she is the founder and the president, to become important actors in the technology ecosystem in Benin and in the sub-region. She contributes to the reduction of the digital gap between girls and women. In 2014, she was a proud MILEAD Fellow- recognized as one of Africaâ€™s most outstanding emerging women leaders and she is among 2015 beneficiaries of the Mandela Washington Fellows Program Q: Tell us about your work now on the continent? What industry are you in? MARLISE: I have three commitments: I work and encourage women through my NGO FemTICDev to become important actors in the technology ecosystem in Benin and in the sub-region. Thus, I contribute to the reduction of the digital gap between girls and women. Through my blog handinewlook.wordpress.com , I aim to end the perception that those with disabilities, with focus on Africa, are seen as cursed or sick beings. I believe in the full capabilities of these beings and want to bring people to give a new look without pity to all people with disabilities. I also love to inspire and motivate desperate persons, people with disabilities and marginalized young people to have full confidence in themselves. I assist them to define and achieve their visions. Professionally, I am a telecom engineer; I work in freelance and am currently preparing my master of research in telecoms to later pursue a PhD. Q: How do you think the work that Moremi is doing with young women leaders is impacting African women on the continent? MARLISE: There are more women than men in Africa, so to achieve development of Africa, we need more committed women. And this is the work Moremi is
doing. Annually, it brings together young women leaders to entrench their commitments. It makes them strong. It turns them into spokespersons in their respective communities. It allows sharing the culture of Africa and its people. With all the stereotypes present in Africa, the most committed woman can give up one day, hence the importance of belonging to a network dedicated to the same cause: the best of Africa. Q: How do you think the work that Moremi is doing with young women leaders is impacting African women on the continent? MARLISE: There are more women than men in Africa, so to achieve development of Africa, we need more committed women. And this is the work Moremi is doing. Annually, it brings together young women leaders to entrench their commitments. It makes them strong. It turns them into spokespersons in their respective communities. It allows sharing the culture of Africa and its people. With all the stereotypes present in Africa, the most committed woman can give up one day, hence the importance of belonging to a network dedicated to the same cause: the best of Africa. 
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ON HER GLOW
WRITTEN BY : ASHLEY MAKUE PHOTO CREDITS: NATASHA COLE
Natasha Cole is the creator and founder of Go and Glow!, a motivational blog and podcast platform that highlights successful entrepreneurial women, philanthropists, creatives and thought leaders. Natasha has international experience as a project implementation manager and marketer and now runs a creative digital strategy business teaching women how to market their brands online to millennials.
Donâ€™t wait for someone else to tell you when to start or how excellent to be; just do it and own it. And donâ€™t wait around for the applause afterwards. Just keep going and moving on to the next thing you need to work on and be great at!
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Who is Natasha Cole? I’m a woman who thrives off of helping and encouraging people. That’s who I am at my core. There are two things I love more than anything and that’s helping people and mentoring children. I’m also a creative. I love creating things and sharing them and being around other creative people who are brave enough to make the things they really want to see in the world and give them away.
Who is the Go and Glow Project targeted at? The Go and Glow Project is for the woman who is ambitious and for the woman who can’t seem to focus in on what it is she wants to do. Whether she wants to be a free spirit and travel the world or she wants to just break out of the same old routine and start having adventures right where she is. It’s for the creative woman. The philanthropic woman. The entrepreneurial woman. The professional woman. The collegiate woman. It’s for the believers and especially for the non-believers. It’s for those who need inspiration as much as it is for those who are inspiring.
What made you want to start the Go and Glow Project?
I started the project because I literally wanted to create something I wanted to see in the world. I went to a very inspiring retreat in Bali, Indonesia a few years ago and got to meet so many young philanthropists and entrepreneurs who were up to something good in the world. And after having made connections with these people and seeing what possibilities I could create for my brand and for the women who I wanted to empower and coach- I decided to give away my gifts to the world and empower other women to do the same.
What are your aspirations for the project? I want it to be an epicentre for women and young girls to go to for inspiration and for creative marketing strategies. I want to have books and courses and retreats for women and girls to use and attend and feel empowered after they interact with the Go and Glow brand.
You have also expressed that you believe in the power of Oprah, Michelle Obama and Beyonce, what is their power and how can other African women claim that power?
Oh, I’ve already created the possibility to work with these three powerhouses one day. I’ve changed my caller ID’s to their names, so when my mom (Oprah) sister (Michelle) and bestie (Beyonce) calls or texts me - it’s like I’m manifesting having the opportunity to talk to them on the phone. Those three women are powerful because they don’t wait for permission to be great; they just do it and become it. And that is so critical to being successful. I think African women can use that in their everyday lives when it comes to initiating a project. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you when to start or how excellent to be; just do it and own it. And don’t wait around for the applause afterwards. Just keep going and moving on to the next thing you need to work on and be great at!
Check out Natasha’s Go and Glow Academy an online school she has created for women (and men!) to learn about marketing, branding, business and personal development strategies to GoandGlowProject.com/ Academy to check it out!
ROSS Actress, writer, director and producer Yolonda Ross made her feature film debut in the 2001 HBO feature Stranger Inside, which earned her awards, including an IFP Gotham Award and her first Spirit Award nomination. The Omaha native was recently nominated again for a Film Independent Spirit Award for her work in John Sayles' Go for Sisters. Her talents as an actor in Film/ Television can be recognized in such projects as, Angela Bassett’s Whitney, Denzel Washington's, The Antwone Fisher Story, Yelling To The Sky (Premiered in Berlin Film Festival, 2011) 24, Law And Order, and David Mamet's The Unit. Yolonda can also be seen in HBO's Treme, as Dana Lyndsey. Yolonda’s directorial debut, Breaking Night, is currently running on Vh1 Classics. Her next projects up for release are Lila and Eve with Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez and Meadowland. She is currently shooting The Bad Batch with Jason Mamoa and Keanu Reeves. AfroElle’s ASHLEY MAKUE caught up with Yolonda and chatted about her previous, current and prospective projects. www.afroellemgazine.com | 24
What ignited your love for film? My love for film has always been there. I don’t know if you always know what it is you are drawn to when you are young. Looking back on what I love about film, it’s people and the emotions that can get across from actors, from the slightest thing to the grandest gesture and the different ways film can make you look at life. You got a really big break with The Stranger Inside, even winning an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance, how did that come about? Stranger Inside was the next audition I got after New York Undercover, and that was 4 years later. So, just know, nothing is really overnight. I ended up reading for that part for about a month, going back for numerous call backs. During that time I ended up getting a guest star on 3rd Watch that they wanted the character to recur but I couldn’t because I got the movie, luckily. You’ve played quite a number of film roles, what has been your best experience? My favourite to this day is still, “Treasure” from Stranger Inside. She was such an interesting and complete character for me to take on. And to add to this, the one that got under my skin the most and was the hardest for me, was a homeless woman I portrayed in an AFI short film called “Frames”, which should start hitting the festivals next year. I found it to be very difficult to get into that head space. The payoff is big on screen though.
What was your favourite television role? I would say it’s a tie between, “Nora” from an episode of The Unit and “Kelly” from “Phil Spector”, which were both David Mamet projects. Working opposite Helen Mirren was so awesome. And of course getting to play “Robyn Crawford” in Whitney. How did you get into the role of Robyn Crawford on Whitney? Well, I started by looking her up because I had always known of her in Whitney’s life. Living in NY, people tend to know each other and I had a lot of friends in the music business. In Robyn’s
case I had no idea what she looked like or any mannerisms of hers. So I found a few pictures of her online and that was it. Since the movie has come out there are more clips with her included in them, but they weren’t available when we shot. I went about creating her, like any other character. I read the script, delivered what emotions I felt appropriate for the situation by this character and took direction. How did you find Angela Bassett as a director? I thought Angela knew what she wanted. She led us and allowed us to do our work as actors as well. I would love to work with her on the next project. She’s a great lady. Had your training and experience in television and film prepared you for the director’s seat when you worked on Breaking Night? Yes ! Without acting I would not have ever thought to direct, I don’t believe. Being able to bring characters to life is one thing, but then being able to tell the whole story and sculpt what the film looks like and how the story is told is a whole other thing. I know as a person on this earth, I see things a certain way, and that comes through in my acting. As a filmmaker I think “your” vision just continues to blossom for people to see and feel. And speaking of acting being an influence on directing, if we ‘people of colour’ had more of an equal chance at main roles, not just films considered to be ‘black movies’ directing may not even be thought of in some of our cases. In mine, I wanted to play somebody I would never get cast for. With my film taking place in the 70’s, in a small town, with a classic rock song as the soundtrack, a black girl being the lead probably wouldn’t be the average person’s first thought. But, that’s exactly what Breaking Night consists of. Is the production complete for Lila and Eve? Yes, Lila and Eve is completed. We premiered this year at Sundance 2015. It should be coming out sometime this year as Samuel Goldwyn Films brought it. And Viola and Jennifer Lopez are great! 
Keep updated with Yolonda’s work yolondaross.com 25
Supporting Justice, Education and Reintegration for Female Detainees and Their Children ADVOCAID FOUNDER SABRINA MAHTANI AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SIMITIE LAVALY , TALK TO TATENDA KANENGONI ABOUT ADVOCAID’S AIM TO STRENGTHEN ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR WOMEN AND TO EMPOWER THEM AS ACTIVE CITIZENS THROUGH PROVISION OF EDUCATION, WELFARE AND POST-PRISON SUPPORT. Q: What does AdvocAid stand for and was the driving force behind starting the organisation?
detention for no reason; women detained for owing debts as little as $50. It was heart breaking.
SABRINA : AdvocAid stands for every woman in Sierra Leone – those that are mistreated by the police, unaware of their legal rights, sat needlessly on detention for months on end with their children at home, all because they live on the poverty line and can’t afford legal representation. We stand for the next generation of girls, campaigning for a just society in which they can aspire to be whatever they want to be.
Couple this with a system in which case files regularly went missing, appeals were not lodged, wrongful convictions went without redress and the vast majority of detainees went without representation and I knew I had to do something.
I first visited Sierra Leone in 2005 to conduct research on the death penalty, and fell promptly in love with the country. It had only just emerged from a horrific civil war where most people had lost everything, and yet they had everything to give. Their generosity and thirst for life was astounding. And in return, the people were not being treated with any level of respect by the State or Police. I couldn’t stand by and watch life-changing mistakes being made to women. There were women sitting on death row because they’d been coerced to plead guilty to a crime their husband had committed having no knowledge of their legal rights; women crammed into cells; women unable to meet bail conditions, so spending months in
So, with three friends, we hatched a plan to start AdvocAid – an organisation for the forgotten women behind bars. An organisation that would provide legal aid, assistance, representation and education to women across the country, provide welfare support to those imprisoned and campaign for long term changes to the legal system. In 2006, it became a reality! Q: Did you face any challenges in setting up the organisation? SABRINA: Most definitely. For the first few years, we all worked voluntarily, trying to balance AdvocAid work alongside other paid work. We worked long days and well into the night, and would trek long distances trying to find sureties for women so they could access bail, or trace children for mothers in detention, who’d heard nothing about them since their arrest. www.afroellemgazine.com | 26
It was really challenging to obtain funding for our work as most donors did not think that women in prison were a priority. We had to face, and still face, a prejudice that women who are detained are “perpetrators” and less deserving than women who are “victims”. However, we don’t see it like this - many women are in prison because of a background of abuse and they are forgotten because of this perception. We were very fortunate to have an excellent relationship with the Prison Service which continues today. Mr Showers, the former Director of Prisons, was very supportive of our work and allowed us access into prisons and supported our ideas. This good relationship with the Prison Service, Police and Courts has certainly helped our work and we remain very grateful for it. On a personal level, it was challenging and stressful having the weight of an entire organization on your shoulders, feeling responsible for funding staff salaries and knowing so many women were depending on you – I was only 25 when AdvocAid started. It was financially challenging, lonely and stressful at times. I was fortunate to have friends and family who supported me as did the Inspired Individuals Programme for social entrepreneurs, which was of great help and encouragement. All of that said, I wouldn’t change any of those challenges for the world. It has made the organisation what we are – strong and empowered leaders for change. But we’re also a family; each member of the team comes to work to make a difference. I’m so proud of what AdvocAid has become.
Sabrina is a Penal Reform and Women’s Rights specialist from Zambia and the UK. Having studied Law in both the UK and US, Sabrina travelled to Sierra Leone in 2005 to research the death penalty and promptly fell in love with the country. Unable to ignore the devastating way women were treated by police, prison and state, Sabrina co-founded AdvocAid – an organisation that provides legal aid and assistance to women in Sierra Leone. She remained at the helm of the organisation as Executive Director until 2014, when she handed the reigns over and became a member of the Board. Sabrina now works for Amnesty International, based in Dakar as a researcher for West Africa.
Looking back from when AdvocAid started, what milestones have you reached in pursuing your goals?
Is there any case that stands out for you as one that was not only the most complex but posed as a turning point for the organisation?
SABRINA: To date, we have provided Legal Aid to over 2,300 women and girls and ensured that many women are not wrongfully detained. Thousands more women and girls have been reached via our awareness raising programmes, including the successful legal education TV Series, Police Case, which has been aired across the country.
SABRINA: One of our highest-profile cases is that of the release of MK (the pseudonym given to the lady to protect her identity) , Sierra Leone’s longest serving woman on death row. It always stands out in my mind, as it was a long and complex case but one that has helped us to change the legal landscape of Sierra Leone.
Of note, our legal aid work has resulted in four women having their death sentences overturned and a fifth released on bail pending appeal (a first in Sierra Leone’s legal history). Our longer term advocacy and campaigning work has resulted in: the government’s commitment to abolish the death penalty, the creation of two separate detention centres for women, exposing the practice of detaining women for debt, a new Legal Aid Act and the first training and simplified handbook of UN Rules on the Treatment of Female Prisoners in Africa. I’m so proud of what this organisation has achieved and this could not have been done without our dedicated and inspiring staff.
MK was arrested in 2003 for the murder of her step -daughter. Between 2003 and the beginning of her trial in March 2005, MK received no legal advice or assistance. The truth was that MK’s husband had sat on the baby, suffocating it. He told MK to confess and that the matter would be resolved. MK thumb printed a confession (which she was not able to read) that was later used against her in trial. MK was found guilty at her trial and sentenced to death. When AdvocAid heard about MK, we took on her case. For years we worked to file an appeal, which in 2008 was devastatingly rejected. We continued to strategize we drafted a policy paper, began lobbying various sectors of the justice sector for reform and reached out specialists for support. We lobbied for changes to Sierra Leonean law, wrote press releases and conducted interviews. Our aim? To make this everyone’s problem. In 2011, her case was heard before the Court of Appeal and we won. MK was released from death row, eight years after her arrest.
Photo Credit: Tom Bradley for AdvocAid
This case put AdvocAid on the map – we have since taken on the cases of four other women on death row and have shown ourselves to be the only organisation that works holistically with women in conflict with the law. MK didn’t just get legal assistance - she also received literacy and numeracy education in prison, welfare support and help with rehabilitation upon release. We take women on the whole journey, knowing that a woman will only get stronger if offered holistic support.
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Simitie (left) and Sabrina - SLBC Eastern Interview
Q: How do you identify women in need of
SIMITIE: We make it our business to know what is going on around the country! We have paralegals stationed in key localities around the country, ensuring we’re aware of what is happening on the ground. On a daily basis these paralegals visit detention cells in police stations and courts to identify vulnerable women detainees in need of legal assistance. They also visit the Correctional Centres to identify any new detainees not met in court. The current State of Emergency in Sierra Leone is a good example – we were aware of a number of unlawful arrests in Kono following a dispute over an Ebola burial. We made it our business to get involved, and are continuing to campaign for the release of the eight detainees that have been held for months without charge. We have also stationed paralegals at police stations over the recent three day lockdown at the end of March, supporting both men and women that were arrested for issues such as collecting food and water. We have forged strong relationships with the police stations and women’s correctional centres across the country, as well as with partner organisations such as Centre for Accountability & Rule of Law, Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, Namati, Timap for Justice and L.A.W.Y.E.R.S. (female lawyers association). We refer cases to one another and work in partnership to strengthen our approach.
Simitie is the Executive Director of AdvocAid and a Women’s Rights specialist, born in the UK to Sierra Leonean parents. Simitie was raised in Sierra Leone until 1994 when she returned to the UK to study Law and Economics and train as a solicitor – this move enabled her to avoid the raging rebel war. In 2007, she returned to Sierra Leone. Simitie’s belief in women’s rights and fair legal representation is what drew her to work for AdvocAid in 2009 firstly as a paralegal and later as Legal Officer, where she successfully represented the country’s longest standing death row inmate. From 2012 - 2014, Simitie was the President of L.A.W.Y.E.R.S. Under her leadership, it expanded its impact and services to women who have experienced gender based violence. She became Executive Director of AdvocAid in 2014
You run literacy classes in prisons, what role do the classes play in supporting AdvocAid’s mission? SIMITIE: Our service is a holistic one, and we believe that is the only way we can create long term change for Sierra Leone, a country that ranks in the bottom 10 globally for development. If a female market trader is illiterate, and arrested for trading out of hours because she can’t read the trading hours sign, what use is it to represent her and put her back on the street as a vulnerable, illiterate woman? Actually, 57% of adults in Sierra Leone are illiterate and 72.6% live in multidimensional poverty – poverty and vulnerability are very often the catalysts for why a woman runs into conflict with the law, and we believe it is our role to support these individuals onto a brighter pathway, providing them with a stronger future. So, we ensure that we not only offer them legal aid, but also education about their rights, access to numeracy and literacy classes, welfare support when in detention and support with rehabilitation upon release.
Simitie at Masiaka Police Station
What are the main challenges faced in trying to re-integrate ex-prisoners back into society? SIMITIE: The main challenge is stigma – prison remains an institution that exists on the margins of society in Sierra Leone, as do those subjected to it. As such, when a woman is released, she will often be excluded from her family and community. The knock on effect of such rejection is that the woman will have lost any possessions she had, forcing her into extreme poverty and vulnerability and essentially creating a viscous cycle that makes her prone to running into conflict with the law once again. This is a huge challenge, and one that makes our post-prison rehabilitation support all the more important. We are desperately trying to educate the country on legal rights so that women that are detained whilst innocent don’t face the cruel reality of rejection upon release.
Is there a trend in the type of crimes committed by the women that you assist, are some more common than others? SIMITIE: In 2014, AdvocAid conducted a study within the Correctional Centre’s we operate in and using our
own records to ascertain any patterns. We found that the major offences women are charged with, but not necessarily guilty of, are owing money/debt , but typically charged as obtaining money by false pretenses or fraudulent conversion, loitering, injuring or killing a family member or rival in love and minor public order offences such as insulting conduct, threatening behavior and trespass. The majority of the causes for these crimes and the women’s subsequent imprisonment arise from poverty and the inability to handle conflict well. Debt-related crimes emanate from a fractured home environment with many of the women being single mothers with no sustainable income and therefore relying on petty trading to make ends meet. They live in crowded communities and have to compete with other women to secure the attention and resources of the more affluent men in society.
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Sabrina with Alimany (a former Extern) and Victoria (Makeni Paralegal)
Photo credit : Tom Bradley for AdvocAid work in this way, we aim to make our cause better known, more easily accessible and highlight the injustices that so many women experience.
Where do you hope to see the organisation in the next 5 years?
Please tell us about your documentary: Sierra Leone’s Women Behind Bars: SIMITIE: Women Behind Bars follows two of our paralegals – Marvel and Victoria – as they carry out their day-to-day work in the town of Makeni and the capital, Freetown. We wanted to create something that showed how AdvocAid works, the challenges our staff encounter, the injustice of Sierra Leone’s legal system and the importance of providing legal aid, especially to women, for whom legal support is so often out of reach. As the documentary shows, the prison population has more than doubled in the last three years. There are estimated to be 400-500 lawyers in Sierra Leone, for a population of six million – the majority of these lawyers base themselves in Freetown where they can work with private businesses. This makes our work all the more important. By contextualizing our
SIMITIE: Next year is our 10th anniversary which we’re all very excited about – in line with this, we’re currently writing our strategic plan for the next five years. Whilst its very much still in draft form, in five years I hope we’ll be a household name in Sierra Leone and a well-known organisation across borders for pioneering legal reform; I hope we’ll have created a society in which the police are held accountable for their actions; I hope we’ll be well on the way to creating a fairer and more just legal landscape that respects women and their role in society; I hope we’ll have inspired a new generation of women to study law, and I hope girls will be empowered to stand up for their rights and stand as equals within Sierra Leonean society.
FOLLOW ADVOC AID’S WORK Website: www.advocaidsl.com Twitter: @advocaid and @sabrina_mahtani 31
PASSION Photographer: Amina Touray Model: Naka Biruma Jewelry Designer: Sheva Lee Absher Jewelry from ” West Native” by Sheva Lee Absher Wardrobe Stylist: Sheva Lee Absher Make up Artist: Christina Delfino
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Jewelry: West Native Orange Dress: Vintage Shoes: Rachel Zoe
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Jewelry: West Native Red Crochet Top: Vintage Skirt: Jen's Pirate Booty Shoes: Rachel Zoe
Jewelry: West Native Red Dress: Eric Raisina Shoes: Vintage
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DUGAS In 2010 after suggestions from a Facebook friend, Aevin Dugas entered a contest for the "World's Largest Afro". After numerous correspondence between Aevin & Guinness World Records, which included measuring and proving the authenticity of her hair, Guinness announced Aevin Dugas as the holder of the World's Largest Afro. Aevin’s Guinness title has been maintained in the 2013 and 2014 Guinness books. Her last measurements , in 2013, came in at four feet, seven inches in circumference. Since the
Guinness Book announcement in 2011, Aevin’s life went from small town living to International ‘hair crush’. Her mission has always been to promote self confidence and healthy hair to children and adults of all races. She especially wants to impact others who have textured hair and struggle with embracing their natural texture. And despite her recognition, the Napoleonville, Louisiana native who has worked for 17 years with special needs women also desires to encourage self confidence and self love in women and children.
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I’m always honored to be a "hair crush" for so many women, but I also want little girls and teens to fall in love with their hair, no matter what the texture is, be it kinky, coily, curly or wavy.
You’ve been natural for the past 16 years, what inspired you to go natural in the first place and were there any health reasons surrounding that decision? My inspiration to go natural came the day I asked myself why I was permanently straightening my hair. I thought, if I wanted it straight I could always press it, right? I thought to myself “Why wasn’t I wearing my natural hair?”. I couldn't think of any good answers and so from that point on, I stopped getting perms. I decided to just keep my hair braided until I was ready to cut it. One day I didn't feel like dealing with the permed end anymore, so I decided to grab the scissors and a trash can and started chopping.
What was the state of your hair before you went natural, in terms of length and texture? Before going natural, my hair was in excellent condition. I had a shag haircut, that was shoulder length , this was the length I kept it, until the day I decide to chop it off. I did my own perms and coloring , at the time it was honey blonde and I never had any problems with breakage or damage.
At that time there wasn’t a vibrant natural hair movement on a large scale, what was that like and what are some of the reactions, negative and positive that you encountered?
Going natural back then was definitely different than now. I would receive stares; people would even comment under their breath while staring. I’m not sure if their comments were negative or positive, but it was different. I also had to deal with assumptions about my lifestyle and what others assumed I liked and disliked. My little sister was even teased because of my short hair cut. On the other hand, there were positive aspects to my decision, for one, my family was very supportive. There were also people who I'd run into, that loved my afro and would want to take pictures. The attention has increased with the size of the afro. I call this “Afro Fever”
How did being a Guinness World Record holder change your life? Being the GWR holder has definitely changed my life because the adoration of my afro is on a larger scale and now I can continue to do what I've always done, while influencing women to think about what they are doing with their hair. Thank goodness I've been able to influence some to not only go natural, but to love their natural texture. I’m always honored to be a "hair crush" for so many woman, but I also want the little girls and teens to fall in love with their hair, no matter what the texture is, be it kinky, coily, curly, wavy, etc. >>>>>
I had to learn to accept and love MY HAIR. It's so funny because going natural is something that takes time and patience and you really get to know yourself while on your natural hair journey.
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Beside the natural hair recognition, I have been able to travel, interview and appear on an international platform, plus launch my brand. I look forward to offering products, services and a resources for women on a global scale.
What one challenge have you experienced having your large fro? Besides the normal challenges of having big hair, I'd say the upkeep can be a bit tedious at times. For instance, styling my fro takes up to two days, sometimes wearing an afro back to back can be a bit labor intensive. I would have to start from scratch each time to make it presentable. In other words, I can't just tie it up and pick it out the next day, without some major shrinkage going on.
As they say, Big Hair Don’t Care, what do you love most about having your afro? The positive feedback that comes from the young girls that I interact with. When they see my hair and are inspired to wear their hair naturally, it just melts my heart. I hope that by seeing me proudly wearing my natural hair, it will make them want to do and be the same.
What important lesson have you learnt about your hair and even about yourself since you started your natural hair journey? When I first went natural I had ideas of how my hair was going to look. I would look at
someone's hair in a picture and think "wow I love her hair and I cannot wait for mine to look like that"! It didn't take long for me to realize that the curl pattern that I'd loved wasn't what MY curl pattern really was. I had to learn to accept and love MY HAIR. It's so funny because going natural is something that takes time and patience and you really get to know yourself while on your natural hair journey. It's a beautiful journey and I would not have wanted it any other way. So my greatest lesson was about self discovery.
There’s always a lot of talk about hair goals, do you currently have any hair goals? My only hair goal is to have healthy hair. Length doesn't matter to me over health but that doesn't mean that one day, I may not decide to grow my hair to my knees.
What is your natural hair routine like? My hair care routine is to wash my hair once a week, condition, deep condition and then styling. It takes some hours to get all that done. Sometimes I would start the night before wash day, if I really want to get a good conditioning.
And your favorite go to hairstyle?
My new favorite "go to" hairstyle has become my wash and go, which is funny because I used to think I couldn't achieve this style. I would think, "my hair can’t do that"! It wasn't until I learned that with the right products and proper technique, I could achieve a “wash and go”, just like anyone else.
Having been natural for a long time, can you share 3 tips on how to have healthy natural hair? From my personal experience, I would say one is PATIENCE I can't express enough how important this one is, two, PAY ATTENTION to your hair, it will tell you what it likes and doesn't like and three, CRUSH but LOVE YOUR HAIR - selfexplanatory in that you can crush on someone else’s hair, but learn to love your own. With all its quirks and kinks, your hair type was given to you for a reason. What’s next for Aevin Dugas, beyond World Biggest Afro?” I want to grow and expand my brand to include other people who love afro, confidence, hair, beauty, travel, fun, New Orleans, fashion and more. Stay connected with me via my email list, social media, www.aevindugas.com to keep updated on my projects, events and product launches. - AE 43
Celebrity natural hairstylist
shares how loving your hair is an extension of loving yourself Felicia Leatherwood is the goto stylist for some of the entertainment industries biggest stars but before her styles graced the red carpet they graced her neighbors and friends. “I was my first client”, she remembers, “me and my Barbie’s”. Since then she’s come a long way from being your local hairdresser, but the effect she’s able to have on women, beautifying them inside out, can be felt around the world. But it’s not just about being beautiful. She’ll be the first to let you know, a head of hair is only as beautiful as its roots are healthy. Translation: You’re only as beautiful on the outside as you are in the deepest parts of you. By Iman Folayan www.afroellemgazine.com | 44
Madame C.J. Walker became a millionaire off of hair care products, more recently the perm kits have seen declining sales begging the question, where did all the perms go? Is natural hair a trend or really here to stay? We have to remember that Madam C.J. Walker made her fortune not only from the relaxer she helped invent. More importantly, the relaxer she sold was not toxic based and full of chemicals. Her relaxer was food based and contrary to popular belief it did not make your hair bone straight like the relaxers do now. It would make your hair wavy. From there she would press it to get that straight look. What she used on women is in no way close to the perms/relaxers used now. Way less harsh.
beauty than simply hair. For so long we didn’t feel like our hair was nice enough. When you feel abnormal you don’t feel completely free. Now we’re free to express our beauty and ourselves in the most natural way possible because natural hair is the norm. I love it! Society and culture are like cousins. Take society away from culture and you’re left with nothing.
At the same time, culture influences society. Natural hair was always our culture but society changed that because our culture wasn’t accepted. Now our culture is changing society, and they have no choice but to accept it the more we embrace it.
I see this movement as being more about untapped beauty than simply hair.
The natural hair movement is definitely resurging. Everything that’s a fad comes and goes but I see this movement as being more about untapped
When did you decide to take it to the next level, from stylist to celebrity stylist?
I never thought to take it to the next level. I’ve always done natural hair so it’s always been a part of me. I was playing with Bantu knots and curl knots in the 90s. >>> 45
them. It was word of mouth that got me working with Jill Scott. And when people saw the styles I was able to do on her, the word kept spreading. So it wasn’t like I wanted to be celebrity stylist, natural hair has just always been my life.
It’s bigger than hair--What’s the real message that you’re giving to people?
The big message is to inspire and show women that natural hair is beautiful.
I had my own style and when people would see me they were like, “It’s cute on you but I could never rock that”. And that was cool with me. When I started working in this one salon a lot of celebrities would come through and I was the only one who did natural hair. I honestly believe that the natural hair movement started with men around 2000. That was around the time when men were wearing their hair braided and wearing afros. Remember Cedric the Entertainer in the movie Barbershop; he had that large fro and that was all his hair. Around that time I was doing a lot of football players’ locs. This was before they started making the helmets large enough to even wear
The big message is to inspire and show women that natural hair is beautiful. I want to show the world and America that it’s not about our hair. For so long we’ve had to keep our natural beauty in hiding. Our hair was too kinky or too wild. I’m showing white America that our hair is special and appropriate for any occasion. Their problem is with us not our hair. This is my platform to show that our hair is only an extension of our beauty as black women.
What is the number one mistake women make with natural hair? The number one mistake is a simple one, you need to decide if you are a hair person or not. It’s not that natural hair is any more difficult to deal with, you just have to be patient and willing to take the time to do your hair. And you have to actually like doing hair. Deciding if you’re a hair person is half the battle you embark on. If you’re not a hair person, find someone who is.
Can we expect a hair care product line from you anytime soon? I get asked that question all the time. My question is , would they buy it? There are already so many hair care product lines so what would make them buy mine? I’m more concerned with providing quality and I’m so focused on integrity that I wouldn’t want to create a product and expect people to buy just because my name is on it.
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I do have one hair care product that I feel all women should have. My detangler brush is available on my site and what I love about it is that it’s not like any regular brush. Most brushes are stationary so as you comb through it has so much resistance, often resulting in hair loss and breakage. My brush is unique in that it moves and contours to your hair as you brush. When people see it they think it’s just a regular plastic brush until they use it and see the results.
What’s new and upcoming for Felicia Leatherwood? I have a reality show Head Cases on Issa Rae’s Youtube Channel that I’m really excited about. We’re four episodes in and so far the response has been great. Each episode I’m helping a woman who’s undergoing some type of hair crisis. What I’ve found is that even though I’m helping them with their hair a lot of their real issues boil down to self-esteem. I’m really able to transform these women’s lives on a deeper level through hair. A lot of times we put it (our problems) on our hair but really it’s in our heart. I get so many women sending submissions so I look forward to continuing these shows. Make sure you keep up with it, there’s definitely more to come. I also have a few appearances and events lined up this year. I’ll be doing a presentation in Atlanta in a couple weeks called Kinky Hair Unlocked. I’ll be showing some of my favorite styles. If I were around in the 40s I would have had the hottest salon on the block. I love 40s styles because they exuded elegance and glamour. With Jill I get to do more traditional styles so I’m excited to show off some of my more creative styles. I like creating styles that can transition from a day in the office to a night out with your girls. You can have a functional style without it being boring. For most of May I’ll be in Lagos, Nigeria for a hair expo where I’ll be training other natural stylists. These training expos allow me to share various techniques and styles but more so I’m helping to dispel the myth that natural hair is unruly. I get so many requests to come to Africa so I’m looking forward to doing more visits to places like Kenya and South Africa. I’ll also be in London for Curlvolution, this huge natural hair, beauty, and lifestyle expo. Be sure to catch me if I’m in your city because I’ll be doing a lot of travelling this year. 
Keep up with Felecia by visiting detanglebrush.com and by following her on Instagram @LovingYourHair
Felicia shares necessary steps to your hair care regimen Deep Condition Treatments- At least twice a month you should be getting some kind of deep condition treatment with heat or steam for 30-45 minutes. When hair is wet the cuticle is open so it can more easily absorb the moisture we need. This helps keep the scalp and hair strong and healthy.
Detangler- I already told you about my detangler brush but you want to use some type of detangler. Consistent use of a detangler brush can promote hair growth and keeps the scalp stimulated.
Your Go-To Products- You don’t need a whole cabinet full, but at least 2 -3 products that you know work well on your hair. It may require that you test a few products to see how your hair reacts. I suggest putting your hair in sections and testing each product on a different section. Listen to what your hair tells you and choose which is best. Because even though a product may say ‘for this hair type’ and ‘for this result’, everyone’s hair is different and you won’t know until you try for yourself. 
Chicken Cashew Nut Curry BY AMANDA GICHARU - KEMOLI
I grew up in a typical Kenyan household, with most of our food being boiled or steamed with minimal herbs and spices added. When I got the chance to start cooking on my own, I was excited to try out the fiery flavors I had tasted a few times at Indian restaurants. I’m not a chili fan, but definitely enjoy rich spices, so don’t be intimidated by this curry. With tender chicken breasts are cooked in a velvety sauce of cashew nuts, onions and spices – your taste buds will be grateful. www.afroellemgazine.com | 48
INGREDIENTS : SERVES 4 2-3 boneless chicken breasts
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves of garlic
3 cardamom pods
1 inch of ginger
1/2 paprika (optional)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 1/2 medium onions
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 hot chilli pepper
2 tablespoons cream (optional)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
Salt to taste
1/2 cup cashew nuts, plus extra for garnish
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
Chopped fresh coriander, for garnish
2 tablespoons butter + 1/2 tablespoon of oil
DIRECTIONS 1. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes or bite sized pieces. Peel and grate the garlic cloves and ginger onto the chicken. Add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, a teaspoon of salt and the juice of half a lemon to the chicken and mix well to coat all the chicken with the marinade. 2. Refrigerate and let the chicken marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes or more. 3. While the chicken is marinating, peel and roughly chop the onions, de-stem and chop (for less heat de-seed) a hot chili pepper and add it along with the fennel seeds to a blender/food processor. Process the onion and chili pepper for a minute or 2 until it forms a smooth puree. Avoid using water to assist it, if possible. Set the puree aside in a bowl. 4. In the same food processor (don't worry about washing it) process the cashew nuts with 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt. You may use a little water in this case to assist it to blend into a smooth paste. 5. In a large pan melt some butter with a dash of oil to keep it from burning. Add the onion-chili paste and fry it for 6-7 minutes on medium until the onion has completely dried out and slowly starts releasing the oil. Be patient at this step as its crucial to get the rawness of the onion flavor out to form the base of this curry. 6. Next add the whole spices (cinnamon stick and cardamom pods), garam masala, coriander powder and tomato paste to the pad and fry the mixture for a minute or two.Add the cubed chicken breasts to the pan and sautĂŠ them with the spice mixture until the chicken is partially cooked. Add some water to form a sauce (depending on the consistency you'd like). Season with salt and about a tablespoon or 2 of sugar and simmer the chicken on medium -low heat until it is fully cooked. 7. Once the chicken is cooked all the way through (about 20 - 30 minutes), reduce the heat to a low simmer and stir in the cashew-yogurt paste. This will thicken the sauce quite a bit. So to loosen the sauce, rinse the processor jar with a little bit of water and add it to the pan. Lastly, stir in 2 tablespoons of heavy cream (optional) and a handful of freshly chopped coriander. 8. Garnish the dish with roasted cashew nuts, coriander and slivers of fresh ginger and serve hot with Naan or rice.
www.amandas-kitchen.com | facebook.com/AmandasKitchenTV 49
AfroElle Library Peruse our past issues for more great stories and interviews
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REBIRTH ISSUE 2014
BUSINESS ISSUE 2013 www.afroellemgazine.com | 50
AFROPOLITAN ISSUE 2013
ANNIVERSARY ISSUE 2012
OCTOBER ISSUE 2011
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ANNIVERSARY ISSUE 2011 51
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Published on Apr 16, 2015
AfroElle Magazine celebrates and empowers women of African heritage in Africa and the Diaspora. On our cover is Aevin Dugas Guinness World R...